Stylish hack and slash games are few and far between and then there are games like The Game Bakers’ Furi, a PC and PS4 bound action title. Besides its mysterious premise and neo-noire aesthetic, the game looks like a mix of up-close melee combat, twitch projectile dodging and difficult one-on-one encounters. In fact, that’s what separates Furi from most other hack and slash titles – your biggest challenge is often a single foe who will match you in combat, slice for slice.
GamingBolt spoke to creative director Emeric Thoa about the inspiration behind Furi, working with Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki and much more. If you’re even the least bit curious about Furi, then rest assured – there’s more to it than meets the sceptical eye.
"Takashi Okazaki designed all the characters based on gameplay briefs we made, but most of the time we changed the gameplay because his designs were too cool."
We say it a lot but in the case of Furi, it really isn’t quite like anything we’ve ever seen before. It has bullet hell shoot ’em up mechanics, sword fighting, a cinematic story…Did you ever think about all of these elements when designing the game or was it simply a matter of what best fit the creative vision of “one long boss fight”?
Emeric Thoa: We approach game design the same way as cooking. We add and remove ingredients until our recipe has a subtle and deep flavor. With Furi, we started with the concept of Duels, of a long boss fight, but we realized pretty soon we needed enough variety to make it entertaining over a long period of time. The combination of shooting and sword fighting, as well as a very unique dodge ability proved to be a great way to achieve an exciting gameplay depth.
What exactly is the story in Furi? At the very least, who are we playing as and what is his goal?
Emeric Thoa: The story is full of mystery and telling too much here would spoil it a little. What we can say is that it’s a story about freedom, and fighting for a reason. You start locked in a jail, tortured, and a mysterious man with a rabbit mask frees you.
Furi starts out in a surreal futuristic jail of sorts but quickly proceeds to wide open plains. What other areas can players expect in the game?
Emeric Thoa: The environments are very different because of the nature of this special jail. Each area is a guardian’s place and looks like him. Crossing through these areas is an experience similar to reaching a boxing ring before a fight. You walk through the corridor, enter the arena, and feel the tension…
Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki’s influence is quite apparent in Furi. What was it like working with the man and how did the creative process for designing the bosses work out?
Emeric Thoa: Takashi Okazaki designed all the characters based on gameplay briefs we made, but most of the time we changed the gameplay because his designs were too cool. When we saw the designs, we always had new ideas for the gameplay that changed the game a lot, in a better way. We also spent time with him, in France or Japan, to get the vision right for the game. The result is the cyber-fantasy style he came up with and that we love.
"To be honest, the PS4 didn’t impact the development that much. It’s simple, it’s powerful and it works exactly like we want it to. As a game developer and a player, that’s what I like in a game console."
How does combat work in Furi? Can you explain the mechanics for us and what players will need to do in order to stand a chance against foes?
Emeric Thoa: combat has two main parts: a long range fight where the player has to weaken the opponent, and a close range sword only duel. Both parts are very fast paced and will require the player to have a lot of reflex and timing to dodge and parry the attacks. The key to the gameplay is to create an opening in the opponent’s defense and hit when he is vulnerable. In this sense, it’s close to the good old Punch Out game.
What kind of playtime can players expect from Furi? Will there be something to keep them interested after the initial playthrough like higher difficulties, challenges, etc.?
Emeric Thoa: The playtime will vastly depend on the player’s skills. One boss fight can last between 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on your skill. We’ll make sure players who finished the game once and want to replay it will have a reason to. This game is designed with hardcore gamers and speed runners in mind. It’s very beautiful to watch when played well. We often stop working just to watch one person on the team testing something, just because the tension is shared to the viewer. We hope some talented players will create some beautiful things to watch!
What are your thoughts on developing for the PS4? How did the technology best aid you in developing Furi? What are your thoughts on the controller and its responsiveness for the action?
Emeric Thoa: To be honest, the PS4 didn’t impact the development that much. It’s simple, it’s powerful and it works exactly like we want it to. As a game developer and a player, that’s what I like in a game console. The controller is perfect. I think we are very lucky this generation with the controllers, which are the best we’ve ever had.
Is there a chance that Furi could head to the Xbox One as well at some point? Are there any specific reasons why FURI is not coming on the X1 at this point?
Emeric Thoa: Launching on many platforms simultaneously is a huge challenge. We are focusing on PS4 and PC at the moment to provide the best experience.
"We believe that if we had tried to be more “mass market”, we would have been crushed between a bigger AAA and a more edgy indie game."
In this day and age of big-budget AAA blockbusters, Furi’s art design feels incredibly sleek while its gameplay seems decidedly niche. Is there a worry that it may struggle to find an audience given its unique concept?
Emeric Thoa: In this day and age with thousands of games or entertainment options, we need to focus on making one precise thing and make it well, in order to reduce the risk of the project. Strangely, it’s because it’s niche and unique in its visuals and gameplay that it can succeed. We believe that if we had tried to be more “mass market”, we would have been crushed between a bigger AAA and a more edgy indie game. Instead, we designed the gameplay we wanted for our niche, and then made the crazier visuals and soundtrack we could imagine. Furi is really going to be a unique game. To us, that’s a real strength.
Is the game going to run at 1080p and 60fps on the PS4?
Emeric Thoa: That’s what we are aiming for. At the moment, it runs at 50 and we didn’t do the full optimization yet. The game is so fast paced and requires such reflexes that it’s not playable at 30fps.
What is your take on working on the PS4’s API compared to the ones you are working on the PC?
Emeric Thoa: We are using Unity as a game engine, so it’s pretty much the same at this stage. Sometimes, a plug-in from the asset store works on PC but not in PS4, but usually we manage to make it work by contacting the developer or by tweaking it ourselves.
When can we expect Furi to release for PS4 and PC in Spring? Will it be sooner or later in the quarter?
Emeric Thoa: We are targeting for sooner, but it’ll probably end up later.
Is there anything else you want to tell before we let you go?
Emeric Thoa: Furi’s spelling is not a mistake, there’s a hidden meaning behind it. We hope players will discover it.