On the other hand, Fury might be another solution--not the emotional release, but the PC MMO from developer Auran. Right off the bat, I would argue that Fury doesn't fit within the MMO genre. Sure, like most MMOs you'll design a character at the start, and undergo all the wonderful hairstyling that that entails. And yes, hundreds of players will congregate in shared spaces, across several servers. Once in an actual match, however, the gameplay is more on the scale of Counter-Strike. Fury is all about quick rounds of player vs. player combat, and provides no massive world to explore outside of its battleground maps. After putting their skills to the test, players are awarded experience and gold, then promptly kicked out of the instanced arenas. In between bouts, characters are relegated to a jail-like setting, inaccurately referred to as a sanctuary. It's a sanctuary insomuch as the pits of the Coliseum were a sanctuary--it is here that you will wait before your inevitable battle to the death.
In the meantime, the place does look nice, with Gothic ceilings, light streaming in from the windows, dust particles lazily drifting about. Built on the Unreal Engine 3, the game looks solid, though perhaps the most unique effect is related to the running animation. Rather than characters slowly changing course like humanoid ships, they lean in and out of turns, smoothly striding across the battlefields. In a game that's all about speed, it's nice that the developers took the time to fill in the frames with fluid animations that make sense to the eye.
Back in the sanctuary, helpful NPCs stand idly by, selling items and training abilities in exchange for gold and experience, respectively. Other players wander about aimlessly, waiting in queue for their next round, forming battle lines that resemble a Star Wars opening more than an organized rabble. Hundreds of users will be filling these halls after release, but right now, in beta, it's a ghost town. After a few minutes of waiting in my first queue, a lone wizard awkwardly crept up next to me, staring 20 degrees off from the center of my character's face, into space. "hey where r u from," he finally said to me, and I began to get nervous, hoping, praying that my turn was up next. Bring on the lions. Anything but this.
Fury purports to be a classless game, which is a rather self-denigrating claim when you think about it. What the developers really mean is that every character can choose to learn any of the 400 abilities, without being restricted by set boundaries. You do select an archetype of sorts, which guides your choices more than restricts them. Individual abilities are what ultimately defines the character, and they range from the standard mix of fireballs to advanced melee attacks. Each Fury character has several incarnations, which can be swapped in and out for varied ability combinations. Those players who get off on endlessly combining skills and creating new sub-classes will be in statistical heaven.
Several different modes of combat are available to play. Bloodbath is an 8-32 player free-for-all, the deathmatch option of the game. Elimination offers 4 on 4 team battles, while Vortex is a variant on 16 vs. 16 player capture-the-flag. Finally, the Fortress battle puts teams of 32 players each in their own castle, tasking them with both protecting their base and taking their enemies'. It's a wide variety, but nothing radically different from modes we've seen before, and the layout of each map isn't anything to get excited about.
Instead, it's all about the combat. As advertised, battles in Fury are a brief, intense affair. Most abilities are activated instantly, so there is little standing around waiting for a fireball to form. It's all about charging into the thick of it, targeting the right enemy, and going to town. An elemental charge system keeps track of what spells you've cast, awarding you the ability to cast more devastating versions based on the amount of charges you've built up by casting smaller ones. If you choose to mix up spell types during combat you might have the advantage of being more versatile, but you also lose out on the charged-up attacks.
Publisher Gamecock is billing Fury as an RPG with all the thrill of an FPS, but in practice it remains closer in feel to World of Warcraft than Quake 3. Of course, the major difference between Warcraft and Fury is that in the former, PVP is simply one component of a larger game, with rewards gained from either PVE or PVP zones benefiting the play of both. In Fury, nobody will be admiring your uber shield in a later dungeon run. The question players will have to ask themselves is whether or not the core gameplay of Fury alone is enough to sustain their interest over a long period of time. Auran is planning to follow the pricing model of titles like Hellgate: London, with a base cost for the boxed game and an optional subscription for as-yet unspecified content--though the content for subscription will be unrelated to items or abilities used in combat.
Will the promise of a faster version of Battlegrounds-style combat draw droves of players to Fury? It's hard to say. Auran will be hosting a free trial of the game starting this weekend. If you've had your fill of Warsong Gulch and are looking for something new, Fury might be a welcome change of pace.