The heart of Furi is its combat system. And it’s a heart that’s exposed for all to see because there isn’t much else to the game. There are no levels. No waves of enemies or puzzles or platforming. The story is sort of there but it’s light on details. The visuals are good. The music is incredible. But these are all thin layers around the heart of combat against boss battles.
So it’s a good thing that Furi has one of the most enjoyable, engaging combat systems that I’ve ever played.
It’s tempting to say that “Furi focuses itself entirely on one thing in order to do it right.” This is technically true but I think that’s not giving the combat in this game enough credit. Because there are so many pieces that are brought together to make the boss fights in this game such a joy to play. And each of these pieces had to be executed and refined individually before coming together like this. So, in my opinion, it’s not entirely fair to boil this game down to just “one thing done right”.
As always, let’s start with the basics. Let’s break these pieces apart and see how this all works.
Furi’s boss battles have the same fundamental idea as most other action games. You have health. The boss has health. Use defensive moves in order to avoid receiving damage. Use offensive moves in order to deal damage. There are patterns and moves to learn, and then you identify what they are and select the appropriate response so you can avoid taking as much damage as possible, or deal as much as possible in an opening.
Let’s split that concept then: the player is challenged in two main ways. Pattern Recognition. Or Ability Identification. Whatever you’d prefer to call it. And then Execution. Or Reflexes, Decision Making, or even Micro. Again, whatever you’d prefer to call it.
What made Furi so engaging for me in this second category was how much variety there was. How many different moves and responses I had to use in any given fight. Both you and the bosses have a lot of tools available. And the game regularly makes you use all of them.
The clearest way I can think to demonstrate all this is to explain that Furi is a game of phases—at both a broad and focused level. What I mean by that is each boss has a health pool that is split into different chunks. Each time you deplete a bar, the fight moves into another phase with different abilities. The player’s health functions in the same way to act as extra lives or continues, but you don’t gain any new abilities if you lose a phase. However each one of these segmented parts of a fight can also be split into tiny, different phases of its own. The boss will cycle through a set of abilities that are tied to the current phase. These act as a gauntlet of challenges that you move through—recognizing and responding as you do.
Bosses have ranged abilities. These can vary from simple, straight projectiles, to a massive spray of them, or hard hitting telegraphed strikes like laser beams. Some projectiles can track you. Others spawn in waves of light that create their own patterns. Some are circular ripples that radiate from the boss. Others leave damage trails that you need to be aware of so it’s not just the projectile itself that you need to avoid.
Then there are melee strikes. In open phases, when the boss uses the entire arena, these come directly at you. Sometimes one strike. Usually it’s a combo. In the zoomed in phases, when the boss restricts your movement to a tight circle around them, these attacks can be targeted in directions instead. The circle essentially becomes a pie chart and you have to make sure you’re in the safe slices when the attack completes.
And already I hope that you can see how much variety the game throws at you. Especially given that I haven’t covered everything. Sometimes the arena itself plays a role in the fight—both to act as cover or a hazard, or a way for the bosses to vanish and then ambush you. Then there are the mazes that some bosses can create. These are similar to the projectile patterns thrown at you, only they cover the entire arena and require careful navigation—or really quick reflexes—from the player to survive.
So let’s talk about that now. How does the player deal with all this? Your skill set matches that of most bosses—you have your own pistol, your sword, and the ability to dash and parry. What makes this so fantastic is that you often have genuine options when you’re responding to what the boss is throwing at you. Not always—since there are phases where Furi demands a specific test of your abilities to dodge a set pattern or parry a set amount of strikes. But most of the time you have choices.
For projectiles coming at you, you can shoot them down with your own gun before they can get to you. Sometimes the mazes you navigate will use this as a mechanic for you to “fire your way free”–your gun can function both as an offensive and defensive tool. You can dash away from ranged attacks instead, or even through them if you want to close the distance between you and the boss faster. Some patterns are better dealt with by running through them and, although it’s often risky, you can parry almost every bullet to deflect it back at the boss.
And this is without saying that there are charged versions of your handgun and dash. You can build up your shot to destroy multiple projectiles at once, or for a harder to time but more damaging blast on the boss. Same goes for holding your dash to move farther to avoid multiple attacks at once or get to the boss even sooner.
There’s a charged version of your melee strike too for a similar risk for a heightened reward.
But Furi rarely demands you use these advanced techniques. It just hopes that you do. You can deal with almost everything with just normal shots, normal dash, basic sword strikes, and your parry. You can play defensively and respond to every single attack that the boss throws at you in the sequence that it follows—waiting for them to exhaust their combo and then sweeping in to counterattack. Or you can use all of these tools to be really aggressive and interrupt the boss in the middle of their attack and sneak in extra damage.
Let’s go back to the other half of the game before we look at some examples. Pattern Recognition instead of Execution. This is another thing that Furi excels at, because quite often Pattern Recognition means Trial and Error. That you have to see a new ability in order to learn it, and that means you’re going to get hit. Or experience a new phase of a boss, die to it, and then know what to do next time.
Furi uses consistent visual cues in order to smooth out these moments of learning, along with a difficulty curve that introduces concepts and then expands on them with each subsequent boss. The first one functions as a tutorial both for what moves you have available—going through each button on your gamepad—but also for shooting your way through projectile walls, dodging through waves, recognizing damage zones, and knowing the trigger for when you have to parry.
And these rules stay this way for the rest of the game.
So even though it’s a new boss with new abilities that you’ve never seen before, chances are you’re rarely going to feel blindsided when you get to a new phase. Ranged attacks that you can shoot down are always going to look similar. As do the solid bands of color that you know to dash through. Melee strikes always, without fail, have a visual spark, accompanied by an animation stutter and a ding, so that you know when you have to parry. And this parry timing—about half a second after this prompt appears—is also almost always the same. Almost always.
There’s depth to be found in pattern recognition then, not from just learning what abilities bosses have, but how to recognize moments that you can exploit for massive damage. When a boss commits to a big beam attack that you know how to dodge so comfortably, that you can charge a sword strike to make them vulnerable to a huge hit.
Or to learn that, as you’re hiding behind cover from a big explosion that a boss charges up, that you should be charging up one of your own for a huge counterattack when the danger passes.
Again these are things that you never have to do. Not even on the highest difficulty mode. But there are tons of moments like these that you can learn by experimenting with all of your moves. It isn’t just a simple game of—see pattern, avoid pattern, then counter with a basic attack. Something that I didn’t start doing until my fourth playthrough was to attack relentlessly during some phases in order to trigger a parry from the boss—they would parry ME—which I would then counter-parry when they attacked. This would keep them locked out of using more dangerous abilities as long as I was confident in the reverse parry timing.
Another subtle thing being that, if you get a perfect parry and expose a boss to a huge strike, that you’re able to quickly weave in a few pistol shots before executing it. The game is full of little things like this for players willing to experiment.
The game’s difficulty is what draws a lot of these pieces together. It’s quite a demanding game and, even after many playthroughs, it’s one that I still feel that I could get a lot better at. I got my ass kicked over and over again on certain bosses and yet it always felt fair. It felt like something I was capable of beating if I tried again and got a little better.
Going through these phases multiple times gives you the opportunity to notice these moments that you can exploit. How you can position yourself better for an attack that you know is coming. To learn the fastest way to get back into the boss’s face after it retreats to do a ranged attack—something that you’re rewarded for doing by landing more of your strike combo before the boss goes immune. It’s like there’s a timer that starts at the beginning of their attack and if you get to them fast enough you can pull off your whole combo. They’re even knocked down to signify how well you just did.
Different attacks chain together in ways that can feel like a bombardment on some bosses. That you are going through a quick series of tests—dash, dash, shoot, dash, parry. It’s a varied assault that is kept so quick and fluid that it feels so satisfying when you pull off a long chain without taking damage. Instead of getting your ass kicked you’re now in control and are dominating this system that’s killed you so many times.
I can see how the difficulty could be daunting to some people. There were moments I had when going through hard mode that I looked at the screen and thought “this is insane.” But the more I went through it the more I really do think that Furi is a forgiving game. Even if it demands a level of mastery and commitment from you in order to beat it—it still, fundamentally, WANTS you to beat it.
Normal mode is tough on its own. And I can show you how bad I was on my first playthrough by displaying my endgame stats here. That’s pretty bad, and yet I had a blast the whole time because it never felt insurmountable. The way continues work is shockingly fair considering how demanding the rest of the game is. You have three lives. But you also get one of those lives back if you conquer a phase of a boss. Which means, no matter what, you have to fail a phase at least two times in a row to see a gameover and have to start at the beginning again. In most cases it’ll be failing three times in a row that sends you there.
The battles are long in comparison to the bosses in many other games but each phase can be beaten quite quickly once you’re familiar with it—and, if you’re having trouble on a boss, that means you’ll naturally become familiar with it.
It was also my experience that it was the penultimate phases, not the final one, that were the most difficult on most bosses. There were two exceptions that I can think of right now—but for the most part, the last phase is more about the spectacle of what is being thrown at you, instead of how challenging it is. So the game doesn’t throw some cheap shot at you after you’ve spent so much time getting close to the end.
I really do think that the game does such a good job at teaching you that anyone could beat it on normal. And that they could push through and beat it on hard after that if they really wanted to.
There are three key examples I can show to support this, but the one I want to focus on now is the third boss. This is where the complexity of the “bullet hell” segments ramps up. But it’s introduced here, in the first phase, with only two mechanics—the damage line that slowly radiates from the center, and that the shield panels you shoot at reflect bullets back at you. That’s all there is here and there’s no time limit, so you can take as long as you like to learn how to dodge a lot of bullets, while also getting used to having two things to track at the same time.
This complexity builds in the fight. The next phase has you timing a dodge through a ring that spawns around you. Then they’re combined together so you have to avoid both the radiating damage zones and a moving ring, while shooting. A later phase switches up this concept and has a steady wave coming at you with a directional line of damage that swings at you from the side. And I’d wager that, once you get good at these two phases, that you have learned enough from that to conquer the rest of these kinds of challenges.
It’s another way that the game tests you—it’s part of that bombardment. Having to keep track of multiple things at once while performing a task. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever played to a single player version of raiding in World of Warcraft, if you’re familiar with that. Only if you die you can’t blame the crappy hunter, or the ret paladin that got mind controlled in the last phase of Blood Queen Lana’thel and put Blessing of Protection on her at 5%, costing your guild a server first kill. God damn it.
As for difficulty modes, let’s look at easy before we go to hard. You can select this at the beginning under the name Promenade. There’s a warning that says the game isn’t meant to be played this way and it’s an inclusion for those who like the story. This idea is great in my opinion, since if someone gets the game and truly can’t finish it—for whatever reason that might be—then they can still see all of the visuals and story and music in the whole game that they purchased. The combat itself is diluted but that’s where the difficulty comes from to begin with. There’s no way to make it easier without that happening.
The problem with this mode is that it’s just strange. A lot of the mechanics have the same timings. I think they deal less damage—you definitely have more flexibility to make mistakes anyway because you have 5 lives instead of 3. But that parries and combos and some phases are the same is sort of bizarre. The most drastic way the game is changed is that some phases are outright removed instead. Some bosses go all the way down to just 2 phases. Which means some of the learning experiences are gone with them. I question the way this mode was implemented, and I think it could have been handled much better by making the player take less damage and deal more damage, and that they regain all of their lives if they beat a phase. I know that’s a little boring but the soul of the game would still be intact, and it would be a good primer for stepping up to normal mode.
I think that having changes that aren’t just tweaks to numbers in harder difficulties is great. And, in theory, having different versions of the fights in easy mode could work. But having them neutered so heavily feels too harsh.
As for hard mode—or Furier, as it’s called—I suspect that this is the true version of the game that the developers wanted people to experience. And not just because that’s what a message says at the end of the credits. I think that normal mode was an understated learning experience and preparation for a Furier run. And to show that we can go to those two other key examples I mentioned a minute ago.
There are two bosses toward the end of the game that are an extreme take on part of the combat system. The Edge, which is functionally the final boss before the credits, is the tightest that Furi ever focuses on one mechanic. Basically, you will learn how to parry in order to beat this boss. Or you will not beat this boss.
If you’re like me, you could reach this point in the game without mastering the timing for a parry. And then you will die to The Edge. A lot. And then you will learn and parrying will become natural to you from then on. To the point that, after beating this boss, I sometimes felt relief when I entered a parry phase in a fight because I was so comfortable doing it.
Likewise, the boss you fight after the credits takes away your sword. It’s a fight that’s all about dodging bullets and shooting back at targets. It’s a battle that keeps you continually juggling so many different things that you learn to be more at ease when you’re in phases like this on other bosses.
Which is the perfect set up for you to challenge yourself with hard mode. You’re so much better at parrying and navigating the bullet mazes while shooting targets. And this method of teaching was so successful for me that I ended up getting a higher rank on my first Furier run than I did on my normal mode. Still not a great rank but hey I did it.
Even here, on hard mode, I maintain that the game wants you to beat it. You can take a surprising amount of hits before you die. And healing from successful parries is still present on this mode. Coupled with the fact that very few abilities deal more than two blocks of your life in one hit, and you can see that you’re not expected to play perfectly in order to beat the boss.
I thought that the first boss was the biggest bump in difficulty. So much so that I was worried at first whether or not I was going to be able to finish the game. The third boss was another significant increase—with more variety in damage zones that require more careful dashes. It makes sense that these two would be the biggest changes, since they don’t have to act as teachings for the player this time. They’re tests instead.
The other bosses were more moderately changed. It was the last phases that really pushed things which is kind of funny since, looking back now, I think there were only small additions—like extra damage waves and projectiles—that ended up making such a big difference.
There’s also a fourth “difficulty mode”, which I’m using air quotes for because it’s a self-imposed challenge. You can try to get an S-rank on every boss on both Furi and Furier. And the only reason I’m going out of my way to mention it is because of this pun: this should be called Furi-EST mode.
So that was a hell of a lot of praise. Does that mean you should all be running over to Steam right now to get this game immediately? Not quite. Although some of you should if you love what you’ve seen so far.
This game has no major problems. It has two significant ones though that, while they don’t ruin the game, definitely hold it back from being something I can recommend to everyone. That’s also not accounting for personal taste—if you hate action games then you should obviously avoid Furi.
The first problem is the other part of the game that I haven’t mentioned yet: the story. Now the narrative here itself is fine. It’s not wonderful. It’s somewhat interesting enough and, by the end of the game, you’re given enough information to understand most of what’s happening. Your character starts out in an elaborate prison of several linked islands. The only way out is to travel through each one and defeat the guardian who blocks the path to the next island. For some reason the guardians think that if you’re free that you’ll destroy all life on the planet below the islands. Also for some reason, they can’t just kill you. They have to keep you in a perpetual prison instead.
I won’t go into any more details than that. The story is told through some of its visuals, but mostly through dialogue. From the bosses themselves before and during your fights with them, and by a character named The Voice. He’s the one who frees you at the beginning and guides you through each island—narrating along the way. Sometimes it’s nonsense. Sometimes it’s not half bad.
The problem with this isn’t the story itself, but how these sequences between bosses work. You can skip the cinematics that play when you first reach a boss. But you cannot skip these walking sections with The Voice speaking at you. The game is gracious enough to give you an Auto-Walk feature—which is a toggle, not a button you need to hold, so you can relax and watch the walking or leave the game running while you go do something else if you like—but this is still honestly baffling for a game that’s otherwise so well designed. I understand that maybe the intention here was to allow the player a calming period, to come down after beating a boss, and give themselves time to prepare for the next fight. And for that it isn’t awful, especially your first time through, but when you’re going for some higher story ranks on second or third playthroughs then these are just a waste of your time.
I also think they could have worked if the bosses you fight were monsters of some sort. You walk through their lair for a few minutes. The Voice builds up details about what you’re about to face so there’s this sense of foreboding that’s building as you get closer to the fight. But all of the bosses in Furi are humanoids like you. They’re all their own unique type of colorful and, uh, fashionable let’s say, but still humanoid. No tension ever built for me about these fights while The Voice was speaking.
These sequences look great. And there are modes in the game—boss select and a speedrun—that cut these walking parts out. But I still have to question their implementation.
Another reason they may function as they do today might be tied to the only other significant problem that Furi has. The game is too short. My first playthrough took about four hours and that includes these walking parts—most of which take several minutes to get through. The game is still worth its asking price of 30 dollars because it has a lot of replayability—and I’d strongly argue that you’re meant to beat in on Furier after your normal run—but I can’t help feeling that it needs a few more bosses to complete the experience.
There are 10 bosses in this game. One of them you might miss depending on a selection you make at the end of the credits—or if you even keep playing after the credits at all. And another doesn’t really count in my opinion. The Beat, which is the final fight before those credits, is more of a story boss than the others. This is fine on its own since it fits the concept but there’s very little meat to this battle. Part of the intended effect here is to make you feel like a monster when you truck your way through this last fight without much effort.
So that brings the total to 9 bosses. They’re all very well designed, substantial fights that I can find a lot to like about. But I think Furi would be dramatically improved if it had two or three more bosses. Apparently the Xbox One version will come with a timed exclusive boss—at least I hope it’s a temporary deal. I really dislike this sort of thing and it makes me conflicted. Because I genuinely love this game and yet stuff like this is happening, but I have no idea how well the game sold so maybe it’s something the developers feel they have to do.
Either way I think it shows that adding two more bosses wouldn’t have been that difficult to create. Even if they were ones that you select from a menu after the game—they don’t need to be tied to the story.
For some other minor things… Look the combat here is almost pristine. These are just small issues I noticed that I think aren’t good inclusions. The first are those parry timings I mentioned earlier. For the most part, you have to parry about half a second after the boss flourishes their weapon. Every attack the first boss and The Edge makes is like this, and these are the bosses that introduce parrying, and then make you master it.
But there are a few phases on a few bosses that break this rule and have parry timings that require an instant reaction. As soon as you notice the prompt you have to parry. It isn’t for the whole fight. Just some phases—like this combo here on The Strap that requires a quick parry at the end. The Line has a similar timing. So does The Burst toward the end of the fight. And I’m pretty sure there’s at least one more somewhere too. This is definitely intentional, but it breaks the idea that the player can react quickly to things the first time they encounter them. It reverts to trial and error instead. It’s not awful. But it’s not great either.
Similarly, some damage bullets in some phases can spawn on top of you and instantly deal damage. These don’t usually do much damage but they still count as a hit. It’s not good. The Song also has a blue wave attack that doesn’t have a telegraph. Which I think is one of, if not the only, ability a boss has in the entire game that doesn’t have some warning tied to it.
For some things I’m unsure about—these might be Learn To Play problems—we have some of the pie chart danger zones spawning a lot faster than many other attacks, especially given that the player has to be expecting to parry in these phases too. On Furier there were times that some of the safe slices were so small that it felt unfair to expect players to land inside of them with one dodge every time. It’s not the most accurate thing in the game during this phase.
The Star on Furier spawns these blue waves that are so thick that you need to be really tight with your dash in order to safely get through them. These come quite quickly as you’re trapped in this small area during this phase. Sometimes I was able to get into a rhythm and get through many of these while dealing damage—and I did enjoy the challenge. But I think these are slightly too wide and are bordering on unfair because of that. That said this IS the last boss so it’s meant to be difficult. So I’m willing to accept that this is fine. I still managed to beat it but this was the only part of the game that I never felt I could reliably get through.
And that’s it for the nitpicks. Which isn’t bad at all really. I want to return to the combat system to close out the video. There are things that I didn’t mention that I really like that I think are best left unsaid so people can enjoy them if they play the game themselves. The one example I’ll give of a little thing is on The Burst fight. She spends a lot of time in the first three phases running away from you because she’s a sniper. You can see the visual here for when she’s targeting you. You get behind cover and, instead of making you wait for the whole shot timer to expire, the shot completes the instant your safe. The battle feels fast and frantic, like you barely got to cover in time. Things like that keep the game moving quickly during fights.
I went back through the game on speedrun mode after writing most of the script to see if I missed anything. And during this run I tried to maximize how much I kept shooting relentlessly at the bosses. To the point that I learned a whole new technique of shooting during enemy combos for a lot more damage, while also parrying during these shots. It was such a big increase in damage, difficulty, and yet another example of something the game never requires you to do in order to beat it. But it’s still an option. Another way that you can push yourself and weave offense and defense together instead of letting the boss dictate how each phase goes.
I really, really enjoyed this game. If you tend to agree with a lot of what I say in my videos when it comes to gameplay, then I highly recommend that you give the game your full attention.