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First Impressions: Ion Fury (PC) ~ Is it “Hail to the Queen” now?

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Official websiteSteam Store page

Once upon a time, there was a game engine. It was called “Build Engine”. With that engine, a lot of masterpieces like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Shadow Warrior were created. Around 1999 – 2000, no new games came out that were made in the engine and the engine was sad. The King Duke Nukem had moved on to other projects. Well, sort of. It took FOREVER for his next game to come out. But, this year, something happened. A prince kissed the sleeping engine awake and it transformed into a new game. Wait, this isn’t working at all. Writing this introduction as a history lesson and a fairy tale isn’t working at all. Maybe we need a breath of fresh air. One was a Queen shows the ropes of the game instead of the king. So, shall we look if Ion Fury is successful in that quest or if it crashes and burns? This article is being written after I played the pre-release version until v1.02a. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note

Before I talk about the game, I want to acknowledge that I know about the controversy of this game. That the developers possibly made some transphobic remarks and there are some homophobic jokes. Personally, I don’t want to spend too much time on this controversy since a lot has been said and written about it.

My personal stance on the whole matter is simple. I’m under the impression that some things were taken out of context or provided with the wrong context and cancel culture did the rest. Also, let me be clear on one thing. I think that you should decide for yourself. Take a step back and take a look at both sides of the story before you make a decision and come to a conclusion.

About the homophobic jokes, one of them is a word pun that fits perfectly in a 90’s throwback game. The other homophobic joke is something that you have to go out of your way to discover. Where you have to enable a cheat and go out of bounds to a developer room where slang is displayed. So yeah, is this something you should take offense over or not…? That’s up to you to decide.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the controversy. I’m here to review and talk about games. I’m not here to write long articles about drama or controversies. My mental energy is best to spend elsewhere, like on all the positive things in the world.

Bombshell, the next queen?

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In Ion Fury, you play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison who earned her codename defusing bombs for the Global Defense Force. Then everything changed when the firing squad attacked. The firing squad of evil cybernetic cult robots made by the equally evil transhumanist mastermind Dr. Jadus Heskel. Now, Shelly has to clean up the streets of Neo DC that she knows so well.

The story brings up in several locations and areas. While this game sort of works with different levels, the world is still interconnected. It feels like you are playing on one huge map instead. Speaking of the levels, each level is quite huge. Currently, the main story takes around 15 hours to complete. Now, this is the perfect length for a shooting game. But, that doesn’t mean that you are done after those 15 hours. You can still find a lot of secrets and easter eggs in the game. And on top of that, the Steam version will have Steam Workshop support which opens the floodgates for custom weapons and even custom levels.

While you play the game, the story takes a backseat. The story doesn’t take a lot of twists and turns or isn’t anything to write home about. Yet, the personality of Shelly is amazingly done. Her one-liners and personality is almost a carbon copy of Duke Nukem in female form. It’s great.

I love the voice work done in this game. The voice works for Shelly is done by Valerie Arem, who also did voice work in Final Fantasy 15, Zero Time Dilemma, Sailor Moon and many other series. She nailed it in this game. On top of that, Jon St. John, the original voice of Duke Nukem voiced the antagonist. It’s almost like the game is poking fun at the similarities between Shelly and Duke.

The charm of the voice acting and the one-liners is amazing. It was one of the reasons why I got so drawn into the atmosphere of this game. Even the enemy grunts are well done. So, this brings me to the sound design of the game. I have no complaints about the sound design at all. Everything sounds amazing and there aren’t any sound effects I would change or tweak. The sound mixing is great as well, I never had trouble with it.

Old game design

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Let’s talk about something you might have noticed already. While this game released this year, it looks and feels like it was released in the late ’90s. For some people, this might be a turn-off, but to me, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The game has this amazing retro vibe to it and makes me quite nostalgic about the times when I first played games like Doom or Heretic. Yet, the game manages to still look amazing. Every area is quite detailed and decorated. The color pallet is extremely varied and this makes the game easy to navigate while giving ample opportunity to hide secrets in various spots.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. Like the old school shooters of yesteryear, you have to explore the level to find keycards to open doors in order for you to progress. When you reach the end of the level, you get promoted with a message: “are you sure you want to leave this area? You haven’t found X amount of secrets.” This is an amazing feature and made me go back several times to look if I haven’t missed any cracks or holes that might hide a secret.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. While you are exploring the map, you have to shoot through various waves of enemies. Some of these fly and another move around. Currently, the AI of this game isn’t that smart but that doesn’t make them easy. The game provided me with a lot of challenges in the medium difficulty setting.

I had to redo some sections over and over again because there was just an overload of enemies. At first, I was annoyed by this. While the weapons are easy and fun to use, I found it annoying that I didn’t see how many bullets I had before I had to reload. But, after a while, I got used to the flow of the game and I was defeating these hoards of enemies. When you prepare yourself and really pay attention, the game isn’t that difficult. But, yeah, you will need to do some old school trail and error.

Something that I really liked is the fact that this game has an autosave and a manual save system. So, whenever you are faced with a difficult section, you can save in advance and have a point to return to when you need to retry. The save menu provides all the information you might need and is a perfect example of a UI done well.

I like the way you die!

Earlier in this article, I talked about the visual presentation of this game. Now, the animations of this game are amazing. Some of them are a little bit gory, but they are over the top gory. Bodies can explode when you hit them with a rocket launcher, and the added sound effects are amazing. The fact that some parts of the world are destructible is great fun too. You can blow up some walls.

Now, speaking about blowing up walls… Something I found a tad bit annoying was how bombs were handled. You can throw them with the left mouse button, but you only light and throw them with the right mouse button. The reason I found the annoying is simple, in the heat of a battle I keep clicking my left mouse button to shoot and use my scroll wheel to quickly and easily select the weapon I need for the situation. But, because I’m so drawn into the game, I keep clicking the left mouse button and waiting for an explosion that never comes.

This is the only issue I have with the controls of the game. All other controls work flawlessly. Now, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to jump into gaps while crouched, but I quickly got used to that. These controls are quite helpful to explore the expansive levels to find the keycards, items, and ammo on the map. Some levels have a straight path forward but other levels have some branching paths with rewards for exploration.

It comes with the territory but there is some backtracking in the game. Once or twice I got lost in the level because I thought I picked up a keycard or found a keycard while I actually hadn’t done that. Oh well, these are things that happen in these old school 3D shooters. I think I have to pay better attention to the UI since it displays quite well which items you have.

Maybe that would help me to save up more ammo. Since sometimes I felt that I didn’t have enough ammo and other times I had

Speaking about items, this is were Ion Fury dropped the ball a bit. While the game is inspired by Duke Nukem 3D, the game doesn’t have a lot of items. In Duke Nukem 3D, you have a lot of different items to experiment with, like the Holo Duke and the Jet Pack. The two items that I found in this game are a radar and a portable med-pack. If only this mechanic would be expanded in a DLC or an update, that would be amazing. Also, I found the radar item quite useless and barely used it. But, that might be because I don’t fully understand the purpose of the item.

Everything comes together in a well-designed game with expansive maps and fun challenges to blast through. Together with a great soundtrack, this game can be a rush from start to end. Now, the soundtrack of this game is more electronica/dance than either rock/metal/orchestral focused soundtracks of the other games in the engine. I can totally understand why some players didn’t really enjoy the soundtrack, but that’s not the case for me.

While this game isn’t that long compared to other games I have played recently, I love to replay this game several times. Due to the updates changing the map layout since the pre-release, I love to find the added details since the updates or play through the game with the new mechanics and all the fixed bugs. And, as soon as I know the maps better, I might even play through the game on a higher difficulty setting.

Apart from the main game, there are also some additional gameplay modes. One of these is an endless mode where you have to survive wave after wave of enemies. This is quite fun since the better you do, the better drops you get to defend yourself. This is a fun distraction from the main game. The other modes are something that you will have to discover when you play the game for yourself. And let’s not forget to mention that in a future patch, we will have multiplayer!

In conclusion, this game is a well-crafted throwback 3D shooter. Apart from some minor issues, I don’t have anything negative to say about this game. If you enjoy playing shooters or retro games, you should do yourself a favor and check this game out. Feel free to support the developers by leaving feedback on their forums. Personally, I think this game is that good, I might even buy the big box collectors edition for my collection.

And with that said, I think I’m going to close off this article. I might talk a bit more in-depth about certain things or mechanics if I ever write a review but for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.