Ion Fury is a FURYious boomer-shooter

(Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2022)
Ion Bow

I’ll be honest, I’ve been playing this on and off for probably years since it came out. Not because it’s a bad game, because it’s a GREAT game. My tldr review right now is if you love Build Engine games like Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Blood, etc then you’ll love this, especially from the level design. But as much as I really wanted to 10/10 TRUE GAMER the whole thing, I think there are a few gameplay things that leave it from being better than it could be.

tldr Ratings:

First Time Playing Yup
Play Time 14hrs
Difficulty Ultra Viscera (Hard)
100% Completion No, there are way too many secrets :D
Fun 7 / 10
Build Engine Explosions 10 / 10
Jank 4 / 10

Overview

Like I said earlier, this game runs on a modified version of the actual Build engine (eDuke32), and by the publisher of Duke3D/Shadow Warrior: 3D Realms. So if you enjoy all the 2.5D quirks like no rooms-over-rooms, explosions everywhere, holes in walls, needless interactivity in everything, etc that those games came with, you’re getting exactly that with Ion Fury. And don’t get me wrong, this is all a GREAT thing.

The developer Voidpoint are Duke fans making (basically) Duke games. It really reminds of how Sonic Mania came to be, where the publisher went to the Sonic fan game/ROM hacking community and got them to make a game, and what came out was apparently one of the best Sonic games in years. I think this is a really great formula in theory, and I could go on and on about how Nintendo should be hiring Super Mario World ROM hack (or even Mario Maker) creators to design games/levels. Getting the keys to the kingdom and letting the fans go crazy can be a really inspiring move. But there’s a few design decisions/mechanics that keep the game from being REALLY amazing.

Secrets

There are a TON of secrets, and most of them are in classic Build engine style of finding vents to climb in, blowing up a wall, or some obscure switch puzzle. One QOL thing I really like is it telling you when you are entering a new area, and how many secrets are you leaving behind, and also at the end of the map where it tallies up your scores, the game taunts you to find them all.

Dopefish Lives!!

There’s also a whole hidden level in the level where you need to do a sequence on a piano to activate it.

Grand Slam

My end-game status screen said I got 96% kills, which I think is pretty dandy, but only 34% secrets, so I guess I’m no god-gamer.

Weapons

I’ll just go through all the weapons by number assignment and how often I used them/jank that came with them

  1. Electrifryer - Your basic melee weapon, actually I don’t know if I agree with the name since it’s a regular police baton when you initially get it. As the name says its a baton that’s electrified, and you can also use it for really easy “turn on the generator” puzzles that only seem to be in the first half of the game. I used it mostly to open vents.
  2. Loverboy - 18 Round Revolver. Beauty. Love it. There’s not many games that make their starting weapon good for the whole game, and this is chef’s kiss. What really makes it stand apart is the alt fire lets you point to a bunch of enemies and let all your shots out “high noon” style. Super useful for small enemies and low-tier ones. Does way more damage that you think.
  3. Disperser - The overpowered shotgun of the game. I think it does WAY, WAY too much damage for this to be balanced. The alt fire is a grenade launcher, but also a completely different weapon. It literally takes up the 7 slot on the weapons list. The grenade launcher explodes on contact with enemies, and also bounces on walls, so it can be very VERY useful to gib a group of enemies immediately (it also makes a sound on bounce like Quake). I found that if you alt-fire there’s a little animation that switches the rounds from shells to grenades. HOWEVER, if you switch to a different weapon, and then hit 7, it’s actually faster (or at least feel faster) to switch alt-fires. Listen can we all agree that having your alt-fire to a number is just wrong? Fun fun though.
  4. Penetrator - Single, and then double SMGs that fire incendiary rounds. The weaker enemies can be set on fire and eventually die. I almost never used these unless I was out of ammo, mostly because the reload animation to reload both guns is way too long, and using a grenade or bowling bomb in a pinch is just more fun.
  5. Chain Gun - It’s a giant chain/minigun taken from one of the bosses. Ammo isn’t always around for it, and alt-fire is revving the cylinders up so its ready to fire while you walk a bit slower (like the heavy in TF2). It’s fun, and does a lot of damage, and I used it any time I had ammo for it.
  6. Bowling Bomb - The pipebombs of the game, only you can roll them like bowling balls and they explode on contact. Love them. It has kind of that janky satisfying feeling when you get a roll just right into a group. If they don’t hit an enemy, you can actually pick them up safely. The alt-fire is a timed bomb which explodes no matter what after a timer.
  7. See #3
  8. Ion Bow - The crossbow/sniper of the game. Really effective at low tier enemies, but really REALLY effective with its alt-fire at pretty much anything. The alt-fire charges up and releases a TON of bolts spread fire, and this can take down most enemies in 1-2 hits, and is really effective against the Mech bosses.
  9. Clusterpuck - Another grenade variant, only in puck form. It’s a death sentence for everyone including you at short range. Apparently you can place these on walls like mines/tripwires, but I never used that feature. I used these pretty much as much as I used the Penetrators, only when I had no other weapons.

There’s also special items that you can use to get one-time buffs, like give yourself double damage, or double jump for limited time, but most of the time I forgot these existed. They would only come up if I suddenly remembered I had a damage boost and I would just spam a boss.

Enemies

Greater Priest

The enemy roster is really varied, but it also doesn’t mix up too much. Enemies worth mentioning are:

  1. Cultist - looks exactly like the cultists from Blood, low tier enemies that sometimes drop Loverboy ammo and minimal health.
  2. Greater Priest - looks like a red cultist from far away, but they have Ion Bows and act as the game’s snipers. They almost always use the charged shot so you can hear them about to shoot almost every time.
  3. Liberator - The dudes who carry the Disperser. Absolutely lethal if they use the grenade launcher, which they do, a lot. They go down pretty fast and you can hear the grenade bounce just like if you shot it.
  4. Mechsect - The headcrabs/small enemy fodder of the game. They can also wait on ceilings and drop down on you. You can kill them with 2 Loverboy shots which makes the Loverboy lock-on really useful for picking these off.
  5. Bony Whoop - What a name. These are essentially flying Mechsects, though they also have a ranged attack. Loverboy does them in pretty easy too.
  6. Diopede - A worm/caterpillar thing that spits/bleeds acid. Taking out a middle of it splits it into multiple Diopedes, so best destroy the head and get a really satisfying ching-CHING-CHING-CHING as all the parts explode after each other.
  7. Deacon - Flying rocket dudes, it really feels like they have the Devastator from Duke 3D. They do a lot of damage, but only fire in bursts and have low-ish health for the amount of damage they can do.
  8. Wendigo - Big melee tank thing. You can hear it growling from far away, but they take a TON of damage before they go down. They sort of remind me of the Pinkys from Doom where it seems they are only there to soak up space/damage from other enemies.
  9. Skinjob - A Terminator-like guy that can shoot fire and teleport around. It’s a LITTLE jank because you can hit him while he’s “teleporting” around, but in terms of combat puzzles I generally hit these guys first. He also explodes when he’s at low health, so it forces you to take cover to avoid a lot of damage. Apparently you can keep shooting them to avoid this explosion but I had no idea.

There’s a couple bosses and low-tier zombie-ish enemies too, but these guys are the ones you actually care about most of the game. It’s a good roster, though I think they introduce enemies too quickly. This might also be because I started the game on Hard so the spawns are harder, but I was seeing Skinjobs pretty early on.

Levels

The levels are both not much to look at, and EVERYTHING to look at. There’s not too many “memorable” levels, but they are all super varied and creative. I hope that makes sense. Here’s some screenshots that hopefully makes more sense:

Saws and lots of em Sewer Count: Arena 1

(As you can see, I used the Liberator a LOT.)

While there arent very many super OPEN levels, what they can accomplish with a limit-removing Build engine is still VERY impressive. The amount of verticality, along with level design that loops all around each other is really fun to play through. That said, I found myself about halfway through the game just slogging through it. After a while the enemy types/levels got a little same-y. I felt the same way about Doom (2016) a bit, where it’s slightly “and this is yet ANOTHER arena I have to get through” (Doom Eternal was better for this).

Final Thoughts

Like I said, it’s completely worth playing through if you’re a fan of other Build engine games. I didn’t even get into all the references to Duke and other DOS games (even Maniac Mansion of all things!). It’s a really successful homeage of the games at the time and any boomer from the 90s should totally try it.

End Ratings