After a month-long campaign, the Kickstarter for Terahard Studios’s Claws of Furry drew to an end last night, having fallen short of its modest £10,000 goal. Despite the failure, the game will live on and continue development in the coming months.
Speaking to OnlySP at EGX recently, the game’s creative director, Aris Tsevrenis, was upbeat and energised by the public reception to the project, while acknowledging the likelihood of failure. He mentioned that the overwhelming impression from those that went hands-on with the game was positive, partly because of the gameplay and partly because of the concept. Claws of Furry is one of several projects in the works that cast cats as the heroes (The Good Life and Purrfect Date being others), and the novelty of this trait was one recurring point of praise, according to Tsevrenis.
The fun idea and colourful aesthetic help the title stand out among a market crowded by more serious offerings, but without the meat to match, any excitement will be fleeting. To help prove the worth of Claws of Furry, the Terahard team made a demo available during the crowdfunding campaign. However, this slice of gameplay is an uneven experience, showing both the potential of the game and how far the team has yet to go.
A stilted introductory sequence that lays the groundwork for the story acts as a tutorial to the primary combat mechanics of dodging and light, heavy, and ranged attacks. With the canine threat established and the initial character killed, players slide into the body of a new ninja cat and are immediately thrust into a slum environment to battle against rats vaguely reminiscent of characters from the 1990s cartoon series Biker Mice from Mars. This sudden shift of adversary is jarring as it lacks context, but the fault is easily overlooked given the story’s role as nothing more than a frame for the action. Greater sins are found in the core gameplay.
As a single-player experience, Claws of Furry is insipid, with players almost forced to rely on light attacks due to the high number of enemies and the rapidity of their offense. Compounding the issue is the absence of feedback. Committing to a heavy attack locks the character in place for the duration of the animation, but the extra damage they deal is not reflected by stun periods or any other means of displaying impact. Curiously, ranged attacks, as weak as they are, feel the most responsive, offering a clear knock-back response that can be effective in pushing enemies into immediate-kill environmental hazards. These basic systems can be strung together for combination attacks that, unfortunately, suffer the same shortcomings as simple button mashing.
The game’s lead designer, Harry Evans, mentioned that an in-depth combo system was originally a part of the plan, before being removed in favour of free-form play. The decision feels justified by the fast pace, yet the demo cannot do justice to the promised complexity of the final project. More than 40 skills are promised to be included, although unlocks and the mixing-and-matching of abilities are absent from the demo.
Another point of contention arises from the bite-sized levels. Foes hit hard enough that even a short session can see the character dispatched with relative ease, but the at-most five-minute-long levels feel unsatisfying, particularly once players become acclimatised to the quirks of the game. That being said, the brevity does mitigate frustration when players fall in battle, which is prone to happen during boss fights where the difficulty spikes significantly.
Thus, played solo, the demo build of Claws of Furry is disappointing, while tackling the same levels alongside other gamers in the same room and on the same screen is transformative. Suddenly, heavy attacks become viable as other players engage in crowd control and set up opportunities all impossible when alone. Bosses, although as imposing as ever, are less daunting with back-up. Levels become more enjoyable as less practiced gamers stumble into poison puddles and die, letting the team down, but engendering a spirit of friendly camaraderie that make the frustrations dissipate.
Co-operative play reveals a side of brilliant fun that, for now, is mostly lacking from the single-player experience. Thankfully, the fundamental mechanics are solid, ensuring that the existing issues are surmountable with time and more effort. The failed crowdfunding campaign may suggest that time is a limited resource for the Terahard team, but Tsevrenis waved away any such concerns. Although the extra money would have been helpful, he said, the team always viewed Kickstarter as more of an advertising platform and a way to raise awareness of Claws of Furry.
To that end, the studio has succeeded, and the openness and willingness to engage with the community has surely won over some fans. All that remains is to finish the game and prove that faith is not misplaced. For more on the game and further comments from Aris Tsevrenis, check out the game’s earlier Indie Highlight Reel spotlight.