Fray: It’s released, but it’s not ready for the battle

July 5, 2012

The year is 2098. Three mega-corporations control the world and battle each other for supremacy. The general populace huddles in virtual worlds to escape reality, while employees of the companies use that same virtual technology to battle each other in four man tactical warfare. Sound intriguing? Well, forget all of that, because none of it matters.

Fray has a deep backstory and, in many games, that’s a great thing. Having a rich background for the gameplay is wonderful. But Fray is not a story-driven game. It is a turn-based tactical online multiplayer-only game. So, while the history is there, it means absolutely nothing when you are playing against another human, which is all you can do.

Fray takes the simultaneous turn-based action gameplay that Frozen Synapse used so successfully and runs with it, adding on a few twists. Each player chooses their moves during the orders phase, and then every unit’s commands are executed at the same time during the resolution phase. Combat is either one-on-one, two-on-two or free-for-all and the first team to seven kills wins. When a unit is killed, it stays dead for one turn before respawning at either a random or chosen spawn point.

Your squad is a four-man team made from six classes, though you can only choose one of each class. The Shadow can camouflage himself and sneak-attack enemies, but can’t take much damage. The Tank is slow, but can dish out the damage and take plenty of it in return, though with a short effective range. The Assault is your standard evenly-balanced unit, while the Sniper can shoot quite the distance but needs to be protected. There’s also a Support class that can set up defenses, turrets and rearm your other troops and a Medic who can heal your team. As you play more games, you’ll earn credits and experience points which can be used to buy new things for your troops and customize them to your desire.

All of this sounds great and promising, but unfortunately it never lives up to this promise. This is a broken, buggy mess of a release. It’s hard to believe that it was actually tested before its release on Steam. During any given match, it may crash on you. Though this seems to happen more often with 4-player games, it will happen at least once per session. Sometimes the game will load just fine for one person, while getting stuck on the loading screen for the other.

Assuming you can get a game to load for everyone and start playing, it isn’t uncommon for units killed in battle to get stuck dead and unable to respawn. In at least one game, this happened to three of a player’s units. Mind you, you only get four of them. Powers often won’t unlock when they should, and sometimes a unit doesn’t do as it was commanded. Other times, you just can’t order a unit to do anything so they sit there useless for a turn. Oh yeah, and as of right now, if you are running a 32-bit operating system, you can’t even boot up the game.

The graphics look fine, but the camera is absolutely awful. It will often change its angle for no reason, and is very finicky, making it difficult to know exactly where your troops are in relation to each other if you split your squad.

Remember how I mentioned that this is a multiplayer-only game? Well, the important thing to remember about that type of game is that if there isn’t anyone to play with, you can’t play it yourself. And less than two weeks after release, I’ve yet to see more than 15 people online at any given time. Even if the game was playable, there’s almost no one to play with. I once sat there for an hour waiting for someone to join my one-on-one game so we could play.

This is essentially an alpha build of a game that should never have been released to the public in this state. While it’s possible that it will get sorted out eventually, at this time, I just can’t recommend that anyone buy it. If you want this genre of game, pick up Frozen Synapse.

Pros: interesting backstory, good ideas
Cons: bugs, bugs, bugs, bad execution of a good idea

Score: 1/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.