Action with Puzzles
I played World of Warcraft for about six or seven years after it came out. I eventually stopped playing because I got bored of it, but the boss encounters were things that I always enjoyed. Working out tactics was fun, and when a seemingly unbeatable foe was finally taken down, victory was all the more sweeter. Forced is an action-RPG with puzzle elements, and the encounters featured within the game reminded me of the best parts of WoW raids. It isn’t without its shortcomings, but nor is this a game that should be overlooked.
You play as a slave, forced to fight in gladiatorial combat to win your freedom. The story is forgettable, but it is in the gameplay where Forced shines. The combat is fairly simple, if you’ve played a game like Diablo before then it won’t take long for you to come up to speed. Equally, the puzzles aren’t particularly difficult. But when combined, each level is challenging, and most importantly, good fun to play.
There are four different fighting styles which you can freely choose between in a small lobby area before each level. If you want to get up close and personal you can choose the dual wielding daggers and be zipping around the screen like a standard RPG rogue. Or you can be a bit more of a tank and choose the shield character, who is able to block incoming attacks. The hammer character is slower, but able to deal higher damage and knock back enemies. If you want to stay far away from the action you can choose the bow and arrow character.
I didn’t find the variations to be particularly balanced. For example, you are often swarmed with enemies, making the ranged character highly vulnerable. Meanwhile, the rogue can blink around the map and if played with skill can be largely impervious to incoming attacks. In most levels, you’ll have to be wary of environmental hazards as well as enemies, and you’ll have to work out the best way of dealing damage, while avoiding it yourself.
The Ability Game
Each successful attack you make builds up marks on your target, and you are able to unlock new abilities which consume these marks for extra damage or other effects. These abilities are unlocked using crystals, which are acquired by completing encounters. If you complete the secret challenge for the level, or if you finish it in a quick time, you’ll receive extra crystals, granting you quicker access to new skills.
You keep your crystals no matter which fighting style you adopt, which allows you to swap between levels nicely. Not being tied down to a particular character for the whole game is a nice touch, and you’ll unlock new abilities quickly enough to keep from being bored. Although the secret challenge and time bonus mechanics for gaining extra crystals makes for some replayability, it was all a bit artificial. I didn’t particularly want to go back to previous levels, but was forced to either when I didn’t have enough to progress to the next area, or when the level of difficulty demanded that I grab some new skills to help me.
Battle over the Wisp
To accompany your hero, you have a wispy Spirit Mentor named Balfus which reacts to your commands. You can either press a button to have it travel to your current location, allowing you to move around independently of it, or you can hold the button to have it stick to your person. There are many different shrines which react differently when Balfus passes through them. Some simply open gates, while others can cause a shockwave, or make your companion explosive to the touch. You must find the best way of using these shrines to your advantage, by either using them to deal with enemies, or to progress through the level.
In single player, this is all well and good. You’re able to make informed decisions, and you can place the wisp precisely where you need it. However, multiplayer is an entirely different ball game. If I told you that in a four player co-op game, instead of each player having their own wisp, there is only one shared between everyone, you might think this sounds like a nightmare. And you’d be right, mostly. The start of each level will be a mess, with the orb flying around the screen to where everyone thinks it needs to go, meanwhile the map floods with stronger and more numerous enemies.
However, having this mechanic is also a genius move. It forces teamwork where most co-op games shy away from it, and the result is that when everyone works together, it feels like a great accomplishment. The only downside is that I wouldn’t dare joining a game with strangers, as the trolling potential is simply too high. Even if you join a game with friends, you’d better be using voice chat, and you’d better make sure everyone’s willing to work together. Without that, you’ll have extreme difficulty, especially as the challenges become more difficult as the game progresses. Sadly each combat style can only be chosen once, making it tough to agree on who will play what before each level.
This is clearly a game built around doing challenges quickly, as evinced by the leaderboards that pop up when you finish a level, and the Twitch streaming integration on the main menu. Each level can be completed in a matter of minutes, so I can definitely see speed runs of Forced becoming a popular concept. The game looks and sounds fine, but even on the highest graphical settings it doesn’t look quite as good as similar games in the genre. It is nice and colourful, but particularly in co-op where there will be more enemies on screen at once, the action can get overcrowded. More than once I completely lost my character in the frenzy, and in multiplayer if your team gets too spread out, the camera pulls back to accommodate, making it even harder to see where you are.
Forced is a game with some good variety in the combat and some well thought out puzzles. The single player is a decent enough experience, but the real challenge is in multiplayer, as long as you have some like-minded friends. It has some faults, but for the most part you’ll have a good time fighting and thinking your way through this game’s many levels.
Varied combat, and some clever puzzles.
Multiplayer impossible without communicating with friends.