Some of the most fun you can ever have in a game is when you can have great moments with your friends. Playing a game that has cooperative multiplayer to go alongside a single player experience can help make a game more fun. This is very true with a new game from BetaDwarf simply known as FORCED. With an emphasis on co-op multiplayer and an interesting twist on the action genre, does the game stand up to its competition? Let’s put on our gladiator armour and find out.
The story of the game puts players into the position of a tribesman, whose people are forced to become gladiators. As you go down into this deep pit you get confronted by your guardian spirit, known as Balfus. This spirit does not just act as your gladiatorial guide but also as a valuable ally. You and Balfus must journey across the different planes to earn the honour of the guardians. Only then will they be able to take on the master and rid their tribe of future evils.
The story is really compelling. As you are placed as the main protagonist of the game, Balfus talks to you like a very kind and wise entity. That is until he tells you something and immediately comes out with some witty remarks after knowing that you heard him. Every major character has smooth and clear voice acting ranging from mad cows, fat mutations and cunning shadow fiends. This adds more personality to the game and doesn’t create a completely serious atmosphere. It allows players to joke around with the game along with their friends.
The gameplay is a nice mix of different game mechanics from similar action titles. First you have an over the top camera view similar to that of Diablo along with a similar abilities menu. Second you have combat, also similar to Diablo, as you use left and right click as well as a set number of other keys for your different abilities. Lastly is the mechanic that involves your guardian spirit. Your spirit can be used as an additional mechanic in the game to help complete tasks and assist in combat. The key to Balfus is that he can be used to activate certain fountains and other intractable objects in the arenas. From activating health fountains that can heal you over time, collecting explosive energy to destroy structures or blow up enemies and to deactivate certain structures that can either spawn enemies or spread deadly toxin. In order to complete the tasks set before you, you must learn how to use both your abilities and your guardian spirit simultaneously. This creates a gameplay experience that keeps you on your toes throughout.
The game is split into different areas, controlled by their respected guardians. The areas consist of five levels which, when completed, will unlock the boss level where you must confront the guardian itself. The levels will have their own unique objectives whether it’s survive an onslaught of enemies, defeat a specific foe or destroy certain structures. Before entering the level you must decide on which weapon you wish to use. You have a choice of using either:
The Hammer, a massive swinging weapon that can hit multiple foes close by with molten fire,
The Shield, a defensive weapon made out of pure ice that assists with keeping you and your team mates alive,
The Dual Blades, an offensive weapon with great speed and single targeting attacks,
and The Bow, a ranged weapon that is imbued with the power of lightning.
After completing the level you are rewarded with crystals that can be used to unlock more levels and new powerful abilities. You can be rewarded a maximum of three crystals per level depending on whether you complete certain tasks during the stage. You gain one for simply completing the challenge, the second one will be rewarded after completing a specified task and the third will be given to you if you can finish the level within a set time limit. With this different players will play the game completely differently. Speed runners can simply charge through the game and complete all the levels whilst completionists can take their time and get every single crystal in the game.
If you thought the single player is challenging enough then you can get a hold of three of your friends and play the game in its entirety on multiplayer. This allows you to coordinate your moves, work out some amazing strategies and have some classic fun while you’re at it. In multiplayer anyone can go in as any weapon specialist which may help make a mission easier or make your objective more challenging. In addition to weapon choice, your crystals are shared across the other players, meaning your rewards are evenly split amongst you. Also the challenge you take on in multiplayer will be different from when you approached it in single player, adding more variation depending on how many players join in. As an added bonus, the multiplayer is drop in so you can start the game solo and let your friends join in as they please.
Along with the campaign mode, there is also survival mode. This pits you or your party into a scenario that never ends. You must keep completing objective after objective until you fall down dead. This challenges new and experienced players and separates the true gladiators from the fresh meat. The mode feels like a Gears of War style horde mode at times when dealing with creatures, but when traps are added into the mix as well as tougher foes, the mode just keeps getting tougher.
Although the game seems pretty darn amazing looking at what I said, it does have its problems. First has to be with the dialogue in the game. The dialogue is constructed around talking to more than one player. So the enemies in the game will be talking to you as if you are multiple people, even in single player. This feels awkward when in single player, as if you should be playing the game with friends or random people instead. Secondly is it lacks a solid tutorial and introduction to the game. The intro stage does give you a chance to play around with the different weapons and also learn about the most basic of enemies and objectives. However, it does not clearly show how you can attack or block. When introducing you to using abilities, it shows a prompt with a mouse or controller highlighting the appropriate button to press. When attacking, there is no such prompt, so you have to find out by yourself what the basic attack button is. As for blocking with the shield weapon, you are not taught how to effectively utilise this technique. Instead you have to learn by yourself how to block efficiently. All of these mechanics can be learnt through play or through a tutorial section in the ability window, but it doesn’t make sense why they cannot be brought up in the introduction stage of the game.
Overall, FORCED is a superbly made cooperative game that encourages you to play with your friends but also leaves you with a solid single player experience. With arena based combat in addition to objective style missions, gameplay feels solid and always keeps you on your toes. Apart from some concerning tutorial choices, which could hinder some player’s introduction to the game, the title itself is really solid with no really big pressing issues. If you have a group of friends and you all want a game to play with, then this is definitely a title for you. It is not as fun in single player, but the choice of going in solo or with friends is a great addition.
So what do you think of FORCED? Do you think it is as mighty as a gladiator or do you just feel FORCED to play the game? Let us know what you think in the comments below and share your warriors journey in the VGU forums.