FORCED IS A GAME ABOUT CHALLE…
Oh wait, caps lock. My bad.
Ahem, anyway… “FORCED” (I’m pretty sure it’s not an acronym) is a game about challenges.
Literal challenges to overcome in the form of traps, puzzles and waves of relentless enemies.
Then, there are more abstract challenges in the form of cumbersome mechanics and a less than stellar online matchmaking system.
However, if these challenges can be overcome with a group of like-minded warriors, there is a good bit of unique entertainment here.
The story of “FORCED” is that of a world where warriors are chosen to prove their worth to beings who are viewed as gods.
They are put to the test in a series of dastardly difficult challenges with the aid of Balfus, a ball of light that becomes the guide to those unfortunate enough to be chosen.
While the small cinematic at the beginning of the adventure sets the stage for what’s to come, it’s the small bits of dialogue and narration within the game that moves the story along at a brisk pace.
However, considering this is an Action RPG, the story is as expected a bit of an afterthought as the game play, which is equal parts combat and puzzle solving, takes the spotlight rather quickly.
There are four distinct classes to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Each class is designated a unique weapon, like the heavy two-handed hammer capable of annihilating a large group of foes in one herculean smash. Then there is the bow and arrow, which can pick off individuals targets from afar with charged shots that can pierce multiple foes with a single arrow.
All the classes offer a unique play style, and as the player gains crystals to choose a loadout of active and passive skills, it opens up the field for a good amount of customization. Also, because the levels and access to skills are directly tied to side objectives that the player can strive to meet, it felt like just beating the stage and earning that one single crystal was never enough.
The player isn’t stuck on one class either, as switching of classes in between challenges is encouraged and in certain cases, even mandatory for the sake of leaderboards and optional objectives.
While the customization and overall fidelity of the combat is solid (albeit a little sluggish), the title really stands out through the use of Balfus in how it approaches puzzle solving.
The extent of puzzles in ARPG more or less ends in finding the right levers to pull or maybe attacking something to activate a contraption.
In fact, it would be fairly accurate to say that titles like Torchlight and Diablo all have their puzzle elements tied up in how one approaches a certain fight. Learning the patterns of the boss, finding the right attack and moment to strike is a puzzle on its own.
While “FORCED” certainly shares that element, it actually throws in what I would call straightforward puzzles as well.
This happens through the use of Balfus, the light ball companion which the player can command around the stage to fulfill a multitude of needs.
There are always at least a few elements in the stage that the player can’t directly interact with but Balfus can. He can destroy enemy spawning triggers, become a volatile bomb, a healing aura or even a move around blocks from a far.
It seems like a simple concept but the actual process of moving Balfus around makes that a tricky proposal. To have Balfus move from one location to another, he must be stationary at one point and then called to the player’s current location.
So if I wanted Balfus to hit a switch, I would have to park him in one place, get to the other side directly across and then summon him to come to me.
There is no easy way to send him to a location like one would an starcraft SCV (we need more minerals!). Guiding Balfus while he has become a volatile bomb to not touch any walls on the way to destroy an objective while not blowing myself up in the process is a precarious scenario that I had to face more than once.
It took a bit of planning to map out an ideal path in my mind and then put the plan in action all while I was being pestered by waves of enemies.
While I certainly applaud them for adding a strong puzzle element to a genre not entirely receptive to the idea, I feel it could have been handled better.
Controlling Balfus felt like an absolute hassle, as even if I knew exactly what I needed to do, actually doing the thing was infinitely more difficult due to rather sluggish controls.
Considering this is a title that has a heavy emphasis on co-op play, I must mention that I had a rather difficult time finding people to play with.
I would refresh the matchmaking over and over again, which kept giving me the same list of games that were already full and the games that weren’t full all returned as disconnects.
I was fortunate enough to start a game of my own and have random people join but as lower leveled players kept joining, I was forced to do the challenges I had already completed instead of actually making progress of my own.
The actual game play felt fine and in a full four-man party, the title really showed how each of the classes can synergy with each other but these moments came few and far between.
“FORCED” feels like a game made for a very specific niche of players who really enjoy co-op games with a bit of a brain and have a thing for leaderboards.
If that accurately describes you and perhaps a few of your friends, it’s an experience well worth checking out.
Fun Tidbit: I expect to see this title to pop up in speed runs in short order.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.