Impressions: Forge

By Craig Pearson on December 6th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.

CLANG!
Forge is proof that not earning your Kickstarter funding isn’t the end of the line. The third-person multiplayer action game fell some way short of a $300,000 cash grab, but regrouping on Steam Greenlight gave it a boost and it managed to launch this week. Here’s what a few hours on the servers has taught me.

This has been the year of multiplayer beatdowns. Chivalry, War of the Roses, Natural Selection, Ravaged, Orion: Dino Beatdown, Planetside 2, Primal Carnage, Air Buccaneers, and loads more have all hopped up and down begging for your attention. Despite the crowd, Forge manages to stand out. It’s a class-based fantasy game, borrowing as much from WoW and Guild Wars 2 for the combat as it does from the likes of TF2 for the structure. In the group photo of all the games listed, it has the biggest hair.

Two teams are warring over some gravel-voiced fantasy frippery, dancing about the maps blasting and dodging spells. It is frantic, which is initially to its detriment. I joined a game and was lost in a UI stuffed with the effects: people were soaked in sigils and fires, and I was blinded by the buffs. There was a pile on of players in the middle of the map, and when five classes with eight abilities meets there’s an effects logjam. So I did the smart thing and stepped back.

CLANGGGG!

This meant selecting the Pathfinder class. He’s the defacto sniper, a caster of magic arrows with various powers: the usual pin cushion blast can be augmented with poisons, or multiplied to spam; it can blind, or stick an opponent to the ground. There are additional traps and powers alongside that, where the sniper can be invisble, drop caltrops or set explosives. I won’t go into vast descriptions of what the others are capable of, but there’s an Assassin, Pyromancer, Shamen, and Warden, responsible for stealth, destruction, healing and defence, with some bleed between the roles.

But do the smart thing and grab the Pathfinder first time. The multi-level arenas are a nicely accommodating for all the classes: each has a shared base power of a wall-jump that can take you anywhere, so there’s a lot of places to get a view of the fight without getting too involved.

I join a game, though the server browser currently seems to only allow a random selection, and I’m dropped into the middle of contested map with a couple of high walkways leading to each base. It’s Two Fort with tattoos. Aiming is nicely forgiving: I fire down into a melee, and the arrows more often than not hit the targets, but it’s a system that’s balanced – all the powers are buff-based, so even the most basic arrow causes a tiny countdown. Experimenting with powers yields a few combos: pinning someone with an arrow allows me to follow up with a volley, and it feels pretty good. But he doesn’t die. And then doesn’t die some more. Forge’s battlers are hardier than you’d expect, and eventually you realise that there’s no guarantee that you’ll kill someone. You’re mostly doing damage and hoping that your team will manage to overwhelm the others. It does mean it feels a little bit spammy, but the counter to that is that there’s a need to join in fights rather than just taking on people one on one. To that end, an addition of a mini-map would help matters out immensely. The UI does show you the position of friend and nearby or spotted enemies, but the omission of a higher-level view is really felt when you’re all pushing to a goal.

CLANGGGGGGGGG!

The speed of the action doesn’t mesh well with the buff system. It’s as fast as any multiplayer shooter, but with the slow burn battles of an MMO. You can’t select your powers with a mousewheel at all, instead you wrestle with a bizarre keyboard layout. All the keys are gathered around WASD, which is clearly to give your fingers a short travel distance, but it’s an odd, non-standard layout that takes a lot of getting used to. I’d almost prefer the number keys. Yes, they can be reconfigured, but not to any great benefit. I wonder if a power wheel might be a better option, if there’s not a mousewheel update in the future? But I’d rather speed through a list of selectable strengths than suffer the keyboard mangling it currently asks.

Even so, it is surprisingly fun. The swift sorties aren’t particularly tactical as people find their feet, but there are moments of serendipity between classes, where a fleeing ‘flag bearer, has his pursuers cut off by a perfectly timed wall of fire. There’s definitely a fun game of traps and counters here that struggles a little with the UI and control layout.

Forge is out now on Steam, and if you buy before December 18th you get two for the price of one.

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39 Comments »

  1. GSGregory says:

    No reference to the likes of savage 2?

    • Skabooga says:

      UNATCO?

      • Arcalane says:

        Savage.

        • rei says:

          U… UNATCO?

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            Thanks for the circular train of thought, guys.

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  2. zeroskill says:

    With a game like this, I hope they will look into really listening to user feedback. It is vital. This game has potential. Continuous balancing and polishing is needed.

    For my MMO-ish PvP i’m at the moment playing Guild Wars 2′s sPvP, which is pretty good since it’s almost entierely seperate from the MMO part of the game. However this is interesting to me. I am surely giving this a shot pretty soon.

  3. trjp says:

    Watching the trailer I’m intrigued but I suspect it may descend into a bit of a random button-whacking thing – and then run out of players…

    • Kitsuninc says:

      No it won’t. That’s just straight up not the way the combat works. Usually the cooldowns are short enough that you can use an ability whenever you want to, and each of your abilities has a different time when it’s appropriate to use.

  4. ProtoMan says:

    Just asking- when people say WoW combat (because every time this game is brought up they say guild wars 2 or WoW combat) do they mean the click and wait for your enemy to die style combat, similar to playing an RTS with one unit? Because (as you could probably extrapolate) I despise that sort of combat.
    If it’s skill based (as opposed to strategy or teamwork based) combat in a fantasy setting, I would completely buy this. If it’s literally just WoW PVP then I’m not bothering.

    • Stevostin says:

      You obviously never got into wow combat, did you ? Not saying it’s perfect PVP (it’s not and I do hope Forge fixes that) but there obviously a solid basis for a very deep pvp gameplay, one that require so much process running so tight on the beat in parallel in your brain that chaining headshots look like a piece of cake compared to skill ceiling it brings to the table.

      • bjohndooh says:

        WoW PvP definitely isn’t the worst, but I never felt it was particularly special in any way – even compared to the likes of earlier MMOs like UO, EQ, DAoC, Asheron’s Call, what does it really bring to the table?

      • mondomau says:

        Completely different skillsets, your comparison is invalid. Besides, the point is that WoW’s combat is not bad, but boring – which is true unless you get excited by cool down timers and advanced mental arithmetic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      • Droniac says:

        Stevostin, the only thing your comment does is demonstrate that you’ve never played a FPS competitively. I’ve played FPS / RTS / MMORPG games competitively, all at very high international level. I actually have a decent grasp of what skill sets are required to be competitive in a game, and what the skill ceiling is for each individual skill and therefore the total game, because I’ve actually competed in such games – in both genres (e.g.: Guild Wars (a genuine PvP MMORPG), Unreal Tournament series, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Jedi Knight 2 / Academy, etc.). I’ve also actually played WoW PvP and many other MMO and FPS games on the market.

        So based on my experience and ‘expertise’ with regards to actual competitive play, WoW is somewhat comparable to the recent CoD games in competitive viability, as in: not very. However, the CoD games actually require a larger skill set and have a (marginally) higher skill ceiling. Indeed, pretty much every competitive FPS already encompasses most of WoW’s skillset (save UI management, debuff management, and camera movement), and generally requires significantly more competence within each separate skill. Granted, when compared to competitive CoD the differences are not very large, but that changes rapidly when you change the shooter you’re comparing to. And let’s face it, recent CoD games are certainly some of the least competitively viable shooters to date, so that’s not going to be favorable for WoW in any case.

        Given your exact same statement for WoW with regards to Quake, UT, or RtCW there’s really nothing any competitive gamer can do but laugh at the ignorance on display. I do hope being comedic wasn’t your intent. Quake, UT, and RtCW are, alongside StarCraft, the absolute cream-of-the-crop of competitive games. They require a larger skill set and more competence within each individual skill than anything else on the market, by a very large margin, because those particular games have NO skill ceiling (whereas WoW has a relatively low skill ceiling, much like CoD). So in that regard your statement would be a lot like saying tic tac toe is more skillful than grandmaster level chess. Whereas if you meant to indicate CoD-like shooters, it’d be more like saying rally racing is more skillful than F1 racing.

    • Zyrxil says:

      Then I would say your opinion is based on complete ignorance of what actually MMO PvP is like. It’s about controlling a single character with at minimum a dozen skills, facing another team of human characters of various classes (each with their own unique set of skills), while managing health, energy, positionining, LOS, buffs, and debuffs. It’s nothing like ordering an RTS unit to attack another unit.

    • pvthudson01 says:

      Hey look another person who never actually PLAYED MMO’s making a judgement about the combat.

      Why dont you twitch PVP Counterstrike freaks give it up and back your idiotic comments with a shred of truth?

      • Dahoon says:

        As someone who have played a lot of MMO’s, since back when MMOG’s was the new thing, I have to agree. With him that is. There is no skill required in games like WoW in my opinion, but feel free to think otherwise. Not saying MMOG’s are boring – I love MMOG’s – but skills for combat? No.

    • Rindan says:

      It looks like WoW PvP. WoW PvP, as much as I despise it, isn’t click and wait. MMORPG PvP tends to be more about timing, awareness, and teamwork. If you can time your cool downs, are aware of who needs what, and have the people all doing what needs to be done when, you win. It is a legitimate style and probably takes set of skills win than a FPS.

      That said, I personally find it dull a shit and would give my left nut for an MMORPG with Chivalry style skilled combat and no leveling. I have nothing but hatred for D&D, MUDs, Everquest, and WoW for saddling every single MMORPG from now until the god damn end of time with boring level based combat.

    • RavenGlenn says:

      As others have so aptly pointed out, you have no idea what you are talking about. WoW-style combat is not at all like an RTS in any way, shape, or form. It’s actually extremely active.

      • mondomau says:

        True. It’s also abstract and dull. And I do know what I’m taking about.

        • Phantoon says:

          Yep. At no point before I quit the game did I ever delude myself I was still playing because pushing buttons was fun. I had already worked out I was doing it because the hamster wheel was fun because that’s where my online pals were. The hamster wheel.

    • caddyB says:

      Say what you want about the PVE side of WoW-style combat, but in PVP things are much, much more different and involved.

    • Koozer says:

      Jeez, no need to be so defensive guys…

      By ‘WoW style combat’ I think people really mean targeting enemies and using abilities with cooldowns. You don’t aim, you just need to be in range and have line of sight. Of course WoW style PvP can be fun, like any other game can be fun in its own way, but personally I would have preferred it if I could have manually aimed those Pyroblasts.

  5. Syra says:

    I feel that a game built around the tenants of wow arena mode and expanded upon from there can only be a very, very good thing.

    • DK says:

      Bloodline Champions was all the tense skill based battles of WoW PvP without any of the bullshit. No random numbers. No twitch movement in an engine and control scheme not made for it. No homing attacks. No Dozens of Skills with barely any difference between half of them.

      Just pure combat, with classes that have no skill overlap, strictly balanced abilities and small numbers. (because there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to go more than triple digit – and even that only very rarely)

      Then they ruined it by introducing between-match progression.

  6. dE says:

    Hmmm, this or Chivalry… hmmm.
    Forge seems an awful lot like Heretic, and I’ve good memories of its multiplayer. Yet I’m kinda scared off by the mentioning of MMO Combat.

  7. Stevostin says:

    “but it’s an odd, non-standard layout”

    It is indeed the standard layout for wow style battleground/arena – at least as soon as you do it seriously. Put that on the numpad and each time you’ll use them you’ll lose a split second that you simply can’t afford to loose in a competitive setting. I think it’s entirely appropriate to take the wow model on this – honestly it’s more or less the only that can work.

    BTW in any FPS that require more than 4 weapon/action keys, I do bind exactly the same area. I really don’t think you can do it otherwise unless you’re here to get your ass kicked!

  8. Hatonastick says:

    Chivalry is ok, but I still prefer the aging Mount & Blade games myself. The problem with Chivalry is that while the simplistic combat system is capable of finesse and therefore capable of allowing two veterans to duel, it all becomes pointless. Why? Simply because the game is fast paced and frantic enough that the majority of such duels will end with you both being killed by someone who wades in from behind wildly swinging their two-handed weapon and who requires no more skill than the ability to click their left mouse button rapidly. So you will rarely get to watch any interesting battles as most of them seem to degenerate into spam fests. Mount & Blade: Warband though has allowed me to experience and witness some of the best melee-based duels I’ve ever seen in any computer game, however I must admit that the biggest problem with Warband (outside of the dated graphics) is the learning curve. People new to the game have pretty much zero chance against a Warband veteran.

    Anyway, to sum up: Chivalry is fun for short bursts of time and while the simplistic combat system is capable of finesse, duels (in my experience at least, maybe other people have had different experiences) between veterans are rare. Combat is brutal and quick, but there isn’t really much of a learning curve (at least not with melee, the ranged classes do seem harder to pick up) so someone who’s never played it before has almost as much chance of defeating someone in a battle as a veteran has — especially if they wade in from behind. :)

    • darkChozo says:

      It depends pretty strongly on what you’re playing. On 32 player CTO, or FFA anything, yeah, that’s pretty much the case. While spam does have some self limiting factors (LMB spam tends to hurt your allies more than your enemies), it’s going to be effective when there are ten players all huddled in one area.

      Smaller servers tend to be a lot better, and LTS tends to have some of the best small scale combat once there are a few players remaining. You can get really cool things like one guy besting three others to win a match (it’s very very possible if you’re good, and the last guy tends to be pretty decent).

      I find that Chivalry has a learning curve that’s actually really similar to that of a fighting game. It’s easy enough to pick up, and spam seems really effective when it’s two people of low level fighting, and can even be effective against a better player who isn’t expecting it. However, it’s almost trivial for someone who knows what they’re doing to shut down someone who’s spamming. Also, defense is deceptively strong in Chivalry; if you’re good at blocking and positioning yourself (and the latency gods are smiling upon you), it’s surprisingly easy to survive against two or three guys, at least until your stamina runs out.

      [a tip: situational awareness is super important if you want to avoid being stabbed in the back,. Sound is really helpful in this regard; hearing footsteps makes it so you can predict basically any attack. It's really rare that I get killed from behind without knowing I was flanked first]

    • Shooop says:

      On the plus side, I now know I’m not the only one who’s experienced nothing but this when playing Chivalry.

      But it also means it’s a more common problem than I thought and I even less desire to ever play it again. Here’s hoping Clang delivers the melee combat game I’ve been aching for.

  9. Kitsuninc says:

    Just got it, I’m finding it to be quite a lot of fun. There’s a difficulty curve that’s way higher than it ought to be thanks to the game being terrible at explaining itself. Still, after an hour minutes and some asking other players how some things work, I’ve gotten pretty reasonable at it. All the classes seem to have some sort of cool movement spell – the pathfinder can switch places with someone else while cloaked, the warden can fly while doing her spinny-shield attack. The Shaman seems the most boring, not really having any skills that do anything other than heal/buff/debuff; he’s still a bit fun though, thanks to a heal with a surprising feeling of oomph behind it.

    What I don’t like is how single target attacks decide whether they hit or not. I guess if you have your cursor over someone when you use them, they home in on their target, yet sometimes the game just decides nope (It could be latency). Thankfully if you miss you don’t lose the cooldown or energy.

    • Fishbaitz says:

      The Pathfinder fires actual projectiles at their targets. They may home in but they can be blocked by allies, other enemies, or the terrain itself. It isn’t a latency thing, it’s a mechanics thing.

      The Pyromancers, conversely, has no such travel time on their attacks. Their magic will hit it’s selected target all the time every time, with the exception of Molten Bolas as this is their only projectile “attack.”

      Anyway, I fucking love this game. The combat is some of the best I’ve played in a long time (Think MMO PvP mixed with a third person shooter/adventure game) with decent balance and clear class direction and distinction. Current downsides are some problems with optimization and the lack of full features expected in a PvP game, i.e. Server browsers, clans, and an Arena mode. But they are forthcoming, and a few of them within the month!

  10. bbqdude says:

    gathering keys around wasd is not uncommon. I do this since Q1 and even quakelive has keys mapped around wasd by default as I remember. BLC does this too even though it went downhill as someone already stated.
    I’m more interested in Forges technical state. I heard a lot of people saying this game would not be ready for release

  11. rossgames says:

    This is by far the best game i have played in a long time. people are correct in saying that there are some missing features at the moment, but the developers talk, voip and even play in-game with the community almost every day – and those missing features are all coming soon. If you dont believe me, head over to the forge forums and look out for the orange name tags of the developers.
    The most important thing is that the gameplay is solid – and if you jump in now you’ll have a huge headstart over everyone else waiting ‘for more features’.

    Oh and about the mousewheel – try binding scrollup and scrolldwn to abilities.