Wot I Think: Forced

By Jim Rossignol on November 1st, 2013 at 9:00 pm.


Kickstarted co-op action game Forced may look like an ARPG in the Blizzard mould, but it’s actually much more of a… co-op action game. I’ll explain below.

Forced sees you controlling a little dude in a top down combat arena, and unlocking powers as you play, but it’s no Diablo-like RPG. This, instead, is a game of taking on various arena challenges – with monsters to fight, puzzles to resolve, and environmental dangers to avoid – while working with a chum. There’s no loot, the single player is basically a mega-tutorial which explains all the possible challenges you’ll face in game, and character persistence is only about making your character more versatile within the gladiatorial circumstances you find yourself in. The idea behind this game is to develop player skill, not to level with the magical grind of clicking.

The fiction for the game – and reasoning behind the dodgy title – is that you’ve been forced to enter a realm where you fight for the pleasure of demon types, and are basically a slave who caters to their entertainment. As such you pick a weapon (effectively character class, which you can change before any bout) and leap into the fray.

The maps can be quite complex in what their contain, and while you generally interact with the world by hitting, stabbing or shooting, you also have a will ‘o’ the wisp type glowing ball of light which can be used to trigger, charge, and activate other things in the game arena. For example, you might cause your wisp to float past a healing plinth thing, giving you a diminishing healing radius for a short time, or you might use it to set off an area of effect blast, which will knock back a large number of enemies. Consider that you have a chum doing the same sort of stuff all the while, and you can see that Forced’s arenas can be busy places.

As I’ve been saying, what developers Betadwarf have been most keen on emphasizing is that this is a game about co-operating with other players, and the body of the game is in playing with a chum or three in a battle against the various arenas. This means trying to work together to take on both baddies – demons of various sizes and configurations – and environmental puzzles – spinning spikes, lava, mystical lasers – and doing so in a way that will complement the style of the other player. Ideally you don’t want to both be the same character class, of course. This mostly works, too, especially if you end up play with someone who has rather different powers to yourself. A fast stabby character can be backed up by someone doing bigger slower hits or ranged damage, for example.

Forced is a competently produced game, and will no doubt do well based on both these kinds of production values, as well as the Blizzardian visual design sense. We like games that are co-op, and we like games that do pretty and cartoony fantasy. However, and this is a pretty big stopping point for me, I found the game to ultimately charmless. It isn’t something I could sink time into long term, because the precise mix of visuals and mechanics just don’t press my buttons. On paper it should, but the executions misses some vital ingredient that would really bring it to life.

Partly it’s down to the odd mechanics, such as wisp activation of things, but also their lack of pizazz. Having played a tonne of Magicka: Wizard Wars – which is a PvP game, of course – I’ve acclimatised to a real cacophony of top-down combat effects, noises, and general pandemonium which Forced lacks. Sure, it’s solid and does what it’s supposed to, but everything from the character designs to their weapons, to the particle effects, the monsters and the world itself, avoids really making anything its own. It simply lacks flair, and combined with the slightly awkward mechanics in co-op play, means it never feels wholly convincing. I’m playing, and it works, but I’m not absorbed in it in the way I immediately was with, say, Torchlight II or even a top-down shooter like say Teleglitch, or a co-op shooter like Left 4 Dead, which in truth this is probably closer to.

For a game that is trying to do things differently, it feels odd that there’s so little distinct about its visual style. It needs more cowbell. And for a game that is predicated on co-op, I didn’t feel like I got enough out of playing alongside other gamers, although it’s hard to pin down precisely why. Perhaps Forced is simply overshadowed by the way in which so many other games have got us working together and co-operating in play, or perhaps its emphasis was simply in the wrong place.

Whatever the real issue, I feel like Forced is one of those games that fell short of greatness. There’s a lot there, and it’s been well made, but the package isn’t for me. Perhaps it was addressed to someone else.

Forced is out now.

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31 Comments »

  1. CookPassBabtridge says:

    My co-op sells some lovely ‘fresh’ pecan pie slices and has one of those cool amazon drop box things. Also a cute girl who has pet hamsters. Some of whom died.

    You sounded sad to not be able to recommend this game more highly? Seems a shame it didn’t quite entrance.

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  2. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I find the vast majority of ARPGs utterly tiresome. With the exception of that one set in Mythological Greece a few years back, the name escapes me right now. I even hate Torchlight with a passion. Clickclickclickclickclickclick,

    • Noburu says:

      Titan Quest?

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Yeah, that’s the one, mainly because Ray Harryhausen.

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    • Christo4 says:

      Yeah i feel the same way, other than the adventures of van helsing and sacred, every arpg bored me.
      Yes, i like TAVH more than Torchlight 2. It’s just much more dynamic and just more fun IMO to play. Sacred is also one of the best oldies but goldies.
      Titan quest also bored me, but i have to say, i really like it’s art style.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      I hate the fact that ARPG seems to be synonymous with clicking and that D…[I've read that RPS eats comments with that name in it for reasons only Horace understands so I shall refer to it as Torchlight-like] is considered the archetype of ARPGs. When I think of an action RPG I think of games like Seiken Densetsu or, for more recent examples, Secrets of Grindea or Dark Souls (I actually think Dark Souls is much closer to the archetype of what an ARPG should be; without the action it’s an RPG, without the RPG elements it’s an action game).

      Basically, if you take the action away from an RPG you should get an RPG and if you take the RPG away you should get an action game. I’m not convinced that taking the RPG away from Torchlight-like results in an action game since the control of the character is relatively indirect; you don’t move your character or attack with your character, you tell your character to move and you tell your character to attack (which is more like a strategy game than an action game).

    • Lemming says:

      Titan Quest was great, indeed.

    • Keyrock says:

      If you liked Titan Quest, then there’s good news. Grim Dawn, the spiritual sequel to Titan Quest is about to enter beta and will be out early next year. I’ve been playing it since it entered alpha and it’s really good.

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        DantronLesotho says:

        I’ve started Path of Exile and find it to be a worthy successor of the ARPG-D type. Now if they would only finish it!

  3. Totally heterosexual says:

    I was gonna have a pun here…

    …but it would have been too forced.

  4. nimbulan says:

    The devs had a tournament before release where they were giving away a bunch of prizes so I tried the demo for that. I really was not impressed. It’s just a simple survival arena game with dull gameplay and not many combat or movement options. The game absolutely overwhelms you with enemies within a couple minutes and then you do it again. Even if it was fun, I don’t think it would be for very long.

  5. LionsPhil says:

    Hmm. Can kind of see what you mean from that trailer. It just…isn’t really committing to the role.

  6. Maritz says:

    The game does, at least in my book, win an award for having one of the more obnoxious ads I’ve seen on this site. Something about setting up a studio “illegally” in an empty building. Put me right off before I even knew anything about the game itself.

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      Thurgret says:

      You’re not alone. I was really rather put off by that advert. Squatting in an abandoned school? There’s just something very odd about it.

      Though the Battlefield 4 one isn’t far behind. That scroll-down hover over thing is just annoying.

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        tigerfort says:

        I think the BF4 one is more annoying, but less offputting? (I’m not sure offputting is quite the word I’m after.) The Forced advert made me think “you people are weird, and not in a good way”, and didn’t even actually say anything about the game. The ad for Battlefield 4 is annoying as all hell – I have abp disabled for RPS because I want to support the site, but I’m seriously considering re-enabling it because the BF4 advert actually interferes with my ability to read the content I’m here for – but does actually appear to contain quite a bit of game-related info.

  7. Therax says:

    Top-down combat in a cramped arena with predetermined enemies and a heavy emphasis on coop. Sounds a bit like Dawn of War 2, particularly the standalone “The Last Stand” release. Can anyone compare/contrast these? What’s the unique selling point here? The hazards in the arenas, like the spinning death lasers?

    • SeismicRend says:

      Forced is more mobile, tactical and entirely collision based. You control your character movement with WASD (or preferably with your left analog stick) and control the direction your character aims with your mouse (or right analog stick). You’ll need the constant mobility as you avoid enemy attacks, dodge arena hazards, and position yourself to clear objectives. I love that enemy attacks need to be avoided for the detriment they cause, not simply the damage. The objectives in the trials vary considerably. Sometimes it’s a Zelda-style puzzle of moving blocks amidst combat. Other times it feels like a complex MMO raid with new phases being added as you complete objectives. The challenge ramps up considerably as you try to push forward perilously to race the clock. I would recommend it if you enjoyed Last Stand and especially if you felt the DOW2 game mode was too lethargic.

  8. SillyWizard says:

    How does RPS decide what to WIT? This seems like kind of a random, no-name sort of game to warrant this kind of attention. (I mean, sure, every indie and its mother gets a mention here sooner or later, but not everything gets a WIT.)

    • Shieldmaiden says:

      This probably sounds facetious, but I guess it’s just based on the games they’ve played enough of to feel comfortable giving their informed opinion on. With the exception of really big, significant releases, I’ve never gotten the impression that the games that appear are based on anything other than the whims of Horace.

    • Zeewolf says:

      The PC-world is full of small, great games that get almost no exposure. When RPS WITs one of them, everybody are happy that they are bringing unknown gems to everyone’s attention and so on. But before they’ve tried a game, it’s hard to know whether it is such a gem or not. Especially when there’s not much coverage already. But once you’ve agreed to receive review code you’re sort of obliged to at least give it a decent shot, even though it might not be what you’d hoped.

      Besides, everyone are constantly complaining that the average rating on Metacritic is so high. The reason for this isn’t that reviewers have forgotten to be critical (which is the conclusion everyone loves to jump to), it’s that too few reviewers review games that aren’t good. The odd Aliens: Colonial Marines will get tons of attention, of course. But all the rest, from awful to mediocre, is neglected.

      Anyhoo. I’ve also tried Forced, and I kinda liked it. But it was obvious that it needed to be played with other people, if only because it’s so tough on your own (when you’re the only target for the enemies), and my coop buddy wasn’t too keen. I’m not a big fan of online multiplayer with people I don’t know, so that’s it really. Regardless, I would probably recommend that people have a look if they need a new coop experience. It’s really very far from being a traditional action rpg.

  9. Creamice says:

    People seem to be quick to pick up the slightly negative vibe of the review, which is a shame.

    For my friends and me the game is quite a nice coop experience for several reasons:

    - Coop gameplay is solid (requires actually working together instead of just simultaneously clicking on things/monsters).

    - Challenges are independent and repeatable, which allows us to play freely in different combinations of players (story-based campaigns like Trine2′s, Magicka’s, Torchlight’s or Borderland’s encourage us to play the whole game together in the same configuration, which can be a hassle). The system of flexible unlocks for character progression is also perfect for playing coop in casually changing configurations.

    - The difficulty level of the game is pleasantly high, especially when you try to complete the bonus challenges.

    So overall, if you enjoy coop with your friends but usually encounter similar problems with some of the other games (lack of challenge, lack of actual cooperation, lack of time to organize regular game sessions together), then you should definitely check out this game!

    • Boosh says:

      I agree,
      I’ve found a pleasingly challenging co-op game that’s instantly accessible, thoroughly enjoyed working with another to beat some of the challenges.
      And that’s the key point which doesn’t seem to really have been expressed enough, you actually do have to work together, not independently, to achieve some of the challenges.
      For its price I though it looked fine, not sure what the complaint is there.

      Small point on the WIT, ” Ideally you don’t want to both be the same character class, of course.”
      This isn’t actually possible anyway, you are ‘forced’ (heh) to choose different classes.

      • SeismicRend says:

        I agree the game is a terrific co-op experience best played with friends, some controllers, and a couch. I find I’m having the same fun with friends as I did with Magicka and Castle Crashers in a more challenging experience. I’m not sure why they released this for the Steam audience as it doesn’t resonate as a solo PC game. Gather your friends and link up on VoIP for this one!

  10. zaphod42 says:

    Sounds like somebody took one of those co-op challenge maps from Warcraft 3 and made it a standalone game.

    … looks like it too. :P

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    jrodman says:

    My friend bought this for me without really thinking too hard about what I enjoy; I found it frantic and annoying. Getting knocked back by enemies off the screen while trying to learn the controls just pissed me off.

    Repeatedly failing the same encounter was the icing on the cake. That’s the kind of experience some players want to sign up for and other players want to avoid. In a co-op game it’s kind of a bad idea not to have selectable difficulty.;