I love a good challenge. It’s what drives me to finish a game, to gain a sense of accomplishment as I slay that final 10-headed laser boss on my 50th attempt. FORCED provides such a challenge, where navigating its twisting corridors can lead to a brutal end for even the most prepared champion.
On the surface, FORCED is presented as a tactical arena game with a heavy focus on co-op gameplay. You assume control of an unfortunate tribesman who’s been cast into a sacrificial pit where the odds of survival are not in your favour. As you reach the bottom you’re greeted by a perky ball of light named Balfus who serves as your guide through the trials that await you. From here on you’re given access to a central hub which is separated into four different chambers. Each chamber offers five challenge rooms and a boss room that must be completed before you can move to the next chamber.
Think of this game as a gory take on the old 90’s TV show The Crystal Maze where each room presents a different themed obstacle for the players to overcome. This can range from something as simple as lighting all five torches within a set time frame, all the way to running like hell from an encroaching red mist that will consume you if you fall behind. It’s obvious from the start that the game uses simple goals to present a challenge, but as the game progresses these goals become more and more complex with various factors being added to screw you over just a little bit more each time.
The difficulty level maintained throughout the game is refreshing. In an environment where the average gamer is coddled and led by the hand, FORCED demands that you earn your victory each time with added bonus objectives up for grabs if you’re feeling brave. Unfortunately, this acts as a double-edged sword in which even the basic level completion tasks can be near impossible for solo play, sometimes even with two players. When all hell breaks loose, it can be difficult for a single player to juggle the various obstacles thrown at them. Some missions require you to take out numerous enemies whilst also micromanaging your spirit guide through several hoops. The co-op centred design is obvious throughout most of the game’s trials and it’s evident that this game was built with multiple players in mind. There is a slight ray of hope for solo play as each mission deviates a little based on how many players are in the game at the time. For instance, less enemies need to be killed or fewer beacons lit when you’re alone.
FORCED truly shines when playing with others so much so that I would consider it a completely different experience to the single player mode. When playing alone you are only accountable for yourself in the arena, but when multiple partners are introduced it becomes something more. You have to play as a unit, a squad working together to accomplish a shared task. This is accomplished by giving each team member control of the spirit guide Balfus. By linking several conditions to Balfus in each trial the game forces your party to communicate in an effort to control him. It’s as if he is another team member, only one that’s too lazy to move and likes to dish out witty one-liners at inappropriate intervals. In some cases, Balfus becomes a safe zone for the players, and those unlucky enough to get caught out of his circle are likely to turn into a juicy red stain on the floor.
Of course, this game isn’t just about challenges, and much of the trials will be split evenly between solving puzzles and fighting off hordes of monsters. To do this, you’re given the choice of four character classes, each fulfilling a typical archetype commonly found in most RPGs. The Rogue deals fast bursts of damage to single targets. The warrior deals steady AoE damage. The archer deals high ranged damage. Finally, the protector is able to absorb great amounts of damage and return it back to its source. Each class seems to have their own solution to the game’s trials, however, some are naturally more capable in certain situations based on their skill sets.
As you progress through the trials, you’ll unlock gems which give you a wider pool of skills to pick from, eventually allowing you to take multiple active and passive skills at the same time. The gem system encourages you to return to past trials to finish the bonus objectives in the hopes that you’ll gain the extra crystals to power up your characters. This is a brilliant idea for the multiplayer teams out there, but unfortunately this falls flat for solo players. This all circles back to the issues of difficulty when playing alone. Those who choose to do so will likely find that they are unable to get any of the higher-tiered skills because the bonus objectives are too difficult when playing alone.
The very essence of FORCED caters to a group of friends who are seeking a fulfilling and enjoyable cooperative experience mixed with a satisfying yet simplistic combat system and engaging challenges. Just make sure you bring a friend, otherwise you may just find yourself overwhelmed and unable to complete the trials that await you.
FORCED is currently available for PC/Mac/Linux with a WiiU version to follow next year. This review is based on the PC version.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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