When it comes to RPGs, there’s no shortage of ones that you can play with friends. Whether you like to fire up a classic like Diablo II or something more recent such as Torchlight 2, it’s fun to run around with friends taking on different classes and defeating whatever stands in your way. However, those games can also be played alone without much hassle. That is to say, you’ll have a fun experience whether you play it alone or with friends. FORCED is a game that seems to tout co-op quite a bit, whether local or online, but does it hold up under single player? Let’s find out.
The story behind FORCED is that you’re born into a tribe that’s trapped in a valley and you’re marked from birth to one day travel into a pit to please the Gods and avoid punishment from them. However, no one’s ever come out alive, so you have your work cut out for you. After falling into the pit you learn the mechanics of the game. You’ll have four different weapons you can choose from, three of them melee weapons ranging in speed and power, while the fourth is a ranged attack with arrows that you can charge up to deal a more powerful attack. Each weapon has their own properties and abilities to go with them which I’ll get into in a bit.
As for the game itself, after learning how the game works you’ll be taken to a chamber with several trials. Each trial has several objectives that you must complete before you can leave it. Each trial also has three crystals to collect: one for just completing the trial, one for completing it within a certain amount of time, and one for a particular secret objective, such as taking down an enemy in a certain amount of time after it spawns. These crystals are used to obtain various powers and abilities for your weapons. Before each trial you’ll enter a preparation room where you can choose your weapon and abilities. The more crystals you earn, the more powers and abilities you’ll have access to as well as being able to equip more powers and abilities at one time. After completing a certain number of trials, you’ll face the chamber’s guardian.
Another mechanic you’ll have to learn how to use rather quickly is an orb known as Balfus who is your Spirit Mentor. Pressing the Space Bar will move Balfus in a straight line to where you’re at when you called him, while holding down the Space Bar will make you “wield” him, which basically means he’ll constantly follow you. In the early trials you’ll need to use him to activate shrines and destroy monster generators, but in later trials you’ll have to make use of Balfus to solve various puzzles. This has its ups and downs which I’ll get into in a little bit. That’s Forced in a nutshell.
I really tended to enjoy the mechanics of the different weapons you can choose from and the powers and abilities that go with them (once unlocked) go with them rather well. A lot of the powers and abilities require an enemy to have a certain number of marks. An enemy will receive a mark when it’s hit with a basic attack and the marks to away when hit with a special attack. Some powers do more damage if the enemy has more marks and an enemy can have up to five marks. Each weapon works differently as stated earlier. One weapon will rapidly slash at an enemy, but only deal two damage per hit, while another weapon has to charge up for a second or two to deal out the maximum amount of damage it can deal. The powers and abilities compliment these weapons well.
The learning curve isn’t too bad. Once you get the mechanics of the game down, most of the learning curve comes down to using the different weapons. As you can go back to previous trials to get more crystals, it might be a good idea to replay the first couple of trials a couple of times over with the different weapons to get a feel for what each one does, especially before the first boss. Speaking from experience, a boss battle is definitely not the best time to learn how a different weapon works. It’s best to take your time, replay a couple trials early on, and get a feel for which weapon works best for you.
While I do like most of the game’s mechanics, one of them stood out to me and not in a good way: Balfus. The concept of how he works isn’t bad, but getting him to do what you need him to do can be a bit of a chore at times. Specifically when you’re trying to get him to go in a precise direction or location. In one of the earlier trials you have to move him over a shrine that basically turns him into a floating bomb, and then direct him to a statue. Lather, rinse, and repeat a few times to take down more statues. Not really an issue until you learn that if Balfus has a bomb and hits ANYTHING the bomb will explode. Now imagine an enclosed area that you yourself can’t get into, but there’s a short wall that Balfus can float over. Problem is the rest of the walls in that enclosed area are too high for Balfus. Now imagine having to hold the Space Bar to have Balfus freely move to where you’re standing. Finally, imagine doing that to get Balfus to collide with a statue while carrying a bomb without colliding into another wall or the bomb blows up and you have to start that again.
What also doesn’t help is that sometimes you have to activate a shrine or destroy a generator, but unless Balfus moves directly over the object, he won’t activate/destroy it. This is especially annoying when healing shrines, even more so if you’re under constant attack and don’t have a lot of time to activate it. I’ve had countless times where I swear I had Balfus right in line with a healing shrine only to have him barely miss it when it looked like it should have hit. This is especially annoying during a boss fight.
Speaking of boss fights…well, let’s talk difficulty curve for a moment. As I mentioned earlier, FORCED is a game that’s suited for up to four players, either locally or online. Even then, games like Diablo II and Torchlight II can still be fun when you’re playing solo. FORCED on the other hand occasionally feels like it’s meant to be played with other people. That is to say that even though the enemies will be tailored to solo play, you might begin to feel that you’re at a bit of a disadvantage when going solo. The first boss is a prime example of this. The boss himself isn’t too bad, but during the battle he’ll call out a couple of other creatures to attack you. Nothing too bad, except if you don’t take them down fast enough he’ll call out a couple more, and soon enough you’ll find yourself surrounded and rapidly taking damage while the boss closes in on you. About this time you might start panicking and going for the healing shrine at the top of the screen. There have been several times in which I had four two six minions on me, I was trying to avoid the boss while getting to the healing shrine, and Balfus didn’t seem to want to activate the darn thing.
One other thing about the first boss that annoyed me (WARNING: slight spoilers ahead). After you take down the boss…he regains some of his health. I’m not joking; you think the fight’s over, then he regains about 25% of his health back and the fight continues. To me, that is a terrible idea for this early in the game. Now granted, I’m no stranger to having to fight multiple boss fights consecutively. Heck, in a good chunk of the classic Mega Man and Mega Man X games you have to fight Dr. Wily or Sigma two or even three straight times with no break in between. However, those are the FINAL bosses. This happened at the very first boss and really caught me off guard. Needless to say I died and had to start the battle all over again. While I do like a good challenge, this just seemed out of place so early in the game.
When it comes to FORCED there’s a good bit to like and a good bit to dislike. The overall concept is good; travel to different chambers and face multiple trials before taking down the chamber’s guardian as well as learn to use different weapons and powers. However there is room for improvement. As stated earlier, this is a game that seems more suited for co-op play and players might feel at a bit of a disadvantage when playing solo. Going back to games like Diablo II, they’re a lot of fun when played with friends, but they’re also fun going solo. Here, not so much.
If you’re feeling burned out with the campaign you can check out Survival Mode. Here it’s basically seeing how long you can last in an arena with waves of enemies constantly attacking you. You can choose your weapon prior to starting the first wave as well as your powers and abilities, which also depend on how many crystals you’ve earned in the campaign. This is also a good chance to get used to the weapons and powers as a game over here is nothing as this is just an endurance test. At a regular price of $14.99, FORCED isn’t a bad game, but it does leave a bit to be desired.
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