Review

Forced Review

  • Game release: August 28, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

A missed connection.

I constantly yearn for an unfamiliar experience, one that forms the basis for a new game genre or at least combines a few established standards to produce something pleasingly different. Forced, a PC game that deposits you in an arena for some cooperative mayhem, attempts the latter feat and very nearly succeeds until it dedicates itself too fully to the quest to offer a challenge.

In Forced, you and as many as three other friends puzzle and battle your way through a series of arena trials. There are some gorgeous environs, featuring sunny walkways, shifting sand, lush jungles, and other elements that don't even feel like they ought to be part of an arena setting. You receive a crystal for each new victory in those fantastic corridors, and the gathered baubles grant access to new skills. Trials you've already cleared also offer additional challenges and treasure if you return to them and work to master them. Once you clear most of the challenges a given section of the arena has to offer, you can choose to engage the local guardian, but you're typically better off waiting to brave those epic confrontations when you have more skills at your disposal.

That statue won’t know what hit it when Balfus is done...

The game begins with a brief tutorial that introduces you to the combat system. You learn that there are four types of weapons, each suited for particular trials, and that you can switch to a new one before tackling each area. Then you discover how to interact with your friendly guide, a floating orb that houses a spirit named Balfus. At first, that sentient orb might seem like a simple distraction from the meat of the game, but your luminescent friend is actually the game's most important component. For better or for worse, he's the reason that Forced is more than just a basic brawler.

Your time has come, foul spawner shrine!

Balfus is relatively easy to control. You press a button or key to summon him to your warrior's current location, or you hold it to command the orb to follow you around as you slaughter enemies and interact with the environment. That's all simple enough, but there are complications. If Balfus floats over a glowing torch, he temporarily gains new abilities. For instance, he may develop explosive properties that allow him to produce a blast when he touches an object, wall, or enemy. If he passes over a different torch, he might instead acquire increased movement speed or the ability to temporarily heal your wounds. You can activate multiple buffs at once, if you like.

While the partnership between the hero and the orb is interesting and allows for unconventional tactics, the trials built around the dynamic sometimes demand too much from you. Shortly after you topple the first boss, for instance, you're forced in a subsequent trial to move several large blocks across a sandy desert area by summoning the orb so that it slowly drags along the granite anchor. Your goal the first time you encounter this situation is to activate plate switches. Soon, you must use the same technique to produce a mobile shield that protects you from deadly beams of light while also dealing with an inconveniently placed switch that opens a gate. In the likely event that something goes wrong, you die instantly and lose a few minutes of progress (unless you are in a multiplayer match and a friend avoids suffering that same fate). You might not meet your demise until right near the end of the stage, which means you have to retread several minutes of familiar ground just to get back to the spot where you died. Then you could easily die again because you're required to keep so many moving pieces working in concert. It's maddening.

At the moment, the game suffers from connectivity issues that prevent many players from joining games.

Rather than focusing on puzzles or brawling alone, many stages combine the two elements in a way that prevents a single player from having a moment to breathe, even if he or she isn't worried about clearing everything quickly enough to earn an extra crystal. Weak foes are in some respects the most dangerous ones, since they can knock you out of range of a protective barrier (which leads to a swift death) or prevent you from moving quickly enough to eradicate a developing threat a short distance across the map. They soon begin spawning regularly enough that you can't possibly stop to deal with them all, and eventually they overwhelm you like piranhas swarming a leg of mutton tossed into the river. Load screens advise you to keep moving to avoid such foes, but you're regularly forced to remain in a given location to keep weight on a pressure plate or to destroy a durable piranha plant or some other chore. As the only hero, that’s an overly delicate balance to maintain.

Assign a bunch of great skills to the weapon of your choosing.

You fare better against such threats once you memorize each trial and learn what triggers a new wave of foes, but all the memorization in the world won't see you through the later trials unless you gather crystals so you can assign the best innate abilities and special skills to your character. The variety of abilities that accompany each individual weapon keeps things interesting, but you can only access useful skills by clearing challenges that are difficult to survive until you have more abilities. It's a vicious circle, and progress often comes quite slowly.

Between the skill customization and the requirement that you constantly monitor and interact with Balfus while completing trials, you may initially feel overwhelmed by everything you are expected to keep straight. The cooperative mode alleviates that by allowing you to tackle the same stages with a friend. Having allies along doesn't necessarily make things any easier, though, because Balfus becomes community property and takes orders from anyone. Combatants may wind up tugging him every which way and getting nowhere in the process unless players use an external service for voice chat.

Worse, allies might accidentally cause harm to one another. It's all too easy to summon the orb toward a statue and then be forced to watch helplessly as it connects with one of your friends along the way and explodes before you have time to react. With multiple gladiators questing at once, it's possible to respawn within a trial if you meet an untimely end, but there's a lengthy delay before that happens, and you fail the trial if everyone is ever down at once. Your best bet is to play with a bunch of experienced friends, at which point the game morphs into a true delight. At the moment, however, the game suffers from connectivity issues that prevent many players from joining games, with proposed solutions including the installation of third-party software that still doesn't seem to address the issues.

Don’t mind us, guardian. We’re just two gladiators out for a stroll!

Forced offers some unconventional mechanics and an assortment of creative mission objectives, tied together by attractive environments that are pleasant to explore right up until the moment they turn on you. It's a challenging game with built-in reasons to revisit familiar areas, but it's also too demanding for its own good, and the results are more frustrating than satisfying. The game is meant to be played cooperatively, but while connection issues remain, you're likely to muddle through on your own. It's difficult to recommend any game that you endure rather than enjoy, even one this unique.

The Good
Unique, puzzle-infused combat
Deep weapon customization
Frantic cooperative play
The Bad
Severe networking issues
Overwhelming difficulty
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jason Venter lost himself in challenging arena battles and in matchmaking menus for more than a dozen hours, conquered numerous trials, and still cringes at the sight of a horde of swarmers.

Discussion

9 comments
leapfrog91
leapfrog91

Love the game so far -- sunk about 7 hours into it and am getting all of the challenges along the way with friends.

That being said, I also love Gamespot's seemingly-new policy to use the entire 1-10 scale. And I also love that every review isn't trying to be the end-all-be-all for everyone. One man's opinion is that the game is "middle of the road" and this doesn't shock me in the slightest; there certainly are a slew of faults.

8.5/10 :)

Riukuzaki
Riukuzaki

It is a sad state of affairs when professional game reviewers have been so thoroughly coddled by the ease of today's games that they completely miss the mark on what makes a game good.

jesot
jesot

You should give up playing and reviewing games for a living if you're going to give a game a low score for being too challenging for you.  I've read nothing but positive things regarding the challenge of the game.

RoadStar1602
RoadStar1602

The user score on metacritic is 8.1. Gamespot gives it a 5. This just shows me again how out of touch these professional reviewers are. I've played the game myself and found it to be a lot of fun. They did have server issues because they didn't expect to sell as many copies of the game as they sold. But I paid $11 with this game and, for that price, I'm willing to deal with a growing pain or two. Besides that, you can play the game in local co-op and experience no problems whatsoever. 

In contrast to this, I paid $60 for Diablo 3 the day it was released and was unable to play that game at all for 2 days due to server issues. After that I was constantly plagued with lag and the inability to play the game due to server outages and downtime. There was NO OPTION to play the game offline or in local co-op. Gamespot gave that $60 turd an 8.5, but gives this $11 game which works but had SOME server issues at launch a 5. 

I've given up on "professional" reviewers. Just look at the user scores if you want the real story.

dworm765
dworm765

 this review makes no sense at all, this guy probably tried the game for 5 minutes or so

yes, its not an easy game but its difficulty is FUN, maybe jason is used to play barbie online i dont know but its nothing remotely overwhelming, its just challenging but while you fail you just enjoy the experience with friends, laugh at each other deaths and when they get caught by mistake adn explode etc etc

its just what every game should be, challenging and ENTERTAINING, i dont really know where he saw the frustration

 this review is high biased by low logic and gaming skills and highly offensive for the game, me and my friends finished the game in few days and totally disagree with the valutation

game is worth 8-9 in our humble opinion to say the least, it was just lot of fun from the start to the end

borkkmor00
borkkmor00

Watched a video of 4 dudes playing local coop and looked incredibly fun. It's a  bummer that the online isn't working that well at the moment.

Riukuzaki
Riukuzaki

@borkkmor00 I think this is partly due to both the FPS in-game as well as the connection.  My friend had what appeared to be latency issues until I installed Fraps, noticed he was sitting at 45 FPS, and told him to lower his resolution so that he was getting 60+.  After that, the "latency issues" suddenly disappeared.  My guess is that the game has a hard time coping with sub-60 FPS over the network.

dworm765
dworm765

@borkkmor00 man its a myth ppl in general has crap net, i dont really know what those ppl reporting issues had, maybe there is some provider or something, but me and all the friends i know (around10) had not 1 issue at all with the game connectivity

ofc im not saying that since it worked for me it shoudl worf for you or everyone else but probably there is just some restricted issue with some kind of net or region, its not like the general release like diablo or wow who have problems at start this game is just perfectly fine, unless you are unlucky for some reason you can probably verify reading around

FORCED More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 3 more
    • Unix/Linux
    • Wii U
    • Xbox One
    One- to four-player co-op arcade adventure with puzzles and tactical elements. You are cast as slaves in the toughest fantasy gladiator school of them all, condemned to fight as a gladiator and eventually win your freedom. You will face deadly trials and huge creatures, but Balfus, your Spirit Mentor will guide you in your quest for recognition.
    8.6
    Average User RatingOut of 15 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate FORCED
    Developed by:
    BetaDwarf
    Published by:
    BetaDwarf
    Genres:
    Role-Playing, Action