FORCED – Review (PC)

FORCED is a co-operative arena brawler from BetaDwarf. The game is priced at £11.99, with the four pack bundle priced at £29.99 on Steam which is a rather nice deal by any standard.

We’re going to be the first to admit that this review may be a bit biased as this game required teamwork and co-operation but gave us the tools to really drive each other crazy. So it was really the developers fault for trusting us to work together.

FORCED’s story does a rather nice job of showing just how good you’ve got it by placing you in the shoes of a “sacrificial gladiator”. Yeah, that nine-to-five job’s starting to look pretty good now, right?
As a sacrificial gladiator you are trained for twenty years until you are ready to be dropped down a big pit in the centre of town that holds spirits that protect your village. After twenty years of intense training you are told, quite bluntly, by a depressed version of Na’vi that you will not survive. Now, where we come from that’s fighting talk so after a short tutorial we were ready to begin our first challenge. The fairy did not give us enough credit as we mopped the floor with the first, second and third challenges. Then the problems started… “Use me to destroy these statues.” The fairy said as he passed over a shrine that made him into a miniature Fae-Bomb™ that could be called to any place by a single button press. Now, as most of you know, the first instinct when given an opportunity to screw over a teammate is to screw over a teammate. The rebuttal to being screwed over, of course, being revenge meant that this level took us much longer than the others. Gone were the days of killing, this was now a puzzle game where everyone is your enemy.

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This did mean that we got a lot of time to appreciate the giblets, blood effects and amazingly gorgeous environments that this game has to offer. The first set of levels (Wrathhoofs domain, more on him later) were set in ruined amphitheatres that stood upon impossible rock towers that seemed to open to the skies. With the cel-shaded style of the game, this pressed all the right buttons. Screenshots were saved and desktops were set to this game’s visuals. The creature design is also worth praising as each monster had a beautifully unique feel to their look and movement. At least, this is true for the first time you see each type of enemy. For example, the first boss you face in the game is a guardian called Wrathhoof. A large minotaur inspired creature with a face similar to those of the Chimera from Resistance.

His design is unique, he is one of only a handful of guardians. Then in the next level we see his design being re-used by a common enemy. The reuse of art assets is vital to indie games but when you are recycling boss models, it will be noticed.

The second section of levels, from here-on known as the Mario Party Levels, where the game descended into chaos.

The first challenge we tried on the Mario Party levels was a puzzle wherein you had to move altars by calling the spirit mentor — The Fairy. To make it harder, there was a circle around the ball you had to stay within. To make it even harder, none of us took the archer class and there were suicide units. As the fun continued, occasionally someone making the hilarious joke of stealing the mentor to the other side of the screen and letting us nearly die, we realised that this level required too much teamwork. We can only dread what it would have been like to play it on online matchmaking. Without the ability to punch someone we would have likely given up sooner. When it finally came to the level where you have to use the Fae-Bomb™ to defeat a bunch of animated statues we threw in the towel.

For a little while after, we went back to look at the levels again and just enjoy the combat in those first few combat centric levels. The combat in FORCED takes a lot of queues from old hack-and-slash games like Champions of Norrath and Baldur’s Gate. The single button attack mixed with multiple special attacks gives a surprising amount of depth to the game. Combine this with four possible play styles; shield, bow, hammer and daggers, and you have quite a deep combat experience.

As a side note, the voice acting in this game becomes incredibly funny if you play it by yourself as they did not take into account that you may grow sick of your friends and play it solo. Such comments as “None of you will make it out of here alive! You are all worthless!” Really hammer home how lonely being a sacrificial gladiator really is. So kudos on that BetaDwarf. The game is not without error though as a few level attempts were rendered unwinnable as players re-spawned outside of level limits or died for no reason.

Lastly, we would like to congratulate BetaDwarf on their journey while making FORCED. It takes a lot of passion to sneakily live inside your university, then rent a place and take out massive amounts of debt just to make a game. For it to be their first game as a company it was a great risk and though we sucked at it, it was very fun to play and a very beautiful game.