Forced – A Tactical Arena Co-Op
After spending over an hour inside the ESO booth, I emerged and immediately spotted the Strife banner as a glowing beacon in the distance. But before I reached it, the wave of human bodies hit me like a current and dragged me like a hive-mind towards what some will call the True Pax. I’m talking about the Indie Mega Booth.
I remembered having a shaky appointment set-up with The Repopulation so I figured I’d stop in and confirm. As I pressed in further though I came across a nice large screen with Xbox controllers connected and one lonely gentleman sitting on a makeshift table/chair with an empty controller beside him. The CEO of Forced, Steffen Gronning, approached the audience and, like an usher at some amusing circus diversion, asked who dared delve into the gladiatorial dungeons to test their might. When I saw the hesitation in the crowd, I immediately took my seat and got to it.
Forced is a simple game. You hack and slash your way through various map challenges in an ARPG top-down view while various characters narrate the story as you progress. But its idea has a sort of fun factor about it that could quickly make hours of your day buzz by before you realize. The two of us were thrown into a holding cell as weak scrawny pale white dudes, basically the closest character I played all day to actually resemble me. Meanwhile Link’s Navi fairy on steroids spoke of valor, honor, glory, and everything else you lie to a gladiator about before Spartacus chops your head off. Well in our favor we weren’t up against Spartacus, but rather a test of timing, aim, patience, and teamwork. Needless to say you might want some synergy with your buddy if you want to survive this challenging title.
The game asks you to pick up a weapon at the start. The basics are there from bows to swords to one-handed + board. I grabbed the bow and started enjoying the rapid fire versus slow power shot options. It takes some time getting used to the aim (especially if you’re not a console gamer like myself, though the game is available on steam for PC), and so most of my long charge power shots at the start went whizzing past the imps harmlessly while my buddy carried me through. But as we played further and started unlocking passives and active skills, the fun factor and our skill improved.
As you hit enemies, you place marks on them that open you up to use much more powerful attacks on them. This keeps the game simple and fast paced as most enemies you can dispatch with a series of standard strikes or one well-placed charge shot. But when the big nasty boss comes at you and requires around 20 hits to bring down, you’ll be so satisfied to see your special strikes light them up like a firework show. And best of all, the marks on the enemies are not individual to you but rather can be utilized by anyone on your team. So focused fire and coordination play a major factor.
Finally there were the puzzles. You can press a button to make your manly Navi fairy float to you on the map. This is used for activating healing fountains at first but later on we found a glowing red hand. Our narrator told us to be careful with it, but my teammate immediately lit him up with fire and then started dragging him around. Well he hit a statue and nearly ended our game on the spot! That fairy exploded in a huge radius that left him at less than half hp as I lost a third of mine and wasn’t even anywhere close to the explosion. But through this we learned a valuable lesson, blowing up statues open doors!
Now introduce monsters to the equation and you’ve got a trial of teamwork unlike most any game I’ve played before. We were forced to beat back imps while utilizing our positioning in quickly pull the explosion pending fairy through a maze of tall walls to blow up hidden statues. Some instances even had half walls that we were unable to walk through but could send the fairy through unharmed by standing on the other side of the corridor.
My final note on this game is its unpredictable. From the walls closing in on you without warning to a band of monsters climbing up to ambush you during a tutorial speech, you just never know what to expect. It’s a damn hard game but if you’re an experienced gamer it’ll keep you just alive enough to learn from your mistakes and push forward. Anyone attending PAX this weekend would be wise to add it to their Steam collection while the half-off deal is going on.