Forge attempts to blend the fast-paced and skill-based multiplayer combat of a first-person shooter with the depth of a massively-multiplayer online game. The result is a multiplayer game that feels frantic and fun at times, but lacking and awkward more often. Right from the get-go Forge gives players little idea as to what is going on and how they should go about learning the game and its mechanics. The tutorials, any gamer’s first stop when confused, are extremely basic and allow for only a moment or two of actual learning. They explain how to move and how to use different abilities but never explain what game types there are, and how each class is to be used. In an arena based game like Team Fortress 2 or Super Monday Night Combat, learning on the go is simple because your weapons are your only forms of attack. However, in Forge you have a list of moves similar to a moveset in a MMO. When you’re given a lineup of moves like that it helps to know which moves are used for which situations. That is why you’re able to learn the move and understand its use in a MMO, but Forge doesn’t offer that.
This isn’t to say that playing Forge is difficult; it’s just a bit confusing at first. The other limiting quality that makes gameplay rough are the choices of play-style: there is one. Players can choose “Random” from the menu, which throws the player into a match without allowing a choice of game type. The issue with this style is that not all game types are simple deathmatch, some game types require teamwork in order to capture a relic, and without that teamwork you’ll find yourself losing quite a bit. Perhaps the ability to choose between game types would help weed out the players who wish to play for themselves versus the players who want to work together as a team. Forge does indeed try to create a team-based mentality through its use of medals and experience. When a player achieves something in a game; killing X number of enemies, capturing X number of relics, winning a match and so on, they are rewarded with medals that transfer into experience points. The easiest way to earn these points is by having your team win, rather than by having your kill-to-death ratio be outstanding, so the emphasis is on teamwork.
There are currently 99 levels to unlock in Forge and each comes with different unlocks; such as, armor points, customization points, skins, titles, and so on. Armor points allow you to increase resistance towards different elements while customization points, the more rare of the two, allow for increases to core attributes. This form of customization allows for the feeling that you’re creating your own character, since you won’t be traveling around an open world getting armor and doing quests. Equipment in Forge is purely cosmetic, allowing players to further make their character standout from the copies of themselves running around. Unfortunately, the higher levels also unlock some really cool sounding abilities that would make the game feel much more customizable. For example, the Pathfinder has a cloaking ability, but it’s so far along in the progression that many players might not be able to reach it before losing interest.
Currently, Forge has five characters available, with the promise of more on the way. In the current lineup are the Pathfinder, Assassin, Pyromancer, Shaman, and Warden. Each class plays as a typical RPG archetype, so regardless of your familiarity with MMOs set in the fantasy realm you’ll be able to pick out the “archer,” “rogue,” “mage,” “healer,” and “tank.” To Forge’s credit, each class plays differently enough to feel unique but familiar enough that picking up a new class is not impossible. Where the disconnect between Forge and typical MMO player-versus-player comes in is the combat. In most MMO PVP settings all you need to do is have a player targeted in order to land your moves, there may be a distance minimum for the move to be useable but that’s about it. Forge takes the MMO formula and adds aim and contact into the mix as well. This means that ranged classes, like the Pathfinder and Pyromancer, need to aim their shots and spells if they hope to hit their targets. Likewise, melee classes can’t get hits on targets if they’re not directly next to them as sometimes happens in MMO games. This FPS approach to typical MMO gameplay makes for a nice change of pace that keeps the action feeling really alive. However, there are times when levels can be too claustrophobic, and this leads to an immediate cluster of players all smashing the keyboard as fire rains down to mix with arrows and swords until everyone is dead and no one knows why. Those moments are funny in their own way but do little to add to the experience of Forge as a competent gameplay experience.
One of the greatest strengths of Forge is its ability to balance classes. With any MMO, or class based multiplayer experience, there is bound to be a class that is dubbed ”overpowered”. So far there hasn’t been a time where one class seems too strong compared to any other. For instance, the Assassin can cloak and become invisible and Shadow Leap away from danger, but when she is properly slowed by a Patherfinder or Warden she can die within seconds. Similarly, the Shaman is not an attack heavy class, most of the Shaman’s moveset is healing based, but he is given moves to help him easily escape from harm and is constantly well protected by smart teammates. Due to the ability to aim shots, some may feel overwhelmed or at a loss when it comes to ranged classes but there are moves to help out. Pathfinders get caltrops to slow down enemies and put distance between the two, and many of the Pyromancer’s moves are explosive, to cause splash damage. These smart decisions allow for all classes to feel equally useful and able when it comes to helping a team reach victory.
Besides being able to counter one another’s moves with ease, the classes all do well when playing together. Shamans are the healers of Forge, and where you find a shaman you should always find a Warden ready to protect him. Similarly, a Pathfinder with an Assassin ready in the waiting is a deadly combo that irks melee classes towards them, only to be sliced down in seconds. When you have a team willing to utilize their abilities for the team it becomes a different game altogether. For instance, having a Warden stun an enemy so that a Pyromancer and Pathfinder can destroy them is beyond satisfying. Unfortunately, this sort of experience doesn’t happen too often as most players are running around trying to get kills for themselves even when playing a supporting class. This is obviously the weakness of random teams and makes the idea of a clan option all the more enticing. With clans comes teamwork which would make Forge immensely more enjoyable, as the classes are so perfectly built for teamwork.
Forge is also a pretty looking game but suffers from some minor issues at times. Some animations will randomly stop or break mid-animation, and I had a couple of times where characters got caught up in the environment or just fell through the geometry altogether. These times were rare, thankfully, but their presence was unpleasant none the less. Also, on a computer that can run Far Cry 3 on High without a problem I found it odd that Forge was stuttering and hiccuping so badly. I wouldn’t call Forge ugly, but it is certainly not graphically heavy enough to cause such problems on a powerful PC. When it works well and plays smoothly though Forge is a nice game to look at and the sound effects fit into the world that has been made. Sadly though, this world is currently lacking players. I found it difficult to find games to play during the day and still had wait times for peak-gaming time at night for what I can only assume is a low-population player-base. Online-only games suffer lulls such as this, which is unfortunate, and seem to spike when they hit a Steam sale, but how long that spike will last is anyone’s guess.
Forge has a lot of ideas within it and executes some of them to the fullest extent. The gameplay, while not perfect, is highly enjoyable when playing with a team that is willing to work together, rather than fight for themselves. A lot of the customization is only attribute-based, which leaves out the looting and collecting that full-fledged MMOs have, but there is promise for loot down the road. Similarly, the ability to make a clan is missing but promised later on as well. That seems to be the main drag with Forge: a lot of the things that seem interesting and fulfilling are being promised at an unknown later date. Rushed is the word that comes to mind when things like picking a game type, clans, and loot are missing from a game that marks its territory by being a MMO and multiplayer based mix. Perhaps Forge will evolve in the future, but as it stands, there is still a lot of work to do on a game that is missing some big features. Forge is fun and frantic, and while it may be incomplete I recommend trying it out if you get the chance.