Forced: Slightly Better Edition

The classic combination of Arcade Action and RPG-style class development has given us countless great gaming experiences over the years. Forced, the first offering from Danish developer BetaDwarf, is the newest entry into this much hallowed genre and doesn’t fail to deliver on gameplay that is impressive both in regards to its constant stream of new challenges as well as its strategic depth and general enjoyment factor. It’s a game that can be played solo for a great time, but the real depth of play lies in its cooperative mode. Indeed, the amount of collaboration which Forced inspires when playing with a friend is an impressive feat for a modern game, a real accomplishment all on its own.

The premise is simple: an isolated community of slaves has been bred by the forces of evil for the sole purpose of fighting for said evil overlords’ entertainment, in the vain hope that these warrior slaves can defeat the challenges presented before them and win their freedom. The player shifts between four different weapon classes, which have different strengths and weaknesses: the Volcanic Hammer (heavy melee), Spirit Knives (quick melee), Storm Bow (ranged), and Frost Shield (the requisite tank). Collecting gems by completing trials and challenges allows the player to unlock new abilities for all classes at the same time, a nice little twist which makes sure you don’t get stuck using just one type of character who you’ve basically dumped all your time in to.

The environments of each arena feature wave after wave of enemies and a boss fight at the end of each section - a setup we’ve come to expect from games such as this - but benefit greatly from the novelty of the puzzles contained in each map. You’re granted an orb/spirit sidekick named Balfus whom you manipulate into triggering responses from different puzzles and traps on each stage. Proper control of Balfus is integral to the completion of each stage as well as the accumulation of more gems. There’s also a fun little Mark Combat System where the more you hit an enemy the more your attacks have an effect on them, opening up the possibility of inflicting massive amounts of damage upon your opponents at some pivotal moments during combat (if you play your cards right and plan properly, that is).

As I mentioned earlier, Forced is a perfectly fun time played through solo. Anyone who’s ever played an entry in the Gauntlet or Diablo series has a pretty decent idea of what to expect here. You can level up abilities between stages, and before each one you select one active and one passive skill to be used in combat. Simple, but with such a range of skills to choose from between basically four different character classes you’ll find yourself trying out new combinations often. I enjoy games that don’t let me stay in my comfort zone, which honestly can get a bit boring and/or tedious as a game progresses. Changing up gameplay styles is good for morale, in other words, and there are plenty of fun combinations of skills to be had throughout the 25 stages offered here.

But cooperative play really is at the heart of Forced. This is a game to play with friends, one that requires communication so you’re going to want to have a headset with you or better yet to be in the same room. When more than one player is engaged you each have to choose a different class, and you both have to juggle who controls Balfus and who staves of the oncoming hordes. There’s sure to be much discussion over who gets to play as what class and what particular abilities for each class will complement the other player’s selection. There may even be some arguments over who’s to do what, but what are a few heated words in the heat of battle between friends?

So what we have here is a great combination of fun arcade action, RPG style class development, compelling reasons to replay levels again and again, and the range to be enjoyable either all alone or with friends along for the ride. Forced lacks some depth when it comes to plotting and dialogue, and it’s not exactly the greatest looking game ever made, but it more than makes up for these shortcomings simply by its sheer playability.

There’s nothing more important than how enjoyable a game is when you sit down and play through it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s the whole point is it not? Add in the possibility of actually have some cooperative time with a friend or friends where you are all actively strategizing and trying to figure out the riddles presented, and we really start cooking. Forced delivers this kind of pure enjoyment in spades, a feat not every developer can boast of having mastered. Give it a try and see if you can’t convince a couple of friends to as well, I guarantee you won’t regret it.