Forced is an interesting title for a game, isn’t it? It doesn’t seem grammatically correct or even intriguing, but luckily, the game itself isn’t anywhere near as strange as its name. It’s actually an engaging arena combat game that developer betaDwarf Entertainment was able to triumphantly speed through Kickstarter, and a title you might want to add to your Steam wish list.
In Forced, you take control of gladiators who are locked in combat to advance through different trials. It’s a fairly bleak world you find yourself in, where performing as a gladiator means you may eventually face freedom, but only if you can conquer the trials and tribulations in front of you. Of course, you should already know the odds are against you as you scurry along from trial to trial.
You’re paired with Balfus, your “Spirit Mentor,” through each trying challenge, who acts little more than an automated guide to tell you where things are and what to do with them. Throughout Campaign mode, which is where the meat of the game is, you’ll be following him while being pit against an assortment of enemies and puzzles to prove your worth as a gladiator.
Traipsing through each area is like a maze, where you’re forced not only to fight against enemies, but you’ll need to choose the right weapon type against them from the four available: the Volcanic Hammer, the Frost Shield, Storm Bow, and Spirit Blades. Combat is a mixture of strategic “mark” application on targets, and crystals earned for how well you perform when battling. Crystals grant access to active and passive abilities across different weapons, and you can swap these in and out between trials.
There’s a delectable feeling of how deep the game can become when it comes to discerning which abilities will do well for certain enemies and locales over others, and since you’re limited to one active and one passive ability at one time, you’ll need to think on how best to approach combat as the game wears on until you’ve been rewarded with new slots.
Expansive arenas, a variety of locales, and an interesting mix of combat and strategy make Forced easy to recommend to anyone looking for a new flavor of co-op for their PC gaming time, and while there’s a viable single-player game here as well, cooperative play is where it truly excels. Considering your own singular weapon or ability’s flaws and strengths and pair them up with a second player to see a game that acknowledges and understands the strength of adding another user to the mix. It’s more than stop-and-pop gunplay action or “press X at the same time to continue” co-op, and more “what can my friend do to enrich my experience?” It’s a quickly-disappearing phenomenon in the games industry, so the fact that Forced is quick to capitalize on gameplay that spotlights and celebrates two players’ strengths and weaknesses is well appreciated.
Forced is a gleeful return to form for cooperative play and a nuanced single-player adventure with trials you’ll be scratching your head over for days. It can become needlessly difficult and frustrating at times, but in the end you’ll feel all the better for sticking with it.