The Ninjabot

Categorized | Game Reviews, Reviews

Forced Review: No, I Am Not Entertained!

Posted on November 4, 2013 at 7:02 am by Victor Chaves

Forced game review

Playing Forced is an exercise in tedium that lacks the depth required to keep you engaged. Drawing a mix of puzzle and action, you play as a slave who runs through gladiatorial challenges to earn the right to fight the slave masters in order to possibly free yourself. But this isn’t a journey so much as just a trial-and-error process using boring mechanics to clear levels that aren’t any fun to plough through due to unsatisfying game mechanics, boring levels, and uninteresting art design.

Gameplay with No Depth

Gameplay stems from two main branches: combat that involves four sets of weapons, and a “Spirit Mentor” that you use to interact with the environment. The four weapons have their own play styles with special abilities, both passive and active. The core of the gameplay is to hit enemies with regular attacks to add “marks” to them so that special abilities are more potent when used. The weapons all deal damage differently, but the gameplay boils down to:

  1. Add Marks
  2. Use Special Ability
  3. Repeat Ad Nauseam

Although the Special Abilities can have a bit of flair to them, they generally fall under the same three categories: explosion, weak multi-hit, and dodge. These abilities are so simple that even though they look different on other weapons, they functionally all do the same thing. There are also Passive Abilities that give some small boosts and specifies play style a little bit, but they just don’t offer enough depth to how you play. It’s rather amazing that among all these options, my play style was generally static, boiling down to marking enemies and using abilities. It’s like diving off a boat into the ocean only to immediately hit your head on a sand bar.

Forced_Battle

This doesn’t even touch on the Spirit Mentor, which is a wisp that you use to complete the puzzles the game has in tandem to fighting in each level. The gameplay involving this spirit guide is either calling the wisp to your location or following you. Although you’ll be doing a wide-range of things with the wisp like moving objects, activating turrets, creating safe zones, and bombing enemies, the act of controlling the wisp always boils down to calling the wisp to one side of a pillar, running to the other side, then calling the wisp again to fly through said pillar. Controlling this wisp is incredibly boring, with little to no satisfaction earned when completing these puzzles, which stems from the fact that the puzzles are very simple, and carrying out the solution is downright uninteresting.

Fails to Reward the Player Enough

The level progression is reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot, where each level has three crystals to earn by completing objectives. Earning these crystals unlocks more abilities and slots to assign said abilities, but that’s easier said than done. Beating a level earns one crystal, while beating it under a specific time provides another, as well as clearing a specific challenge in that level. This style of design is rare as there are no experience bars or grinding experience to add stats or abilities. This is purely a game of skill, and beating challenges or times to improve your character is quite gratifying—it’s just unfortunate that whatever abilities or slots you unlock doesn’t add all that much to the gameplay.

Forced_Arena

The enemies are heavily repeated, with general minons blindly running up and attacking or hanging back and taking potshots. They have no intelligence and are one-trick ponies. Any challenge comes from bosses where they attack in more than just one way, which causes your battles with them to ACTUALLY require some thought. But what sours these fights are that bosses turn into regular enemies in later levels once they are defeated. Beat the first area boss? Area Two will have them as a regular enemy with less attacks and a color change. I always find this sort of design irksome as the struggle and triumph you had a few minutes ago of conquering a tough enemy is trivialized by fighting simple versions of that same boss. However, that seems to be the theme of this game: over-simplification.

Visually Average and a Story that Ignores the Main Character

The story has plenty of potential, but the game really fails to make it any way personal or engaging. The game references many of your race being killed mercilessly in the arenas, but I hadn’t seen anybody outside of just the few odd corpses that I can’t connect to in anyway. It’s also annoying that the masters are more interested in antagonizing the Spirit Mentor flying around, rather than my character, who is actually slaying them. Most conversations were directed at my Spirit Guardian, and it felt like neither of them knew I was even in the room. Admittedly, I only got to the second Chamber Guardian, but the story was so lacking and the gameplay mind-numbing that there was no satisfaction gained from moving forward.

Forced has an art style that is uninspired, although weapon design looks nice, as well as effects; but the levels themselves are drab backgrounds of sand and Romanesque design. The enemies are cookie-cutter molds with the bosses themselves making little to no impact visually. Probably the most criminal thing about this game is the lack of actual gladiatorial elements! The levels and arenas are bereft of audiences, the carnage of a gladiator fight is throughly absent, and any sort of presentation or build-up to the fight for your life is missing.

Forced_Puzzle

At the moment of writing, I was only able to join one co-op game to see if having another person would garner any extra pleasure. Certainly the game changed a bit to match the co-op style, with some levels changing some mechanics like requiring two people on a button as opposed to one. Communicating with my partner definitely added some fun and added just enough complication to make trudging through levels genuinely entertaining. Having that extra choice between weapon types really made the dynamics of the combat change, and sharing the wisp between us two gave up some great moments. The game is somewhat redeemed by this, but the gameplay itself is still monotonous, and after a couple of hours of co-op I felt ready to move on from Forced.

Final Thoughts

It’s tough to nail what’s really wrong with the game, as each feature functions correctly and without issue; but as a whole, it’s uninteresting. Fighting veils itself behind a mediocre mechanic that fails to hold your attention while guiding around a dumb white ball to hit some pillars. It’s like the game is constantly trying to make excuses by saying, “Oh the combat is too simple? At least you have the Spirit Mentor to complicate things. The Spirit Mentor isn’t interesting? There are puzzles to solve! The puzzles are too easy? But the fighting!” And round and round this cycle goes, thinking the sum of weak parts adds to something great, when in actuality it’s the average of that sum which defines a game’s quality. And sadly, Forced is a game that falls below average.

Presentation: 4

Gameplay: 3.5

Replay Value: 6

Legacy Score: 4.5

This review is based on the Steam download of Forced, provided by BetaDwarf.

Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score.

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