Forced Review: Force Your Friends To Play With You

Forced, a tactical arena co-op action game created by Denmark-based developers BetaDwarf, is a game that has the potential to be an absolute blast, given that certain conditions are met. If you’ve got a couple of good friends over and some controllers for your PC, you can expect some riotous laughter as you desperately try to work together, no doubt initially with disastrous results.

Unfortunately, the game becomes something completely different when playing solo. Those same mistakes that you might have laughed about in co-op mode become things you curse under your breath or at the top of your lungs, as the game’s punishing difficulty and lack of checkpoints will have you replaying the same challenges over and over again.

Forced
Platform: PC
Developer: BetaDwarf
Publisher: BetaDwarf
Release Date: Oct. 24, 2013
MSRP: $15.00
Available: Steam

Forced puts you into the shoes of a slave who is “forced” to compete in various arena-style challenges in order to earn his freedom. Assisting you is a spirit mentor named Balfus, who serves not only as your guide, but an integral part of your ability to solve the game’s many puzzles.

Needless to say, story is not the big selling point of Forced. Fortunately, its core gameplay is extremely strong, which is one of the many reasons why it’s so fun to play in co-op. You play as one of four different classes, with each class having a very specific combat focus.

There’s a shielded gladiator who does good all-around damage and has several defense focused abilities; a fast-attacking ninja-like character who excels at darting in and out of battle; a slow hitting, very powerful bruiser with a giant axe and several area-of-effect-focused abilities; and finally, a range-focused class who must charge his bow for maximum damage, but can pick off weaker enemies from a distance.

My personal favorite class is the blue-shielded gladiator, who seems to be the most balanced of the bunch. His shield attacks are decently damaging without being too slow, which makes him a good choice for the solo player. At the same time, he also has several abilities that are aimed towards team play as well, such as an aura that heals nearby allies and increases their movement speed.

Forced’s combat revolves around a marking system, in which basic attacks from all character classes place “marks” on enemies. The more marks, the more damage a character’s powerful special attack will deal to that enemy.

It’s a simple, but also pretty ingenious idea for a cooperative game due to the fact that it encourages you to work together with your teammates to maximize your damage output. Teams that just go off on their own and spam their special attacks thoughtlessly are going to struggle far more than a team that communicates well and coordinates their special attacks to only attack marked up enemies.

Completing levels rewards players with crystals, which are used to obtain new abilities. Each class has two skill trees — one for active abilities, one for passive abilities — and your crystals carry over to each class. So even if you’ve played the whole game as one class, you could always switch to a new one, re-spec your skills, and still be just as powerful as the class you were playing as earlier.

Each level has three crystals to offer: one for just beating the level, one that is awarded for completing a specific challenge that’s revealed after beating the level for the first time, and a one that is awarded for beating the level under a time limit. These crystals are notoriously hard to obtain, and almost always require a skilled and experienced group of players.

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