Forced Showdown PC Review
From the developers that hid out in a University and brought us Forced now comes what has been accurately described as a mix between The Binding of Isaac and Hearthstone. Using what I assume to be the same engine and combat system as Forced, a new game arrises that is no longer focused on challenges and multiplayer as its predecessor was, but instead brings a single-player experience that aims for high levels of replay-ability and the ‘learn more with each death’ approach that is a benchmark of all roguelite games.
The main game is split into 3 sections of varying lengths and difficulties, each of which are built up of a number of chambers that require the completion of one or more arenas. Arenas are the core ‘levels’ of Forced Showdown. They are usually 6-8 waves of bad guys, culminating in a face-off with a ‘big bad’ as each arena comes with random pros and cons; such as having to deal with more enemies but gaining more mana, and a boss character; with their own special tricks and powers. It may seem confusing but really it’s extremely straight forward – pick a level you like the ‘quirks’ of and then move through each area killing baddies and finally the boss, powering yourself up along the way using mana and cards from the deck you’ve built. Repeat this until you win or die, spend your earnings on better cards to improve your deck and finally jump back in to go at it again.
Being a roguelite means one death and you go all the way back, although it’s not completely roguelike as you will continually gain small improvements to your deck via the money you earn and to your characters via the challenges you complete. Overall there are 4 characters with unique attacks to choose from, 2 of them pulled directly from the original Forced title and 2 are newbies; presumably to replace the ‘support’ characters that wouldn’t have worked half as well alone. You can also choose between several different helper minions to fight with you along the way. At the start of each round of enemies the player can spend an ever-increasing amount of mana to use randomly drawn cards that buff, heal or give the player special timed abilities such as summoning drones to help you fight. If you have ever played Hearthstone then you will be instantly familiar with this mechanic as it is virtually identical. Then you proceed to beat the life out of everything in your path before you can move on.
The biggest problem is that this simple formula becomes rather monotonous. Now that may sound strange when referring to a game of the ‘rogue’ sub-genre but there are very clear differences between the speed, length, and upgrades that one can acquire in Forced Showdown when compared to something like The Binding of Isaac or Spelunky. The cards that are used along the way, although helpful, don’t really change how you play the game at all; you’re still going to run in and fight or stay back and pick your shots depending on your preferred character. Nothing ever really changes. Put that up against something like the jetpack in Spelunky or the hundreds of special attack items in Isaac that instantly force you to play differently and to take on new tactics moving forward. Doing this it becomes very clear how hollow the arenas can feel, not to mention just how much faster paced those other games are so even after dying you don’t feel worn out.
The combat doesn’t help too much either as it unfortunately becomes boring pretty quickly. Forced never had this problem because the central mechanic wasn’t the combat itself but the challenges that the players had to overcome whilst fighting off hordes of monsters. Here though it’s all about the combat so the handful of enemy types and barely noticeable changes to the character build even after all the buffs are applied stand out like a sore thumb. This is especially noticeable as all the changes that are made to a character during each arena are lost after its completion instead of building up continuously all the way up until the huge boss blowout, so we also lose the mayhem of having to deal with a stack of problems whilst simultaneously becoming incredibly powerful. It feels like starting again after each arena, so doing that 5 times and then dying, only to be sent back to the beginning usually makes me want to just quit instead of jumping right back in.
Putting all that aside, there is plenty of content to hold you over as if you won’t already need to spend plenty of time in order to become good enough to defeat the big 3. There are also daily and weekly challenges with leaderboards which I personally feel is the most compelling feature, principally due to the fact that the game can show you numerically just how much you suck and having so many other players above you in the rankings makes you strive that much harder to do better next time. There’s also huge support for streamers and viewers that includes giveaways, in-game upgrades, and audience participation awards. Heck! Even the the price of the game was reduced by the number of stream viewers. I can imagine throwing this huge curveball into the mix is really what Forced Showdown is going for. It is a game that was made to be played by streamers which is all good and well, but it’s also rather significant to note the majority of us are just players.
Nevertheless I have to give BetaDwarf props for trying something different here by mixing up an original blend of genres and for creating something innovative. And although I’m afraid I’m going to have to recommend the original Forced over Showdown any day, I really hope that this team keeps striving to create new and interesting concepts because that is sadly something pretty hard to come by nowadays.