Forced: Slightly Better Edition PS4 Review
Almost two years ago a game called Forced was released on Steam – a labour of love from a team of passionate yet financially struggling developers that did everything they could to see their dream game happen. No, really, I mean everything they could – here’s the full story. Now, after moving on to equally challenging sequel Forced: Eternal Arenas that is currently on Kickstarter – which looks to cross-breed Hearthstone and Forced by merging arena and card combat mechanics – the original title has been released on the PS4. Along with some updates.
If you’ve never heard of/played Forced it’s a unique puzzle/action combat game that splits each stage up into a ‘trial’. There are 4 playable characters – Defensive shield wielder, Ranged archer, Strong hammer warrior, and Rogue dagger user. Each of the 25 trials (including boss fights) have 3 objectives – Complete the trial, Complete a challenge within the trial, and a Time trial. Accomplishing each of these goals yields a crystal, which unlock more active and passive skills. This isn’t per-character and the crystals aren’t to spend as you might expect. Instead, they are permanent upgrades that basically improving the player by unlocking more for you to tackle harder challenges with. Any other player, whether online or offline, are given the same amount of crystals than the host, balancing everyone’s ‘levels’.
A lot of the game and teamwork mechanics revolve around your spirit mentor, Balfus, who is your guide through the trials. Learning to control Balfus by calling him to your character’s current position, or having him follow you as you move around is essential for success, especially when you need to bounce him between a group of players. Throughout the game there are a number of reasons to use Balfus such as activating buff shrines, destroying enemy spawners and other evil forces, and breaking out of enemy attacks that pin players down. Mastering this control is a must and is part of the unique charm of Forced because fighting off incoming swarms of enemies whilst controlling the orb is no easy feat. In fact, the difficulty of Forced is one of its major selling points.
At first look the modular arena levels seem like they allow players to jump in and out of a game quickly but that is absolutely not the case. Some levels require sheer mastery and absolute precision to best, especially some of the later challenges and time trials which I can’t even imagine completing. Forced is not for casual players. As mentioned in my previous review it is extremely challenging, requiring great focus and constant team communication. A new splash screen that warns players about the difficulty has even been added in the new update, with which I completely agree. You should try to play with 3 or 4 players because any less and you will be begging for mercy. This game is soul-crushing.
About the latest update – with the exception of a few survival maps being added I’d say ‘Slightly Better Edition’ delivers exactly that. Not much more than a basic update – it is free after all. Although, Forced was already a great title, so these additions are nothing but icing on the cake. The big thing was getting the game moved over to consoles, which sounds like a great idea in theory as consoles are well known as ‘couch gaming’ machines, making the co-operative multiplayer focused gameplay much more accessible. Unfortunately though, the port does come with one major deficiency – constant frame drops when too much is going on. They are frequent and harsh, which does not help when playing such a difficult title. It can often be the ruin of a long and arduous trial, which only frustrates players. I sincerely hope this flaw is temporary and a fix gets patched in because right now I feel some missions have become almost unplayable and that was with only 2 players on-screen, not the intended 4.
Either way, Forced is still a cool game that I will always go back to when I’m craving a challenge with a couple of friends. The basic yet complex combat mixed with puzzle mechanics and heavy reliance on team members shines like the world’s most difficult team-building exercise and I personally can’t wait to see what their latest work brings. I know I’ll be backing them on Kickstarter.