FORCED's arenas are not lacking in size, or challenges. This particular trial gets chaotic real fast
Now you have to determine exactly what type of gladiator you wish to be. If using the shield, do you opt to go the more defensive route, or are you the Captain America of shield warriors? For the bow, do you take your time and draw back on each shot, or is it a fast and furious hail of arrows? Or do you prefer a combination, mixing a little of each. In my time playing, I found an interesting combo with the shield weapon where I could charge a group of enemies, place marks on all of them, turn around to throw the shield and deal maximum damage, then (if needed) block an incoming blow from an enemy. That particular set of skills lasted me through a few trials, and then changed once I earned a few more crystals and unlocked new abilities. I changed things up again after on particular trial required me to focus more on completing the goals than fighting enemies, and then a third time when playing with friends.
While the entire game can be played alone, there is definitely an emphasis on cooperative play. I mean, the first menu option you have at the main screen is to start a co-op game. When selecting to play cooperatively, you can set how many players you wish to have, if you want to allow players to join once things get going (i.e., enabling drop-in co-op), and whether it’s a Campaign or Survival game. The overall structure of the game remains the same with more players, but the trials themselves will vary depending on the number of players present. In one case, I could freely move back and forth between two sides of an area when playing in single player, but was blocked by a nearly invisible wall when playing with a friend. This completely changed the solution I had come up with in my solo playthrough and forced, no pun intended, us to come up with a new answer.
These kinds of changes ensure the trials have replayability, as you’ll need to come up with different solutions depending on the number of players, and that each player has some role to play in it. If solving puzzles solo is like playing a game of billiards, then solving those same puzzles cooperatively is like a soccer match. Each player will need to line up in the right spot and pass Balfus back and forth to successfully activate the shrines in the right order, or to successfully navigate him through a particular path. Once you mix in the attacking enemies (representing the opposing team attempting to steal the ball), you’d be forgiven if you yelled “GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL” after successfully solving one of the brain teasers.
Beyond the mental challenges, the combat of FORCED becomes more engaging with additional players as well. While the different abilities of the various weapon types don’t have any direct synergies, e.g., the shield weapon has some special ability that directly sets up an attack by the hammer weapon, they all do work together within a bigger picture. The bow, for instance, can be used to apply marks to distant foes that then get slammed with a powerful blow from either the blades or the hammer when they get closer. The shield bearer can help to fend off some harmful attacks to a hurt comrade by getting between him or her and the enemies.
Just one of the many challenges you'll face along the way
There’s a very satisfying feeling to working out a coordinated assault against a stronger enemy or a horde of weaker ones. It is these strategy elements, whether mental or physical, and the degree of communication and coordination required to achieve them where FORCED truly shines as a co-op game. You cannot expect your fellow players to intuit what you’re going to do next and you cannot just move through the trial on auto-pilot killing things as you go. Victory is only assured by working with your comrades. All of this gets ratcheted up to 11 when you decide to tackle Survival mode.
If you watched our stream from last week, you undoubtedly watched as the Co-Opticrew struggled to survive longer than 2 minutes. We’re not experts at this game, but we’ve all had our fair share of tackling survival modes in a variety of other games, so you would think we’d do better than that, right? Nope. FORCED’s Survival mode blows those other games away. Everything you’ve learned in the trials from the Campaign mode feels like barely a warm up for this. This is where you and your teammates have to absolutely be communicating all the time to call out who’s in trouble, what foes are spawning, and where Balfus is needed. It’s chaotic, difficult, and absolutely fun.
Amidst all that fun, the one negative element that you may find cropping up from time-to-time is the same negative that’s present in any online game: failures due to latency. In the case of FORCED, many of the puzzles involving Balfus require such a degree of coordination that even a little bit of lag can throw off a few careful minutes of work getting things in place. This is a little annoying the first time it happens, but by the third or fourth time, you’ll definitely be feeling frustrated. These incidents don’t happen all that frequently, though they tend to stick out like sore thumbs when they do. You may also notice your gladiator getting caught on parts of the environment, usually at inopportune moments.
One of my favorite parts about the rise in indie games we’ve seen over the past few years has been the absolute swell of great, innovative games. FORCED is no exception.While it may contain elements that are reminiscent of other games and genres, it combines them in a way that is wholly its own. Best of all, from start to finish, FORCED is a game built around cooperation and succeeding as a team.
The Co-Optimus review of FORCED is based on the PC version of the game. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
The Co-Op Experience: FORCED is centered on a number of unique and interesting challenges geared towards the number of players present. Additionally, a cooperative combat system is implemented where players can place ‘marks’ on enemies with special attacks, and thus increase the potency of other players' attacks against the foes.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.