Review: FORCED: Slightly Better Edition (PS4)

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Title: FORCED: Slightly Better Edition
Format: PlayStation Network Download (3.39 GB)
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: BetaDwarf
Developer: BetaDwarf
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: T
FORCED: Slightly Better Edition is also available on Xbox One, Wii U, PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

FORCED is a one to four player action RPG with some strategic and puzzle elements tossed into the mix. It plays similar to most birds-eye-view action RPGs of the same type, not least of all Diablo.

While playing through FORCED with friends does make the experience slightly more enjoyable, the repetitiveness of arena combat does get old pretty fast, making you long for more open worlds to explore.

Gameplay:
The gameplay is divided into small combat arenas. Each “stage” is presented via doorways that you must pass through in order to accept the various arena challenges. After completing a certain number of these, you will proceed to combat the boss.

Before you enter the individual arenas, you are given a choice among four classes, each resembling familiar classes from other similar games. The nice thing about FORCED, is that you are able to switch classes between each challenge. You never have to commit to one, unless you are playing multiplayer and your buddies don’t want to share their class.

… the game gets mercilessly difficult, particularly if you are playing alone …
Each class has a skill tree of sorts that allows you to upgrade and assign different active and passive abilities to your characters. You will absolutely need these abilities, as the game gets mercilessly difficult, particularly if you are playing alone.

Enemies swarm and you are not afforded many ways to break away from being cornered. My archer eventually earned an exploding arrow that could clear out an ambush, but during its recharge I would end up surrounded once again.

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The strategic element of comes in the form of a talking floating orb that guides you through the arena. Not only does he provide advice as you proceed through the campaign, he is also extremely crucial in your survival. Pressing the Square button sends him to the location where you are standing, while holding the Square button has him following you closely.

Throughout the arena there are pedestals that, when combined with your orb, generate different effects. One pedestal will heal you and your teammates the moment your orb comes into contact with it, while a different pedestal will charge your orb and make it explode when it makes contact with something. This particular effect is integral in solving certain arenas in that you have to guide your charged orb towards statues that must be destroyed before you can move onto the next challenge.

… both fun and frustrating …
Ironically, this becomes more difficult when you are playing multiplayer because there is only one orb for your entire team (as opposed to each player having his or her own orb). This makes communication extremely crucial when playing with others.

We found ourselves “hogging” the orb with one player trying to solve a puzzle in his corner, while I was trying to call the orb to my area to heal me. We had to compromise and allow each other to take control of it, otherwise we would never get through the arena.

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This effect was both fun and frustrating. It was fun because it made for some interesting strategizing. This was especially true when we were trying to navigate the orb to a particular area and we took turns controlling it, releasing control while the other player took over.

On the other hand, it was frustrating when I was surrounded by enemies and I needed to heal, but was too busy to see where the orb was, or who was using it. I was spamming the Square button attempting to call the orb, only to realize that my companion was doing the same thing in his corner of the arena.

… We began to crave a large adventure …
This made us aware that we just needed to call out what we were doing and how we were using the orb: something that worked well in a same-couch environment, but might present issues online when playing with someone who doesn’t have a mic. I personally didn’t have that issue when playing multiplayer, but it is certainly something that should be factored in when considering this game for its multiplayer component.

Despite some of its strategic elements, the game became boring relatively fast. While we were presented with a number of upgrades, combat became pretty stale a few hours in and the repetitive nature of the arena wore thin. We began to crave a large adventure, and more places to explore.

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This is an unfair judgment towards a game that is advertised as an arena game, but even games like Dungeon Defenders provide a larger palette for exploration – if not in the arena itself, then in character development. And while I was able to switch character classes over time, I never felt like I was moving forward with my character (upgrading armor, purchasing new weapons) so that made the grind even less fruitful.

Visuals:
This is a visually diverse game, for the most part. Just as each arena was beginning to feel repetitive, we were presented with an area that represented a new type of environment. Because your playable characters don’t change, I can’t comment too much on their visual design. What you see is what you get, pretty much throughout the game.

The enemy design is also pretty repetitive, with the exception of bosses. That’s not to say that FORCED is uninspired in its visual sense, it’s just that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It looks exactly like what you would expect of a game like this, minus the added element of seeing your character visually change over time.

… communication is very important in this game …
Audio:
Hacking and slashing sound and some decent voice work accompany you on your quest for freedom from the gladiator arena. Much like the visuals, nothing here quite stands out, nor does it necessarily suck either. Some of the higher end abilities are accompanied by some satisfying sound effects that really drive home the power of your ability, which is a nice use of sound.

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Online/Multiplayer:
I’d like to add that, because of the early access, I was only able to invite some friends over to play multiplayer. I wanted to make sure and test out the same-couch gameplay, since this was advertised as a fun element to the game.

Sometimes, same-couch games generally suffer from slowdown or other glitching. This was not the case with FORCED, the game ran smoothly. I do want to reiterate that communication is very important in this game. Survival is almost impossible in the more difficult levels without some sort of communication when deciding who controls the orb and for what purpose. So please consider this if you plan on playing with friends that do not use a microphone.

… runs stale relatively fast …
Conclusion:
The birds-eye-view RPG/action genre is one of my favorites. Games like Diablo are hard to find as that one in particular stands almost alone as one of the few out there that allows you to go on long adventures with your friends sitting right next to you.

FORCED has the potential to be fun. Under the exact perfect circumstances, you might have a blast along side your buddies. But a game like this should balance for every possible scenario. It runs stale relatively fast if you are playing alone, and it has the potential to be unplayable without audible communication online.

Furthermore, an RPG/action game of any type should present the player with a sense of pride towards their character. Because I am able to switch characters between stages, my ability to grow my character from weakling to utter badass is distilled by the inability to watch him change over time.

That said, this game might be for you if these things aren’t important to you and you simply want to have a sit-down with some friends for an evening. But if you are considering FORCED as your next long-term investment, like you would a game like Diablo or Divinity, then it may not be for you.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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