Forge, developed by Dark Vale Games along with Supergenius and Digital Confectioners—is a MMO-style PvP shooter now available on Steam. At only $20, Forge asks for a relatively small investment compared to the $60 that gamers have grown accustomed to paying for AAA titles. While Forge promises the same quality as those games at a third of the price, that promise falls a little short in practice. However, the game still succeeds at justifying its price for people looking for a bit of online multiplayer action.
One of the interesting and unique features of Forge is how easily players can traverse the battlefield. All classes are capable of chain wall-jumping to reach higher areas, and all of the maps are designed to accommodate and encourage this practice. Thus, skilled players can pull off some truly impressive getaways and maneuvers. This platforming element helps to make the gameplay deeper and is relatively easy to do, but it still takes some practice to get the timing down and experience to know which places on each map are conducive to wall-jumping. Ranged classes do not have to worry about mastering wall-jumping immediately, but melee classes must do so at the earliest possible opportunity. Ranged classes will routinely camp out on rooftops and high platforms to rain down deadly fire and arrows with impunity.
As indicated in Gaming Illustrated’s preview of Forge last month, the classes all have distinct abilities and roles that make each class play quite differently. The Warden is essentially a melee tank, the Shaman is the game’s sole healer, the Assassin is the melee damage specialist, the Pathfinder takes care of ranged physical damage, and the Pyromancer has the bulk of the game’s magical damaging spells. Anyone familiar with typical MMORPG combat should recognize these roles and find some familiarity. Someone that plays a Protection Warrior in World of Warcraft should have an easier time picking up the Warden, for example.
No matter which class a player chooses, they will have to get used to a very frenetic style of combat. Expect a pace similar to that of the old Timesplitters series. Considering that players must also manage cooldowns and multiple abilities while also keeping up a very fast pace, a normal game can easily overwhelm a new player that decides to just jump right in. Understanding all of each class’s half-dozen plus abilities on-the-fly can be overwhelming, so a complete run-through of tutorial mode with each class is highly recommended to help players acclimate to their abilities.
This brings up the problems the game has with class balance. While balance is the weakest aspect of the game, the balance is not so terrible as to cripple the gameplay. These are the same problems from around the time of the Forge Preview over a month ago, but the developers have already taken steps to fix the biggest problem by altering the buff mechanics on Wardens. Pyromancers and Pathfinders still dominate most every game and will likely make up half or more of the players in a given match. Assassins provide a nice counter to Pyromancers and Shamans but have a higher skill cap and are limited in their effectiveness by their lack of ranged options. Class balance is actually far less of a problem in objective-based matches instead of Deathmatches and Arena. Wardens become utterly invaluable as carriers in Capture-the-Relic since the focus on objectives makes it more difficult for ranged classes to camp for long periods of time and still win matches.
As no surprise, Forge has all of the usual modes such as Team Deathmatch and Capture-the-Relic. In addition, the game includes an Arena mode, which plays like Team Deathmatch except with no respawns. The game does throw in a nice complication to Capture-the-Relic with the addition of towers that add bonus points to relic captures when controlled, but otherwise the game modes work as expected.
In many ways, Forge still feels like it has not quite yet left the beta stage. While the actual gameplay and mechanics feel fairly tight, a fair number of features are not yet implemented. Such features are ability customization, social functions, guilds, two maps, a skill matchmaking system, Steam achievements, and the Ravager class. The lack of these features does not particularly hurt the core gameplay, but it does make the game feel slightly incomplete. Considering that the developers were able to get the voice chat up-and-running for launch–a much higher priority–the absence of these other features is excusable.
The game does perform solidly, so anyone just looking for some enjoyable MMO-style PvP will likely get their money’s worth with Forge. However, players interested in devoting a great deal of time and practice to a game might find themselves frustrated by the game’s balance issues and lack of features. While the developers promise to fix the latter issue in the coming months, the game balance appears to be a fundamental problem with the class design, and will take a great deal of time and work to fix. Nevertheless, the target audience should find that Forge is worth the cost and offers a fun diversion. It may not be quite a AAA-quality experience as it advertises, but Forge comes close enough.