Initially, Forge will strike players as an MMO. Forge looks like something ripped out of World of Warcraft or anything else with fantasy elements attached to it. Though the genre is common, it allows for the most flexibility. After all, it’s more believable to watch people wearing enormous sets of armor and horned helmets shoot magic everywhere than in any other setting. And it’s because Forge echoes games that have been around for years that players will be even more surprised when they give it a shot.
Forge is a player versus player (PvP) arena style game. It has class-based combat and is also influenced by online shooters. The basics are insanely simple: choose a class, kill people, gain experience, and repeat. There are five classes to choose from with each having a clear focus and play style in mind. The Assassin focuses on speed and stealth, the Shaman on healing, the Pathfinder on long-range, the Pyromancer on casting spells, and the Warden on tanking.
Dropping into Forge immediately is going to be a jarring experience for any player. One of the more overwhelming aspects of the game is its large set of abilities. Since each class has eight abilities, battles can get pretty hectic with spells flying from every direction. Mastering what each attack does is half the battle, however, because executing them isn’t exactly intuitive. It will take several battles for players to grow accustomed to the skill set of each class but it might be just as long before figuring out the best hotkey layout.
When it comes time to actually do battle, Forge is a great deal of fun. There are no items to collect or quests to complete; it’s just one team against another. Matches can go from being one enormous chokepoint to small pockets of fighting littering the arena. Finding the perfect strategy for any encounter keeps Forge alive. The game relies on its hook of “Pure Fun, Pure PVP” because it is a pure gameplay experience without all of the frills. Players have a health bar and a mana gauge. Things like dashing and blocking soak up mana points but resource management is never a problem.
A new player would probably be wise to start off as the Pathfinder. Since this class focuses on long-range attacks, the mechanics are easier to grasp without being too embroiled in combat. Classes feel balanced for the most part, but there could be a good amount of adjusting done. The Shaman is defenseless in one-on-one combat and his healing spells take far too long to cast. The Assassin has the ability to not only warp behind the player but paralyze them as well creating a devastating move set. The leveling system is also fairly unique. After leveling up, players can earn customization points to either adjust armor, speed, or MP. Adding points to one category means taking them away from another. Though this ensures that no player will ever have a true advantage over another, it does feel like there aren’t any great rewards for leveling.
For a small team, Dark Vale Games made a good looking game. Using the Unreal Engine 3, Forge looks great for those with high-end gaming rigs and runs just as well for those with older ones. The character models have good attention to detail and the environments are quite expansive. When every player is in close proximity casting the same spells, the game does slow up some but never enough to ruin the experience. The least inspiring visuals of the game actually come from the abilities that are cast. Only a few are less than generic but the lack of flair might attribute to the better framerate.
At the time of review, Forge is lacking a good list of features. The matchmaking system is very limited. Players can only get into games by being randomly assigned match types from the main screen. The developer has stated that the reasoning behind this is so players won’t be dropped into an empty map while the game gains more players. While understandable, it’s disappointing that it’s up to the computer to decide when a different game type can be played. Team deathmatch, capture the flag, and point control are all there but it might not be noticeable at first. More often than not, matches will devolve into everyone attacking each other instead of trying to capture a point. Part of this may be because the match goals aren’t as clear as they should be and capture points aren’t as obvious as they need to be. A minimap or HUD display would help a lot. Because of this, matches can sometimes go on for a long time. In some games, two 15-minute sessions might not seem like that long; in Forge it can be. If the player is given more feedback, it could help these issues.
As mentioned, classes can feel imbalanced at times and there are hints at ability development when leveling up but nothing is in place right now. Dark Vale Games is saying at least another three classes will become available so that should provide an even wider variety of play. The fact that the developer has been so open about upcoming content and what is to come assuages many of these fears. If Forge was released and no one addressed these problems, then it would be understandable to worry.
For a moderately low price tag and a strong base product, Forge is a great buy for any player who wants to have some fun just fighting. Some initial gameplay and balancing issues might get in the way at first but they can be overcome with some dedication. With the promise of constant updates and a growing community, there are plenty of reasons to be invested in Forge for quite some time.
Note: A copy of the game was provided to Gaming Illustrated by the publisher for the purpose of this review.