Review - Forge
Take the PvP modes from the more popular fantasy MMOs and make that into a separate game. Sound like a pretty good idea, yeah? I thought so too. Unfortunately, despite a pretty solid effort, Forge doesn’t manage to pull it off for the most basic of reasons.
Stripping away the crap, Forge is really fun. I mean really fun. You can play one of several different classes that run the gamut of the standard fantasy setting staples – rogue, combat mage, healer and warrior. Most classes have some form of stun ability as well as a few general combat and utility skills – pretty standard stuff for something that is derived from MMO PvP.
Forge breaks with that formula by giving players something that’s more in line with Unreal Tournament 2004 or Call of Duty in terms of frenetic pacing. Death comes fast and often as players will often cluster around their healer forcing either a very one-sided fight against a lone member of an opposing team, or a rare protracted bout between two groups.
This is the game’s first problem. Almost all of the players that I encountered were totally confused by what they were doing, where they were supposed to be going and, in some cases, didn’t even know what game mode we were playing.
At time of writing, there is only one real way to play a game – jump into a random one already in progress. Like someone showing up late to a pub crawl, you have no idea where everyone else is, or what they’re doing. No one tells you anything, and you’re left to figure it out on your own.
It doesn’t help that at the end of each match, a totally new map and game type are selected at random, but again, the game does almost nothing to communicate what you should be doing. I lost track of the number of times I or someone else had to ask general chat what was going on. Normally we didn’t get a response, were met with like-minded confusion or told to “fuck off”.
It’s a bit odd too, because in every other instance, the game does a fantastic job of keeping you well-informed. For example, when you run out of energy or mana, the icons of abilities that you cannot use will be displayed on the lower left-hand side of your targeting reticule. The general, combat-focused UI does an excellent job of providing all the information you could ever need, but the core game doesn’t effectively communicate what you should be doing.
After around two hours of play, I started getting the hang of it all. I could at least venture a guess as to where I needed to be and when I needed to be there. Then I ran into my first game-breaking bug.
Generally, when waiting for a cooldown, I have a tendency to mash whichever key will help me not die the fastest. Forge, for some unholy reasons seemed to interpret my flailing as a desperate desire to open up general chat. Shortly thereafter everyone in the game got hit with a flurry of “rrrrrrrrttttttgggggqqqqq”.
At first I figured that maybe I was hitting the chat key by accident, and that the whole thing was my fault. Then I bound all of the chat command keys to random bits on the opposite side of the board. It didn’t help. In general chat, I found a few others that were running into the same problem. So it clearly wasn’t on my end. After a couple of hours of troubleshooting, I just gave up.
It’s sad. It really is. There are a lot of fantastic ideas here. When moving about a map and trying to dodge enemy attacks, players can execute some pretty ridiculous wall-jumps, and I can’t remember the last time I saw those sorts of advanced movement options available in a competitive multiplayer game.
Visually the game isn’t awful, either. Running on Unreal Engine 3, Forge generally looks pretty good. Not quite up there with the super-polished AAA offerings, but definitely better than most.
Multiplayer-only games are a bit simpler to review than single player games. You don’t have to worry about narrative complexity, there isn’t the concern that the game is trying to say something you just didn’t pick up on; no, multiplayer games are almost exclusively about fun. They can be summed up with an answer to a simple question: Did you have fun?
Given my own experience I would have to say yes, for a while, but that was very quickly followed by a small mountain of frustration. There is a good game buried in here, but it takes way more effort than it should to get there. I would either say skip this game or wait and see if the developers live up their word and provide more a more complete, less buggy package.
(4s are hurting in quality. There are instances of fun that are overshadowed by major problems, technical or otherwise. It could be fun, but the issues may not make it worthwhile.)
Dan Starkey is the latest addition to the ScrewAttack Reviews Team. Some say he never sleeps and eats only gourmet amaretto cupcakes. Others claim he's a hyperactive optimist. To citizens of the Internet, though, he's Captain Starkey, Intergalactic Games Journalist. You can follow him on Twitter, or add him on Facebook.