Publisher: Dark Vale Games
Developer: Dark Vale Games
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7, 2.0 GHz dual-core CPU, 512 MB DirectX 9.0c-compliant graphics card, 2 GB RAM, DirectX 9.0c, DirectX-compatible sound device, 6 GB hard-drive space
ESRB rating: Teen
Release date: Available now
Review by Peter Gore
In December, those of us who write for Avault were asked to submit their wish lists for potential reviews in the upcoming year. I threw in some of the more interesting Tier 1 games such as Crysis 3, but I had also just finished reading a teaser for a soon-to-be-released game that combined multiplayer PvP play with RPG elements, entitled Forge. Not long after, a key code arrived in my inbox with the offer of a review. I grabbed the chance to play what I thought would be a unique gaming experience.
Forge is a third-person multiplayer PvP combat fest. There’s a backstory to how players ended up fighting for supremacy on the world called Forge, but it’s immaterial. You choose between five classes and engage in team-based combat on four semi-constricted maps. To begin competitive play, you’re required to complete a multi-step tutorial on gameplay basics (movement, targeting, blocking, and the special ability to which your chosen class has access). Modes are familiar, including team deathmatch, capture the flag, and objective-based goals. There are RPG elements, but I didn’t find they had any true impact on my character’s ability to compete in matches. It sounds simple, but Forge throws in some unusual twists for a PvP RPG that challenge players of the genre.
To begin with, the traditional tab-based combat associated with most PvP games is absent. Instead, Forge adopts the first-person shooter model of real-time targeting. If you want to score damage points, then you need to keep your target in your sights. The five classes (assassin, warden, pyromancer, shaman, and my character choice, the pathfinder, who specializes in ranged bow attacks) offer a variety of playing styles. Movement is accomplished using the W, S, A and D keys. Constant motion is critical in Forge; despite its FPS roots, you won’t find many opportunities for camping or sniping. The frenetic pace of the game, along with the relatively small maps by many game standards, doesn’t accommodate that style of play. Each class has access to nine abilities, and these are mapped around the movement keys rather than the 1 through 0 buttons, as most RPGs use. It’s possible to score individual kills, but the game is designed to encourage coordinated team combat; an arrow shot will score damage points, but having your teammates join you in targeting an enemy does massive damage more quickly.
I had high hopes for Forge, but for me, playing enough to develop a feel for the game became a chore. That’s not good news if you’re looking for some diversionary fun. The game feels unfinished. The developers make no bones that additional content is forthcoming, but for nearly 20 bucks the game feels like an advanced beta rather than a completed product. I can look past the unfinished nature of Forge because what is presented for the most part looks good and plays without any discernible bugs. The maps and characters are well rendered, and the attack effects are very impressive. But the server browser function is inoperative. The only method of accessing a game is through quick play, which might not drop you into a populated server. In addition, I found the choice of character classes uninteresting and even a little disappointing. For example, there’s no true “tank” class, and I like tanking above all other options in an RPG. The warden is designed in part to fill this void, being able to take heavy damage while healing and buffing those around him. But the warden deals minimal damage in attack. What good is being a bad-ass tank if you can’t truly punish your enemies with devastating melee blows? It seems an odd design choice to me. Perhaps it’s one of those elements the designers intend to address in later updates.
I found Forge‘s biggest drawback to be its inaccessibility for the new player. Yes, the tutorials give beginners enough of a feel of how to move their characters, but they don’t really show you how to play the game. The pace of a match is frenetic, and perhaps that’s an understatement. As far as I could tell, individual contests are limited to 10v10. I seldom found a server that populated. But even at 5v5, a match moves at lightning pace. You must utilize continuous movement and draw on skills that allow you to run up walls or catapult yourself across the map, all while coordinating your attacks on other players or objectives to maximize damage. It’s all simply overwhelming for a newbie. You either get lost, or get killed. I can’t count the number of times I saw in-game chat in which players acknowledged they had no idea what they were supposed to be doing, or that they couldn’t locate their objectives. It became easy to identify veteran players who had spent considerable time mastering Forge from the rest of us. I never felt unwelcome on any server; I just never had all that much fun. It seems to me that, with the sheer volume of shooter-type games available now, a niche game such as Forge should strive, above all else, to provide a reasonable entrance point to the casual or new gamer. The learning curve might be too steep to cultivate the number of players who can make the type of PvP match envisioned by the game any fun.
If I sound like I’m being hard on the game, it might be because I’m hoping someone at Dark Vale will hear my call and provide us with greater direction. While I was ultimately disappointed with my “wish” game, I can’t say I didn’t like it. It’s just that I didn’t like it enough to put in the effort needed to become an accomplished player. Forge truly does offer a unique twist on the usual PvP RPG world. If you have the desire and time, I’m guessing there’s considerably more depth to the game than first appears. Perhaps future updates will address what I see as flaws. But for now, there are more interesting and accessible games out there.