If I told you that I was going to make a game that takes one part MMO Player-versus-Player combat, mixes in some Unreal Tournament-style gameplay elements like ‘Capture the Flag’ and ‘Deathmatch’ and gives you the chance to level up your character and fine-tune it to fit your playing style… would you play it? If you answered yes, then Dark Vale Games has delivered. Forge is the new online class-based multiplayer hybrid from the independent studio developed for the PC. Forge was chosen back in October by players via the Steam Greenlight program, and I can see why it was. Set on the faceless world from which its named for, Forge is underlined by an ongoing battle of the gods to free themselves after being swallowed by the malicious being named ‘The Devourer’. In order to escape, these trapped gods have willed warriors to fight battles in order to grow their own power. Thus, you take on the role of one of these warriors, and duke it out against others head-to-head in order to help free their from The Devourer.
Forge offers 5 different classes to play and customize in this class-based MMO fantasy shooter. You can choose from the stealthy Assassin, the bow-wielding ranger named the Pathfinder, the flame-throwing spell-casting Pyromancer, the dwarven defensive-healer class Shaman, and the damage-dealing tank called the Warden. Each class is incredibly unique from each other, and offers you a tasty palate of abilities to use on your opponents. The character abilities appear to be heavily influenced by similar classes you may find in an MMO like World of Warcraft, which may help those who are MMO-veterans familiar with the strategy of chaining together different attacks to maximize damage. With each use of your special abilities, however, you will use up energy, which can be exhausted quickly if you don’t mix in your primary attack that doesn’t cost energy to allow it to regenerate. Even sprinting and jumping cost energy. Therefore, proper strategy and use of your abilities is crucial to success in the fast paced PvP arenas, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with how your character plays and fits into the scheme of battles. And trust me, when you are first starting out with a new class, you will die often. It’s all part of the game, and you will become better at the class for it. I personally was immediately drawn to the Pathfinder class, as I tend to play a ranger classes when it comes to games like Lord of the Rings Online and classic Everquest. The Pathfinder comes with a great assortment of MMO-familiar abilities, and I quickly picked up on how to play the character. Snare, poison arrow, blind, stack poison arrows while mixing in a steady barrage of primary arrows, and watch them die. If only they dropped loot.
The maps and arenas that you will be battling your foes in look and feel like a lot of work was put into them, from expansive forests filled with ancient ruins to deserted imperial markets that looked as if they were once the center of a great empire. Dark Vale has done an excellent job with these arenas, and have taken special care to the nuances for which the game has been developed. An integral aspect to the game in my opinion is the ability to wall jump. So a battle that is taking place at the ground floor can surely end up on the rooftops above in a matter of seconds. Gaining higher ground on your opponent will also aid in your tactical approach to a class such as the Pyromancer, raining fire upon on your enemies below. And these maps all look great running with maxed out settings, and look as though they were taken out of your favorite RPGs (The Witcher 2 comes to mind). Gameplay settings for these maps include the standard fare of ‘Team Deathmatch’, ‘Capture the Relic’ and ‘King of the Hill’. Whatever excuse for you to rack up some kills on, right?
As you defeat players and capture relics, you will earn Medals which will in turn give you experience points. For instance, assisting in 5 kills per match will yield a Medal worth a set number of experience points, or capturing 3 relics will also earn you a Medal, so there are several different Medals to earn per round. You can then go into the ‘Level Up’ menu and decide which character classes you want to spend experience points on to earn a level in that class. Leveling up your character will unlock different rewards based on the level, such as Armor points or Customization points, which will enable you to allocate bonuses to specific resistance types or increase your characters speed/energy, respectively. You will also unlock ability ‘focuses’, allowing you to customize your abilities to tailor to your play style. But Forge adds an interesting twist to this familiar RPG formula, in that adding value to one category will result in you having to remove/trade value from another. Therefore, in order to increase your character’s resistance to ‘physical’ damage, for example, you must sacrifice your character’s total energy or their speed in the arena. This is also true for abilities, as new focuses unlocked will modify how that ability works. A good example is with the Assassin’s ‘Pantera’s Kiss’ ability that can be customized to increase damage done to the target, but only 5 seconds after the ability is executed on your opponent AND only if you haven’t been dealt damage by them. This customization may work for some, but may not for others. The point is that every advancement comes with a cost, and I think that it will help balance out higher level characters by not letting them become too powerful in battle.
The graphics for this game look great for an indie-developed title. Character models for each class are rendered with great detail, spells and their particle effects look beautiful, and the environments do a great job to immerse you into the arena in which you are fighting. Nothing in the sound department impresses, but you will quickly pick up what sound effects are associated with different abilities. When a Pathfinder drops a trap, you will hear the trap ‘click’ open. When a Warden goes into the whirlwind attack from behind, you will hear the whirling dervish coming at you. But high end sound effects and music, I feel, may not be critical for a game like this when you are talking (or yelling) at teammates via headsets on where the next tower to defend is located.
In the end, however, Forge falls short of being a really great multiplayer experience. As I have to review the product I have in my hands, Forge is lacking in certain content elements, which could consequently be attributed to the growing pains associated with a new game that may or may not have been rushed to launch. While I understand that Dark Vale Games has announced more content to be added in the coming months, it really sucks to have a game with options that are grayed out and locked, teasing you with promised content that isn’t there yet. At this point, you can only choose to play on a randomly assigned server, with a map pre-selected from a revolving list of automated map choices. I guess it’s why I see a bunch of users drop out when the map changes, as they try to randomly find the map on another server that they want to play. The root of the problem is that the Steam server search/browse capability isn’t integrated into the game yet, so you have no way of browsing for maps you would like to play in the first place. You can, however, find your friends who may be currently playing and join in their game. There are also plans to integrate achievements and rankings, but it is hard to say when they will become live. While hardcore players may not mind this, these shortcomings may deter new players interested in playing. So you will have to stick with what is offered until those updates are released.
Forge has brought some great multiplayer elements to the table, and it’s refreshing to see fresh ideas integrated into a very fun and satisfying MMO shooter. However, the lack of content hurts the overall online experience.
8.0 out of 10