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Players are able to develop each class as they see fit, leveling up their characters and unlocking skins and other forms of customization as they go along, including new kinds of abilities. Leveling up does not, however, give your characters any sort of stat advantage over others. The reward for long time players is in customization and expansion of abilities, rather than in upgrades and powers boosts. This has been done in an effort to keep the game as accessible as possible, while still giving dedicated players something to reward their time and energy. Whereas most MMOs reward grinding and level increases, Forge only rewards with customization options. This means that, above all else, genuine player *skill* is what is most important.
Visually the game is a treat, even at the alpha-level I played it at. The environments, though clearly unfinished, are already showing more life than many I’ve seen in recent AAA titles of similar design. The aesthetic is your standard high-fantasy fare, but with enough original elements to keep it plenty recognizable, and so much detail that I often found myself getting killed while I stopped to take in the sights. Each map has its own distinct feel to it, from the sprawling Capital Siege to the narrow Ymil’s Throne, and it’s clear that certain maps are set up for certain battle modes. The maze-like Capital Siege city with its mix of dark alleys, multiple tiers, and wide open areas makes it perfect for large scale battles. Battle modes at launch include your standard capture the flag and free for all, but more are on the way including a Diablo-esque mode that promises hours of Diablo looting compressed into fifteen minutes of Forge.
Each character class has a strong design that was as aesthetically pleasing as it was practical and believable. The two female characters, the Assassin and Warden, in particular stood out and I must applaud the design team for their efforts here: no chainmail bikinis, no outlandish busts, and not even the bat of an eye at the notion of the game’s two most combat-centric classes’ default gender being female (with the possibility of open gender options for each class to be introduced down the road.)
Forge is, in many ways, the Little Engine that Could. Dark Vale Games has gone to painstaking lengths to create exactly the game that they’ve always wanted to play. It’s a small title, for now, but one that has all the polish of a AAA title and the promise for even more high quality content down the line. Just take a look at the game’s Kickstarter; the funding is not to make the game as the game is already made and readying its transition from alpha to beta. Rather the funding goals are there to further expand the game, with more classes, added abilities, summons, and cosmetic options, without bringing in outside publishers whose views might significantly alter the spirit of the game and the final product. If you’re the kind of gamer that is always going, ‘man, they should have done this…’ well here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is.
Forge drops late 2012 for PC.