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.
AAA-title fatigue. We all go through it. We see a big game announced by a big companies and we spend years watching it get hyped up. Then the game actually comes out and quite often, though far from always, it fails to live up to expectations. Was it the hype? Was it that the game was genuinely just not good? Whatever the case is, we gamers know, better than most, what it’s like to finally get our hands on a product only to say something like, ‘well this is how it should have been done.’ And let’s say you’re totally right; you’ve hit the nail on the head about what was wrong….and now what? Hope the next one does remedies whatever that was? Well why wait? If you’re not getting the game you want from anybody else…why not just make one for yourself? Truly rare is the person, or group of people, that says, ‘this is how it should have been done’ and then proceeds to actually go out and do it. Such was the mindset of DIY-Indie developer Dark Vale Games as they embarked on their upcoming project: Forge.
Forge is a genre-defying title that is most easily classified as a ‘class based multiplayer combat’ game. Forge combines the accessibility and overall mechanics of a first person shooter with an MMORPG PVP play style and aesthetic. Imagine something like Call of Duty or Halo, only instead of running around a map shooting people in first person you’re swinging swords and spanking them with spells in third person. The goal of Forge was to take what the developers loved about PVP combat in MMOs and bring it to a more accessible and easy to play world that didn’t penalize new players or bar them from fully experiencing the game. They were tired of trying to bring friends into the games they were playing, only to wait as the newbies grinded their way up the ranks, rather than spending that time…you know, actually playing together. And while the drop-in and play system of FPS games was appealing for this very reason, the people at Dark Vale Games still missed the fantasy world aesthetic and MMORPG-style skills and tactics. Eventually they all just said, ‘why not combine the two?’
Why not, indeed. As someone who loves MMORPGs but has little time for them, and doesn’t much care for the typical aesthetic found in most FPS games Forge proved to be right up my alley.
At launch Forge features five playable classes that each bring with them their own skills and play styles. Many games brag about the various play styles they feature, but here each character plays noticeably different and each class has been fine-tuned to ensure as balanced an experience as possible for players. The five launch classes are the Assassin, Pathfinder, Pyromancer, Shaman, and Warden. The Assassin plays best exactly as one would expect her to: up close and personal, stunning and disabling, and dodging and evading otherwise. She proved to be my favorite class overall, though I did spend much of my time in one-on-one combat where her skills were particularly useful. However, considering the game is built for large scale team battles it isn’t hard to see how everyone will find the class that best suits them. The Pathfinder operates as a mid-ranger, the Pyromancer a distance-based mage, the Shaman a group supporter, and the Warden a powerhouse team tank. As the game continues active development and expansion post-launch more classes will be made available, with Ravager and Tinkerer already announced.
Character skills have been spread out in such a way that every class is vital for a team’s success. Nobody can do everything. Even as you build your own characters, no one will ever reach the point of breaking the game and standing on their own. For example, the Shaman is the only class with any sort of healing or large-scale defensive abilities. He also has one lone offensive maneuver that doesn’t do much damage. In the one-on-one battles I took part in playing the Shaman was an exercise in futility, but with a team around me I’d have been a truly invaluable ally.