Forge Review

Grey Carter | 20 Dec 2012 17:00
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Perhaps it's because it's clearly a work in progress, but I get the impression that Forge doesn't like me. It's nothing personal, of course. Forge just doesn't think I'll fit in; I don't have the right skills or the right background. I don't have that essential competitive spirit. I'm not good enough for Forge.

Well, up yours, Forge. I don't like you, either.

Despite being pitched as a PC-only "Class based, third person fantasy shooter," in its (unsuccessful) Kickstarter, Forge actually hews much closer to the MMO PVP archetype popularized by World of Warcraft. Two teams of fantasy clich├ęs armed with the traditional hotbar o' skills, go head-to-head in a variety of ye olde fantasy arenas. Crystals are defended and/or attacked, spells are cast, buffs are applied and various acronyms are hurled to-and-fro, both in-game and on the forum that houses the game's tightly knit community. What sets Forge apart from the MMOs it's rather obviously cribbing from is its focus on "player skill," as the marketing puts it. In this case, that translates into serviceable third-person shooter mechanics and a lack of meaningful character progression to prevent players from grinding their way to victory. Forge is essentially a stripped down version of the PVP shipping with most major MMOs, but the ability to aim freely, dodge projectiles and strafe behind cover does serve to freshen the mix. The fact it's not saddled with a monthly subscription helps, too.

Once they've selected one of Forge's handful of match types (at the time of writing only two were available, and only via a "random" option) players take control of five archetypical classes fighting for one of two entirely interchangeable factions. The factions have names, but there's not a whisper of a story to be had in Forge, so we'll refer to them as the red and blue teams. Oddly enough, the game would be much improved if the teams were actually red and blue. Instead, all the classes share the same color scheme, regardless of which team they're on. The only way to tell them apart is by the red or green name/health bars suspended above their heads (two words, people: "Color Blindness.") Your allies' names are always visible, even through walls, which is handy because it's very easy to get lost in Forge's needlessly complex maps.

Each of the game's five classes - they all have somewhat fancier names but you'll recognize them as the Tank, Ranger, Rogue, Mage and Healer - has a selection of skills tied to a slowly regenerating resource. This resource also serves as fuel for sprinting, wall-jumping and blocking, the last of which is far more important than the very brief tutorial implies. To play effectively, players not only have to master their chosen class' skillset, they also have to gain a working knowledge of the other classes in order to successfully counter them. Once they've learned that entire curriculum, players can move on to actually using those skills while strafing and wall-jumping, and then finally on to playing with others as an effective team. While more streamlined than the average MMO PVP, Forge still boasts a steep learning curve.

You can level up each class to 99, with individual levels giving you an insubstantial bonus. Some let you redistribute armour to protect against certain types of damage, while others allow you to make tweaks to the class' speed or available energy. A few unlock extra skins or class-specific titles, but the most important perks, those that unlock "specializations" which allow you to adjust the class' skillset, weren't available in the current release. While Forge has been released, it certainly isn't finished. The developers have promised extra features, maps and classes in future updates, but I can't review a game based on hypothetical content.

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