Dark Vale’s Forge is beautiful, addictive, and chaotic.
It’s just pure insanity the moment you step into the world of Forge. You choose a class, jump head first into the fray and let chaos ensue. Forge, created by Dark Vale Games, was released via Steam for $19.99 on Dec 4th, 2012. The website describes Forge as a “class based multiplayer shooter set in a distinct fantasy universe”, but it felt more akin to an action MMORPG which focuses on Player vs. Player. There is no campaign. There are no quests. Just you, the world, the other players, and carnage.
What first struck me when booting up Forge was how beautiful the game is. It was crisp, clear, and the artwork is stunning. Textures and resolution are pretty good, slightly muddy at times, while the models have a decent amount of detail, and the animation is quick and fluid. Upon arriving at the menu screen, I entered the tutorial, and needed to choose a starting character. I decided on the Warden, because I love melee combat. Up close and personal is always the way to go.
The tutorial stage has four statues. Each leads you through a series of tasks that slowly introduce you to the techniques you’ll need to understand. There’s a statue for Movement Training, Movement Ability Training, Block Training, and Ability Range Practice. It’s all pretty straight forward, and simple to understand. Move here, go there, this button does this, and so on. Once I finished the tutorial stage, and I was presented with some exp for my hard work, I sought to look for a way out. There wasn’t an exit. The statues had floating text, delineating what they were pretty clearly. But how did I get out? I meandered through the arena, with no clear exit in site.
In most games, there’s an option menu, or something on the side or corner of the screen. No such thing existed in Forge. So, out of frustration, I hit escape. And of course, a menu popped up. At no point was there any helpful prompt that told me that escape opened the options, or that escape did anything. I pressed every other button, searched the entire area, and only out of aggravation did I find out how to find the menu.
A lot, actually everything, of what I know from the story is from Forge’s website. There’s never really any explanation within the game itself. Here’s a bit from the site:
“A malicious being named The Devourer has swallowed the great pantheon of gods. Seeking escape, the trapped gods have deceived great warriors, zealous adherents and placed them on a faceless world called FORGE, designed sacrifice the weakest of these warriors in order to grow their own power. Choosing one of five unique warrior classes, the player must battle head-to-head with other players in a bid to free their god from the clutches of The Devourer.”
There are five classes to choose from in Forge: Assassin, Pathfinder, Pyromancer, Shaman, and Warden. Each of them has their own special skills, nine ability slots that you use during battle, along with a host of strengths and weaknesses.
From what I can tell, Pyromancers are the dominating force in the game. They run and gun, casting torrents of magic while staying well beyond the range of any weapon. They don’t have any melee abilities, except for a punch, and they rely heavily on distance and magic. Pyromancers can stun opponents with a flaming projectile that wraps around foes, rain fire from heaven, and create a flaming wall.
It’s good to have a Shaman on your side because they can heal, which comes in handy since death rains down on you constantly. They can heal individuals, manifest a barrier that restores lost life to anyone within its shell, slow enemies down, or create a life giving bond with any member of their team. A Shaman is a must have for any group, because they truly tip the balance of life and death during some of the most epic moments of combat.
Assassins stun, create smoke screens, and do something that looks like they’re freezing time, sucking you into another world, and beating you! They also have the ability to disappear and sneak attack opponents. They’re the fastest class in Forge, and they’re also the hardest to attack because the just keep moving!
Pathfinders are deadly archers, and can easily snipe you before you realize what’s happening. They deal damage with various forms of arrow attacks, from volleys, to poison, and bolts that cause blindness. They can also set traps and caltrops to slow down the opposition. Also, with the glitz of the effects exploding all around you, it’s hard to notice an arrow in the chaos.
And finally, the Warden is the tank, the front line melee soldier with the ability to stun enemies with a shield bash (which looks like a shout in Skyrim when actually used) and can buff allies with shields or wings. This is the class I chose when I played Forge. Sadly, the Warden has only one standard attack, while the rest of this classes move set are reserved for protection.
Companions, like bears, panthers, and a flaming beast, were considered but removed for the launch of the game.
You have free range of motion through Forge’s 3D environments. Your character can run, jump, block, and initiate several abilities. You control your character with the use of WASD keys, attack is set to the left mouse button, while defend is on the right mouse button. Moving the mouse rotates your camera angle and point of view.
Special abilities are set to F, E, R, T, G, V, and B. You can also set these to whatever you like in the options menu. There’s also controller support for those more comfortable on a console than playing on the PC.
F1 toggles hints on and off and holding alt+mouse frees up the use of the cursor, and also reveals detailed information on what the items on screen are, and what they do. And of course, escape brings up the main menu.
I can sum up the gameplay in two words: beautiful chaos.
After the tutorial, you unlock Quick Play and Play. Quick Play allows you to jump straight into the battle, while Play lets you choose who to play with. I always chose Quick Play. There are five battle types to choose from: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Relic, King of the Hill, Arena, and Relic Assault. Team Deathmatch is the standard slayer mode, where the team with the most kills wins. Capture the Relic is a capture the flag type of game, where you take over towers to win. At the moment, you can only choose “Random” through quick play.
You begin by selecting one of the five characters, and you decide whether to be on blue team or red team. Once decided, you’re thrown into one of four area maps, and after a counter clicks down, the carnage begins. Your team is delineated by the color green, no matter what team you’re on, while the enemy is red. Not sure why you don’t just show up as red or blue, since those are the team colors? Green is easier to differentiate, I guess.
The goal is simple no matter what battle type you decide to rampage through: kill anything that’s not on your team. Once you find where the war is, and you’ll be able to tell by all the green and red shooting through the screen, it just turns into a melee fest. There are some amazing players, and you will find some who hunt and always end up killing you. Everything is fast! You’ll never find yourself sitting still as enemies from every direction try to take you out.
You need your allies! No single person can be a one man team, and in order to thrive, you will need to work with your team mates to over throw the opposing side. Running head first into the fray, and trying to simply hack and slash your way hap hazardously through the opposition will always end in your death. You’ll need to work together, utilizing your characters special abilities to heal, issue cover fire, defend, incapacitate, or fill the area with fire! Only as a team will you ever prevail against the enemy. I tried being the solo rogue for awhile, and always got overwhelmed. It was when I decided to stick with my group, buffing them with defense, and defending them with my melee attacks did I survive long enough to see victory. Well, victory on occasion.
The effects are all wonderfully animated, the colors brilliant, with explosions and bursts of light all over the place! When you have two teams of over six each, the screen is just a chaotic blur. Most of the time, I couldn’t see anything because there was so much going on! There was never any slow down, even during the most hectic moments in battle, which was very impressive. Whether with the WASD keys and mouse, or a standard controller, your character is responsive and the only thing that slows down game play is the cool down. Every time you use a move, you need to wait a few seconds before you can use that ability again.
Forge supports voice chat with your team, or the standard type in a chat box is available, too. I never really heard anyone speak during my play through. Most of the time it was silent, and most of what was said was done in chat.
As you play, depending on how well you work with your team, how many kills you have, and other determining factors, you gather experience points that you can use to level up your character. In the beginning, my attacks took off nothing, and I was all but useless on the battlefield. Now, I’ve only barely tapped level 5, and I’m finally seeing my characters taking off some damage! Either that, I’m just starting to play better? The max level is 99, for now.
You can’t really customize the look of your character, or their abilities. However, Dark Vale Games promises to implement updates in the near future, with features such as ability customization, new social features, guilds, Steam Achievements, and more.
I’ve only been playing Forge for a few days, and I have to say that it’s addicting. It suffers from what usually ails multiplayer games, like noob hunters and people using vulgar language in the chat, but I guess this just comes with the territory. It also would have been nice to have a campaign mode, but for those who just want to jump into battle, this is a great game to play. It’s chaotic, runs smoothly (depending on the specs of your computer of course), and is fast paced and frantic. Forge will definitely keep you on your toes.
Forge is free to play, and for a limited time, Steam has a special launch offer that gives you a free copy of the game if you purchase Forge by 10 am Pacific Time on Dec 18th, 2012! If the game had a story campaign, missions, and more customization, it would have scored a lot higher.