October 25, 2013 12:00 AM | Lena LeRay
If you saw my preview of cooperative action RPG Forced from BetaDwarf at the beginning of this month, you probably know that I like the game. I've never played a video game that requires such tight-knit cooperation, and it's very satisfying to finally beat a trial after several times of trying and dying with your friends. But although the development team has polished the game considerably since I wrote that article, my experience with the review build, version 0.67, has me hoping that version 1.0 has taken care of some of the problems with the game.
For people who missed the first article, a quick summary of the game: you and your friends were chosen at birth to be trained as fighters and tossed into a pit as gladatorial sacrifices to the gods. You must now fight and hope you can win your way out. After each player chooses a different class, you go through a series of action puzzle trials that require serious communication and teamwork to overcome, interspersed with boss fights. You have a spirit mentor, Balfus, showing you the ropes and serving as a key element of battling and puzzles both -- and often simultaneously. The story serves well enough and has some hooks early on if you're paying attention, but the real meat of the game is in the trials.
Each trial has both action elements and thought elements which must be managed simultaneously. You only have one Balfus, whom any player can call him at any time, and he often has to be called to travel across specific points on the map while hordes of enemies attack. Players must be mindful of their surroundings while positioning themselves to use Balfus and communicating about who will call him where. The game is so well balanced that the level of challenge for each trial is just about perfect. It's a game that should appeal to any fan of action RPGs and to anyone who likes playing co-op with friends.
Unfortunately, the game, at least in the build I played, had lag issues which interfered with our precision and ability to survive traps. My friends and I are not the only ones to have experienced these issues, if the Steam forums are any indication, and since the developers keep in good contact with their community, it's entirely possible that the 1.0 build they uploaded has fixed this problem. Forum posts so far today are pleasantly lacking in rage about constant lag making the game unplayable, but at one point my friends and I hit a trial with a rotating death laser and I got caught in the beam when it looked to me as though I was a full 90 degrees away from getting hit. In general, we were able to get around most of the lag problems through teamwork and communication, with the host playing team leader and calling out things to avoid.
There are a few other, far more minor issues as well, which seem to be mostly restricted to the non-Windows versions. When I play the game in Mac OS X, I have see the graphical glitch below on the start screen. When I tried to quit the game last time I played, it didn't work right and I had to force quit the game. Sometimes the game hangs when I try to open it, though a force-quit and restart usually takes care of the problem. Even so, this is far better than the state of things when I tried to play the Mac version for the preview article I wrote -- the game wouldn't even open then, and now I don't have restart my computer and boot into Windows to play. Other bugs have been reported on the Steam forums today, but the BetaDwarf team responds to them very quickly and they're clearly ready to hop on any bugs and try to fix them as soon as possible.
All of that said, BetaDwarf has certainly not wasted the past few weeks. As mentioned above, I can actually play the game in the Mac OS, now. Graphical improvements have been made, not just in general quality but in the addition of new, better models in places. The single player campaign has been completely rebalanced and is now much more enjoyable, providing difficulty for players seeking greater challenge in the optional objectives for each trial while making it so that less skilled players can play through and pay attention to the story without excessive difficulty. They've added the ability to stream to Twitch directly from the game, though it only works for the Windows version.
In terms of issues with the games, the only thing I was really worried about after playing the review build was that lag problem, but since it sounds like they've fixed that, I'm glad to say that I recommend the game wholeheartedly. That said, the game is still not at 100%, and if you're worried about what kinds of bugs you might have to deal with, I recommend checking out the bug report thread in their Steam forums. If you want to pick it up, the game is currently discounted on Steam for $11.99, which is 20% off the regular price of $14.99.