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[Review] Forge (PC)

Kickstarter has quickly become one of the most popular ways for developers to get their games funded and into the hands of players without turning to big name publishers. However, for every successful project, like InXile’s Wasteland 2 and Obsidian’s Project Eternity, there are unsuccessful ones – Dark Vale Game’s flagship title, Forge, failed to reach their intended goal in the allotted time. However, they have risen from the ashes of Kickstarter purgatory with help from Steam’s new Greenlight program.

Forge easily differentiates itself from the recent wave of shooter-style medieval combat games like Chivalry: Medieval Combat and War of the Roses with a looser grip on historical accuracy and a bigger emphasis on fantasy warfare, putting players in the shoes of archetypal MMO classes to do battle in bite-sized FPS shooter matches like Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.

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After launching the game, it is immediately obvious where the budget went, which is to say not into the menus. This is fine, considering the in-game graphics are presentable as they are, combining the gritty visuals that have come standard this generation with the outlandish, “rule-of-cool” fantasy style made popular by World of Warcraft or Kingdoms of Amalur. Maps are decidedly varied, taking place in musty Aztec-inspired temples or old-growth forests replete with Ewok-style platforms and ramps. All of these maps feature a very unique verticality to them, allowing players to leap from great heights to pound their foes into the dust or to retreat into the rafters after an encounter gone bad. Character design for the game’s five classes are unique  being very tribal-influenced and featuring a lot of fur and frayed ends. It’s important to note that while customization for player models is currently unavailable, it will be possible at some point in the future to unlock skins by leveling up.

Forge’s combat shines above all, playing fast and furious as it combines the hotkey combat of World of Warcraft’s Arena battles with a shooter control scheme and enhances that with an amazingly fun sense of mobility regardless of character class due in no small part to dedicated movement skills as well as the ability to wall jump off almost any surface. All of this lends to the frenetic pace of the game’s combat, which easily shifts from lobbing potshots at a distance to close-quarter slugfests at the drop of a hat.

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One of my concerns with the gameplay, however entertaining at first glance, is its lack of visceral feedback besides the customary numbers floating above enemies as you strike them with maces and arrows. In addition, Forge touts “MMO-style” combat as a selling point, but forgets to exclude exactly what made MMO-style combat like World of Warcraft seem so stale after all these years: it’s far too easy to lose yourself in an enemy Zerg rush and find yourself dead with zero explanation, which could easily be alleviated by an FPS-style killcam, maybe even combined with an after-action report of damage dealt similar to those in MOBA titles. Another concern is the less than accessible matchmaking, which makes it difficult to join friends in-game or look for servers. The latter is only made worse by the fact that it currently isn’t supported. This may be a problem for players unwilling to deal with patches, but the good news is that Dark Vale is committed to improving the game in the coming months.

Forge accomplishes much of what it set out to do, delivering fast fantasy combat in a palatable, but engaging format. Shooter fans looking for a fantasy fix or RPG players in search of more speed out of their MMOs will find Forge to be a refreshing blend of both genres, despite erring on the side of unpolished.

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Available on: PC; Publisher: Dark Vale Games; Developer: Dark Vale Games; Players: 1 – 16; Released: December 4, 2012; ESRB: Teen; MSRP: $19.99; Official Site

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Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.

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