Monday, September 19, 2016

FORCED - 20/20 hours

At around nineteen and a half hours I beat the final boss. It was rough, but it didn't go down according to either of my scenarios. I neither devolved into an animalistic rage of heightened awareness and reflexes nor did I achieve a placid inner peace that allowed me to play with studied precision. I just sort of muddled through, doing a little better on average in a two-steps-forward-one-step back sort of way until I just so happened to win. There was no grand design. I simply wound up surprising myself with victory.

I may sometimes go overboard with these grand, romantic narratives of mine.

Looking back at FORCED, I'd say my biggest problem with it was that there wasn't enough "cool-down" material, places I could go when I was overwhelmed by my latest challenge in order to regain my composure. In a lot of other action-rpgs, you can grind for xp or equipment, play pointless minigames, or hunt for collectible doodads in the time between dungeons, but there is absolutely no fat in FORCED. You could go back to previous levels to try and beat the time or get the extra challenge conditions, but these were often more difficult than the level you were trying to beat in the first place.

I think part of the reason I gave FORCED such a hard time while I was playing it is because of its irreversible difficulty ratchet. There was no real character power curve and no point going back to easier levels, so it felt like it was always requiring me to play at my optimal level. Not a great recipe for relaxation. Which is why I took so many more breaks than with other games.

Though in retrospect, this game probably wasn't quite as difficult as I initially thought. After all, I managed to beat the final boss. Sure, it took me about three hours of repeated failures, but it was a finite amount of time. I never reached an insurmountable barrier. Although it certainly felt like it after my first couple of failed attempts.

Anyway, my final verdict is that FORCED is best played with the sort of friends who will stay your friends after you repeatedly cause the group to fail with your unforgivable screw-ups. Playing solo, it is a demanding rpg-brawler that doesn't really have the story or world-building to sustain an interest separate from its mechanics. And I'm not sure that I can comment usefully on whether those mechanics are "good" or not, because when I play the sort of game that FORCED initially appears to be, I like to brawl through mobs with little regard for my personal safety, collect massive amounts of loot, and occasionally pound on a boss that is tough enough to be credible, but ultimately just jobbing for the sake of creating a break in the game's pace.

My intuition is that FORCED is a very good game for people who enjoy the technical side of action games, but that it is poison to button-mashers such as myself. Play it if you want to up your game, otherwise something more casual (which is probably just about any other action game) would be a better choice.

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