Forge preview: high fantasy deathmatch with a dash of MMO

Indie developer Dark Vale Games is attempting an intriguing sort of fusion with its debut title, Forge. The Unreal Engine 3 game is a fast-paced, fantasy-themed, 3rd-person, class-based shooter that blends in MMO-like abilities and tactics. Dark Vale Games' co-founder Tim Alvis stopped by Shacknews late last week to provide an early taste of what the game will have to offer, showing off a couple of game's character classes.


Forge controls much like other shooters, with each class' additional suite of abilities bound to hotkeys, represented by an MMO-style hotbar at the bottom of the UI. Combat is an action-driven mouse-targeting affair, which means that although the abilities are MMO-like, they're aimed and deployed in real-time without assisted targeting. Offensive, defensive, and area-of-effect abilities are present; stuns, interrupts, and powers that buff your team or weaken your enemies are all there.

The game's maps that I saw were diverse, and though they aren't yet complete, they seemed like they'd serve as nicely-sized arenas for decent-sized groups to fight each other (though I suspect that a match that maxes out the game's forty-eight player maximum headcount would be more than a bit chaotic). The maps also contain a number of possibilities for vertical combat, supplemented by each character's ability to wall-jump. Those classes that have propulsion abilities can get themselves right up into the rafters of some of a level's geometry.

The powers at each character's disposal aren't all simply adaptations of things I'd seen before in other games. The Assassin, for example, had a stealth ability that rendered her difficult for other players to see, but on top of that, she could pull an enemy into a sort of alternate stealth-version of the world to isolate them for some one-on-one combat. One of the Pathfinder class' abilities allowed him to instantly switch places with a foe, even from great distances. There's a bit of a learning curve with each character, but it's all due to learning how to effectively use your powers in conjunction with your teammates.

Of the character types that I briefly sampled, the Pyromancer stood out as my favorite. Conjuring up a defensive wall of fire, or igniting my enemy with a swirling firestorm was fun and satisfying. The melee-focused Warden class was also pretty cool, and could leap to an enemy across a large distance, or fly for a few seconds using another ability. Skill-driven action is really what's at the core of Forge's design, which means that despite its sword and sorcery veneer, players won't be grinding to unlock new gear, better abilities, or beefier stats. Each class's entire arsenal is available from the get-go.

All of Forge's launch content focuses on team deathmatch, but Alvis mentioned that Dark Vale plans to expand the game with even more content--maps, modes, and classes--post-launch. Paid DLC will also arrive at some point, but it'll all be optional, like alternate character skins.

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Forge looks like it's coming along well, and has the potential to provide the kind of combination of melee, ranged, and spell-based combat not really seen since the likes of the multiplayer in the Jedi Knight series. Though unfinished, it's already no slouch in the visual department as well. That said, my time with the game was spent playing or observing 1v1 matches. There's a definite team-driven design ethos that ties into using abilities cooperatively, but I couldn't experience the game's true potential when playing against a single opponent.

Dark Vale Games recently launched a Kickstarter for Forge, but as illustrated by my experience with the game, the fundraising effort is more about revenue to complete the game and provide additional content, rather than the entirety of development. The lowest ($15) donation tier is basically a digital pre-order, but there are plenty of other goodies for those interested in donating more.

Forge is expected to be ready for a PC release sometime this year, with the possibility of additional platforms somewhere down the road.