Forced clearly brings back the memories of a number of PC based action role-playing games.

The graphical style, the isometric view, the fantasy theme; everyone remembers titles like Diablo 3 and Torchlight, but Forced is different in its nature. This is indeed an action RPG but is instead based in a number of arenas in which, either alone or with up to four players in co-op, you have to beat a series of increasingly powerful enemies using not only strength but also the ability to solve puzzles.

Cooperation is absolutely essential, and if you don’t have an additional controller or an Xbox Live friend who also has the game, then you’ll be in serious trouble. There is also the possibility to join a random multiplayer game but as far as I’ve tried that’s pretty impossible to achieve. I’ve tried it, and tried it, and tried it, never being able to join random games.

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Forced itself can be quite a challenge with friends, and almost impossible to play alone, especially since all the enemies only direct to a single player. The lack of a dodge ability also makes the task even harder.

Each player gets the choice of one of the four weapons on offer at the start of every arena. There is the Volcanic Hammer that turns the player into the classic barbarian, capable of inflicting considerable damage from close range, caring little about tactics and defense. Then there is the Arch of Storms, which creates a tactical and defensive character, aiming with ranged attacks and working as a support to their peers. The third option is the Shield Ice Cream, which is a cross between frontal attacks and close ups together, with the ability to freeze and slow down enemies; in this case providing excellent support to the comrades without giving up considerable damage. Finally, we find the intriguing Claws of the Spirit, which are daggers usable at very high speeds concentrating on devastating combos, and creating a character with a ton of abilities.

Combining skill classes is important because different situations require different tactical game approaches. Some enemies surround allies, others, who shoot from distance, trap all who dare to inhabit the battlefield – for every situation there is an ideal class. Completing the various levels and their (even more difficult) challenges, earns you crystals, which effectively replaces a system of levels and experience to gain. The greater the number of objectives completed, the deeper the customisation you can do to the characters, adding passive skills in order to enhance the player and take it to a variety of characterisation. You can build a very interesting variation with the Claws of the Spirit, for example, making sure that almost all of the fast blows inflicted is stronger than the previous one, thus creating exceptional combos capable of doing damage in the long run.

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I’ve mentioned the puzzles, and now I must mention Balfus, a spirit guide controllable by all players. This funny character (which, in fact, is nothing but a speaking ball of light) can be called by any player, thus making him cross the arena depending on where it is and who is calling. In the arenas there are certain objects that are activated just by the passage of Balfus, and calling it in to the right place allows us to enable traps, healing springs and solve key elements of the puzzles while fighters are struggling with the waves of monsters. By the way, speaking of the fighting, a peculiarity of Forced is that these do not occur with a system of hooking targets as usually happens in the action RPG on consoles, but with a manual aim reminiscent of the good old twin-stick shooters, with the character’s movement managed with the left analog and aim taking place with the right.

The campaign consists of 25 levels of increasing difficulty and a decent variety of classes. The ability to obtain additional crystals by completing the optional challenges and checking out the global leaderboards makes Forced very re-playable, but that’s not all. There is also a Survival mode where players find themselves in arenas similar to those seen in the campaign, but needing to survive longer, taking care not to exceed a certain number of enemies on screen, else the pain of defeat will be felt. This also provides more gems, contributing to the evolution of the characters.

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Forced is a very valid action-RPG where either alone, or in cooperative modes (local and online), the player can face a number of arenas packed with enemies, traps and puzzles to solve. The class system is intriguing though not very deep, but the variety of game situations is remarkable, with the amount of content included being more than satisfactory. It is quite possibly one of the best cooperative RPGs currently in circulation.

The same can not be said, however of the single player. A game fully focused on the multiplayer experience, it becomes almost impossible to deal with after the first few solo levels, thus forcing buyers to obtain a fellow traveler in order to continue. The gameplay is also a bit simplistic, but if you are looking for a cooperative game that offers a good level of challenge and content, Forced is a prominent candidate.

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