Let me start by saying that I am stoked to be writing for this site. I’ve always been very passionate about games, spending countless hours with friends debating which console we preferred, what our favourite games were and staying up until the early hours of the morning playing ridiculous multiplayer games. Now I aim to channel some of that passion into writing about the games I’ve loved my entire life.
After another successful Kickstarter BetaDwarf’s back with Forced Showdown, a ‘roguelike’, ‘deck-building’, ‘twin-stick shooter’ curiosity of a game.
The premise is that you are a contestant in a galactic game show run by a robot, not dissimilar to Smash TV, an arcade game from the 90s. Right off the bat it’s easy to see Forced Showdown has taken influence from a number of Blizzard games; combat akin to the Diablo series, bright, colourful graphics similar in style to Heroes of the Storm and a deck-building, card-battling system not unlike Hearthstone. This is possibly the game’s biggest weakness for although none of these elements work particularly poorly, none of it feels quite as precise and well-thought out as the games they take reference from.
The main game is made up of three campaigns or ‘programs’ (the idea being that each one is a separate TV show, complete with ‘posters’ and fake promo quotes used to select which campaign you want to play). Initially you only have access to the first program but you will unlock the other two as you play. There are four ‘Champions’ to choose from and three ‘Companions’, the Champion being your player-controlled avatar and your Companion an AI-controlled little chappy who will attack enemies and provide various bonuses. They all have different playstyles and abilities though, again, at first you will only have access to one of each.
Within each campaign you must fight your way through chambers of randomised battles in order to reach the end boss. A battle is made up of eight randomly generated ‘arenas’ in which you have to eliminate all enemies with a red health bar (the yellow ones are optional), before fighting a fairly tough boss at the end.
The deck-building portion of the game comes into play at the beginning of each arena, during a ‘card phase’. You start a battle with four random cards from your deck but you’re given the option to re-draw any of them or keep the ones you have if you’d prefer.
There are 3 types of cards; Upgrades, Consumables and Spells. Upgrades give you some kind of permanent boost to your stats or abilities for the duration of the battle. Consumables do exactly what they say on the tin; they can be used with a button press at any time to restore health, summon minions and more. Spells can heal you or activate temporary boosts among others and are used up instantly upon playing the card.
Playing a card costs mana. At the start of a battle you have just one mana in your pool so you won’t have many options for which cards to play. Each arena you complete gives you one more mana to play with and thus more options for cards. You also draw one more card from your deck at the start of each arena. You can play as many cards as you have mana.
The game’s controls work well, with either mouse & keyboard or controller setups. Though menu navigation using a controller can be tedious as you are Forced (I’ll stop doing that) to move a cursor around the screen with the control stick, a strange choice in my opinion.
Visually the game is very attractive with lots of bright colours and special effects, though there isn’t a whole lot of variation or originality in the environments or enemies. The Champions, Companions and Bosses make for some decent character design but nothing that stands out as being particularly unique or memorable.
All in all the game is pretty fun if not a little repetitive and, at times, frustratingly difficult. What really bogs the game down is a lack of any meaningful progression. After you have finished the 3 campaigns, you can return to them in order to complete “Quests”, which unlock the other Champions, Companions, different skins and other such rewards. You can also play in Season mode which is, for all intents and purposes, just a leader board.
Death is harsh, like most roguelike games, causing you to have to start the program from the very beginning and lose any and all ‘boons’ (upgrades acquired by gaining points and defeating bosses) you may have received. This can be a little frustrating and has definitely made me ‘rage quit’ and walk away from the game for a while on more than one occasion!
You can also acquire new cards by spending coins won from battles at the “Wheel of Fortune”. One spin of the wheel costs 100 coins and will net you a card of random quality or possibly more coins, allowing more spins. The trouble with this is, it’s not very interesting. Whereas other card-based games such as Blizzard’s Hearthstone give you a pack of cards, spinning the wheel to receive just one feels a little underwhelming. It lacks the excitement of flipping over multiple cards from a pack, hoping one of them is what you’re looking for or you’ve got an interesting Rare.
On top of that, I didn’t really feel the need to modify or improve my deck much beyond the starter one. The lack of a competitive PvP mode and low enemy variation means there’s little incentive to care about your deck too much.
Before Forced Showdown was released, BetaDwarf ran a campaign via video games live streaming website Twitch.tv. This allowed people to decide the release day discount the game would receive on Steam simply by watching others play pre-release versions of the game. The more time people spent watching, the higher the discount would become (the final result being a fairly decent 12% discount). Post-release they are continuing with the Twitch integration (which you can follow here) in much the same way, allowing the community to unlock rewards (such as skins, cards and stream overlays) for everyone to use.
It almost feels like BetaDwarf wanted to push Forced Showdown into becoming an esport. The trouble is, it lacks that competitive aspect that makes other esports interesting to watch as well as play. An online leader board isn’t really enough to keep an esport scene alive.
If you’re a fan of ARPG-type games like Diablo and can’t stop collecting cards and building decks in Hearthstone, I’d definitely recommend giving Forced Showdown a go. Combat is fun and challenging and the bright, colourful visuals make the game a joy to look at. Available on Steam, I’d say the game is definitely worth giving a go. BetaDwarf have my attention after hearing their story and playing this game and I’m eager to see what they can bring to the table in future.