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Forced Showdown Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While far from perfect, BetaDward has taken a giant step in the right direction with Forced Showdown. This action-packed sequel rolls dungeon-crawling and card-collecting into one noisy roguelike. Unfortunately, the whole thing is undone by repetitive levels, cheap deaths and frustrating difficulty spikes. Rating: 57%
Forced Showdown
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  • Review Score:

  • C+
From Richard Dawson to Bob Eubanks, I've always been a big fan of television game shows. I love the buzzers, the wammies, the final rounds that give anybody a chance to come back; it's all captivating TV. So it probably shouldn't surprise you that I also love earning big money and prizes in video games, especially when it involves smashing the Mutoid Man in front of a "live" studio audience.

Given my penchant for game shows, I went into Forced Showdown with high expectations. It's a mix of dungeon-crawling and card-collecting, all presented through a roguelike being broadcast live for the whole world to see. It's a cool idea that gets a lot of the basics right, but random difficulty spikes and repetitive arenas keep this game show out of the Pleasure Dome.

As you may have gathered by the name, this is the follow-up to Forced, a Kickstarter success story that hit PC and consoles a few years ago. This brand new iteration builds on the theme in almost every way, working hard to integrate modern streaming functionality and connectivity to create a more fulfilling experience. All this works, for the most part. Developer BetaDwarf has turned a simple idea into something much more ambitious.

You play through a series of three campaigns, each with a set amount of worlds to complete. The idea is to jump into an arena and defeat eight waves of nasty enemies, including a tricky boss fight. If you can survive all this, you'll make it one step closer to completing the campaign and retiring a reality TV super star. But beware, dying will send you all the way back to the very beginning.

While the theme won't win any awards for originality, the card-collecting mechanic does help set Forced Showdown apart from similar games. Even before the battle begins, the player will assemble a hand of cards that will be used to improve character perks and performance in combat. Some cards are consumable and can only be used for a short time, while others are upgrades that will increase strength and give players more moves to work with.

Forced Showdown (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

In combat, we pull a random card before every wave. But don't think you can use all of the cards at once, because each one costs a certain amount of mana points. The player gains an extra mana point for every wave they complete, so card management quickly becomes a top priority. You'll also find that card collecting is incredibly important. So much of this game revolves around the concept of completing challenges and goals to discover new cards. And with plenty to unlock (and more coming soon), you'll be card collecting for a long time to come.

What you may not realize at first is that you're not the only player using cards to improve their character. As you begin to go up against more challenging opponents, you'll need to keep track of what kinds of cards they are playing. This can change the way you approach each fight or even what cards you choose, something that has real strategic ramifications the further in you get.

The core gameplay isn't nearly as deep as the card collecting, but does offer the four main characters several moves to cycle through. Beyond the basic attacks, each character has their own unique secondary skills, which can include everything from exploding everything around you or dashing through a bunch of hapless enemies. This helps mix things up a bit, but I do wish there was a little more to the gameplay.

Forced Showdown (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The four hero characters are large, menacing and, best of all, totally unique. While there are only four fighters to choose from, they do vary quite a bit. There's a good split between close- and long-range characters, and everybody seems to be balanced. Sadly, the limited selection of fighters does take its toll after a few hours. It would have been nice to see a little more variety in the mix, as well as real stories and character details.

To make matters worse, the player is accompanied by a companion character. While normally I love having a computer-controlled helper protecting me from taking cheap hits, the companions in Forced Showdown are too weak to do much good. They die almost immediately and actually make some challenges more difficult to complete. It's only when you amass an army of helpers that they become useful, and even that comes with a few drawbacks.

Of course, this just hints at the bigger problem -- Forced Showdown can go from beginner-level easy to rage-inducing difficult in the blink of an eye. Between the cheap hits coming from off-screen and the limited health drops, it's easy to lose a lot of progress because of circumstances not entirely in your control. And with so little variety between playthroughs, I had a hard time staying engaged after the countless frustrating defeats.

Forced Showdown (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Between the backgrounds, enemies and boss characters, you'll see everything repeated over and over as you attempt to unlock all of the cards. The procedurally generated arenas aren't enough to keep the levels from feeling stale after only a few hours. Worst of all, Forced Showdown doesn't do enough with the game show theme. We see hints of it here and there, but, like so much else in this game, it feels like they still have a ways to go before they truly nail the killer concept.

Despite these problems, there is a lot I like about Forced Showdown. I think the visuals are sharp and the hero designs are memorable. This game also offers intense boss fights, something missing from the similarly-themed Leap of Fate. And then there's the card collecting conceit, which will likely keep you going longer than the repetitive gameplay warrants. All of these elements should add up to a truly memorable action game, but Forced Showdown sent me home with the consolation prize.
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