Most online fantasy games have important Player versus Player segments but it’s rare for a purely PvP game to be set in a fantasy world. San Diego-based Dark Vale have stepped in to fill that void with their new PvP area fighter Forge, though they almost didn’t make it.The game was originally one of many Kickstarter projects that fell short of its goal. Luckily for Dark Vale, players decided this was a game they wanted to see, and the game was approved for Steam Greenlight. Was the game worth saving? Find out after the jump!

[singlepic id=10262 w=320 h=240 float=left]Looking at the fantasy setting, you might be tempted to think that Forge is a MOBA like League of Legends or Defense of the Ancients, but you’d be dead wrong. At it’s heart, Forge shares more in common with Unreal or Team Fortress 2, but it does pay heavy homage to it’s MMO roots by mixing in very useful abilities for each class. The action in Forge is frenetic, and the maps are just the right size that you never feel too far from the action.

Central to Forge are the five different classes: stealthy Assassins, inhuman Pyromancers, stout Wardens, magical Shamans, and wild Pathfinders. Each class has its own unique abilities, ranging from the Assassin’s stunning melee attacks to the Warden’s whirling shield bash, and all the classes feel unique to play. I found I favored the skull-helmed Pathfinder, who mixes a bit of control with high damage output.[singlepic id=10265 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Once you’ve been in the game a bit, you’ll have the ability to progress in your preferred class by buying levels. You don’t have to pay cash for the levels, but rather use in-game experience. One interesting aspect is that instead of being given a massive buff at each new level, you’re given a choice to modify your armor, mana or speed in favor of another stat. You might chose to sacrifice a bit of mana for an extra 40 points of armor, for example. The classes themselves are generally well-implemented, but at the moment there are a few issues with balance. A good Shaman will completely unhinge a match, with one side completely dominating the other, and Wardens aren’t as fun to play as the other class—I rarely saw more than one Warden every 5 matches or so.

[singlepic id=10264 w=320 h=240 float=left]Forge isn’t a wonder, from an audio-visual standpoint, but it is very good.  I tended to keep the graphics at medium quality to maintain higher frame rates with a higher visual quality, but even on lower settings the game looks just fine. Locations are particularly nice–one map features dark dwarven caves that I really enjoyed gawking at. There were a few graphical glitches, but nothing game breaking—I never had issues with crashes.

The classes are visually distinct, with each being given a specific color palette—Warden abilities and armor are a golden white, for example, while Pyromancers favor red and orange.  The graphical attempts for each ability are vividly colorful, and when combined with the busy UI, they tend to clutter up the screen.

The game has some serviceable audio cues as well—you’ll find yourself listening intently for the clash of an Assassin uncloaking, or the loud click of a Pathfinder’s traps. Forge has a score, but it’s fairly generic, and I rarely noticed it over the sounds of the battles.

[singlepic id=10261 w=320 h=240 float=right]While the action in the matches is fast and visceral, the rest of the package really lacking in some features you’d expect in this type of game. There aren’t very many game modes at this time—simply Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and a more competitive Arena mode. According to Dark Vale, ladder and ranked matches are in the pipeline, but the lack of any measurable competitive play is a bit disappointing, considering Forge’s heavy PvP focus.

It can be a bit of a struggle getting into a match.  The only way to join a game is to use the quickplay option, which drops you into a random game, which when combined with the lack of ranking, means you’re likely to get dropped into a match against people of vastly different skill levels. Social tools are also lacking—there are no guilds, and no way to host a private game, for example. All of these features are expected to be implemented in the future, but it’s still a bit disappointing—I’d be more willing to forgive these omissions in a Free-to-play game, but Forge will run you 20 dollars.

[singlepic id=10266 w=320 h=240 float=left]The community in this game is really pleasant—which is good because it’s small enough that you’ll be meeting the same people fairly often. I can think of a few players I ran into several times in several different games, as well as finding them on Forge’s message boards.  The forums are always buzzing with discussions about balance and strategy, so if you’re looking for an active gaming community, you might want to check it out.

All in all, Forge’s frenetic gameplay, innovative concept, and active community make up for the lackluster feature list—but just barely. The mixture of MMORPG and FPS is almost exactly right, and there’s enough strategy to really keep you invested if you can find a good team, or you can wait for ranked matches to be implemented. At the moment, I’d advise against paying full retail, but if you see this game on sale, or you’re reading this after more features go online, you’d do well to give Forge a shot.