Forced Showdown is a game that combines card collecting, deck building, enemy killing, and hero abilities all into one neat package. The problem with throwing so many ingredients together is that there are so many cliches associated with it. Jack of all trades, master of none, for example. Oooh, or “it’s too big for its britches,” that’s a good one.
Anyway, Showdown does a lot of things, but none of them particularly well.
Forced Showdown (PC)
Release Date: March 29. 2016
At first, Forced Showdown felt a little overwhelming, but quickly settled into a comfortable pace. Without any real direction, players choose a character (only one is available from the start) and are thrown into a hub area to start fighting in mini-arenas. This all happens quickly and, again, without any tutorial-ization. I wasn’t even sure if I was in the main game mode or not, since the main menu UI is somehow both simple and confusing.
Regardless, it’s very easy to put all the pieces together. Players take the role of a character in some sort of spectator event, and are tasked to kill all enemies in an arena before moving on to the next. The player also has a deck of cards that they draw from with upgrades and useable items to make arenas a little easier. At the beginning of each arena, players draw and can play cards from their hand. Each card has a mana cost associated with it, and the player’s useable mana goes up each turn.
The card elements are Hearthstone-esque, if that helps to understand it. The gameplay itself is very straightforward: each of the four characters has a handful of cooldown-restricted abilities to use to dispatch the enemies, plus a basic attack and the aforementioned cards. Arenas are super small, some taking less than 30 seconds to complete. At the end of the chain of arenas is a boss arena.
There are only four playable characters, but to the game’s credit they all feel very unique. Accompanied with that is the feeling that certain characters are way better than others. Now, I have no idea if that’s true and I doubt there’s any serious balance issues, but I kept to one character pretty much the entire time. I had a huge lack of success with two of the characters, and the fourth I saw as completely boring to play as. So, I went with the guy with a giant lava hammer and never really strayed.
The game is split into three campaigns, each designed the same way. Players choose two sets of arenas to play through, each with a unique set of modifiers that change the rules a little bit. After completing those two, a third unlocks that allows further progression. This is repeated ad nausea throughout the three campaigns. If you aren’t a fan of the gameplay, you may as well stop early because it never changes.
My biggest gripe with Showdown is just how repetitive it feels. Many developers do a good job of making a game that is repetitive in nature not feel like the same thing is being done over and over again. The arena modifiers are a step in the right direction, but most of the time those modifiers feel negligible. As they stack on to each other things get a little more zany, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling of déjà vu.
Perhaps a big contributing factor is the lack of variety within the enemies themselves. Campaigns introduce some new enemy types, but when a single campaign consists of nine sets of arenas, each of those containing seven sub-arenas, plus the fact that you’re apt to die a handful of times which resets your campaign progress, things feel a little stale. Dying near the end of the campaign rarely inspired me to re-think my approach and excitedly jump into my next run, but instead inspired me to stop and return to the game at a later date.
The deck-building aspect was surprisingly my favorite part. I’ve never been much of a deck builder, but Showdown‘s approach is very simple and easy to experiment with. After playing for a while, I realized that I never much used the consumable item cards, which were temporary, and instead favored the permanent upgrades. So I went into the deck builder and made a deck that didn’t include any!
New cards can be obtained by spending gold, acquired through playthroughs, and spinning a wheel to get a random card. Since the mechanics are very simple to grasp, new cards and their interactions will immediately make sense to most players. The downside to this is that everything feels a bit shallow; those looking for a deep and complex game will not find it here. Yes, there are many mechanics at play, but none of them are fleshed out very much.
Forced Showdown is a game that left very little impact on me. I played it, it was a game, and I understood every part of it. The parts come together nicely, but aren’t mechanically deep at all. Combat is simple, even with the card system at play, the structure is extremely repetitive, and everything else just falls in line around that. It has been getting very frequent updates, which is great, but unfortunately the base game needs more than just patches to really stand out.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]