In 2017, Sonic Team released Sonic Forces which many dubbed as one of the weaker entries the Sonic series has offered and a step backwards in the progression of the franchise as a whole. I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for its proximity to the critically acclaimed Sonic Mania(both in terms of release date and story), then general audiences would see it in a more positive light. Today I will tell you why Sonic Forces is not only an excellent modern Sonic game but a return to form after several years of stagnation.
For the first time in the series, players can create their own avatar from a choice of six different anthropomorphic species all with their own strengths. From the hedgehog’s double jump to the wolves ability to draw nearby rings to them, there’s sufficient reason to go with a particular animal beyond aesthetic. The depth of these original characters becomes apparent when you consider the new weapon-based playstyle revolving around the Wispons. These are equipped before the stage and can offer a markedly different experience depending on the stage and Wispon combination. For example, in Arsenal Pyramid if you select the lightning Wispon you can essentially skip most of the combat section of the stage if you successfully chain lightning attacks and lightspeed dashes through the interior of the pyramid. Utilising Wispons in this manner encourages the player to try out different combinations to try and find the most efficient way through the stage for the best possible time.
Many of the complaints made towards Forces are aimed at its short length and how despite there being over 50 stages the game is beatable in just under four hours. Although, despite its short levels and the absence of the traditional act structure, Forces offers plenty of level variety with its three different play styles and multiple objectives to complete. Firstly, available on your first run of the stage are the red star rings. These collectables introduced in Colours are hidden in different routes of the stage and require both knowledge of the sequences in the stages and execution, and will require multiple playthroughs to find. Once you have collected these rings, they will unlock the numbered rings and the moon rings, which need to be collected in a certain order and within a time limit respectively.
These are not just filler though, collecting them will unlock new bonus levels as well as help with your knowledge of the stage layouts that will help towards the biggest challenge this game has to offer: the time challenges. You will no doubt get some of these challenges ticked off as you play through the stages to find collectables but some of the stages require expert knowledge and a lot of trial and error to get within the insanely low times the developers want you to hit. This plays at the core strength of the Sonic games— replayability and the desire to improve your time and efficiency as you speed through the stages. As well as honing your skills, the red star rings will also unlock EX challenges which are remixed stages for you to try and hit an S Rank on too.
Forces is not perfect, it leaves a lot to be desired. But between 2011 and 2017 the only modern Sonic games released were from the Boom series and Lost World which were a far cry from the quality that Unleashed, Colours and Generations brought to the series with the boost formula. I strongly believe that with more polish and work a sequel or successor to Forces can live up to the quality introduced in the early boost games without sacrificing what Forces brought to the series. And please, Sonic Team, leave Classic Sonic to Christian Whitehead and the Mania team, he does not need to be in every modern Sonic game and his inclusion in Forces brought some of the worst gameplay that the game has to offer.
While it’s easy for anyone on the internet to blast any new 3D Sonic entry with the mediocre label, it is important to remember that the fundamental goal of any game development is for the end user to have fun. On release, I played through Forces for a few weeks, completed everything the game had to offer and missed playing it afterwards. While I admit that Classic Sonic is by far the worst element of the game and that the level design could be better, Forces does provide a fun experience and should at least be tried before shaming it as bad as ’06. I believe that if it had not closely followed Mania then this entry would have been received more positively.
To conclude, Sonic Forces is a great game. It has its flaws and it makes up for them with a strong set of strengths, but there is a lot of work to do and fat to be trimmed in the next instalment to bring it up to the quality that we know that the team is capable of. Avatars should stay, but the writing and Classic Sonic need to go.