Is Halo 5's new Forge Mode worth your time?

Halo 5's map editor has more possibilities, and a more accessible design, than any other iteration in the series.

Gaming

There's not much you can't control in Halo 5: Guardians' Forge mode. The newest iteration of the multiplayer map editor has more creation tools on every level, from structural parts to environmental tiles, dynamic lighting to weather effects. You can even change the wind direction.

"We really want to give you as many options as possible, and we want to make the process faster and more fluid," design director Tom French said during a recent demo. "Halo's shooting controls were always great, but Forge sometimes felt clunky."

So the challenge is twofold: give players more options, but make them easier to use. Considering Forge's complexity, this is easier said than done.

In Halo 4, French said there were a few hundred Forge objects. In Halo 5, it's shipping with about 1,700. And players don't just build maps. They can change how levels function on a minute level. This means designing buildings, sifting through extensive menus and making the slightest alterations to spawn points or weapon locations.

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The new Forge has numerous visual cues to increase accessibility.

343 Industries

French and his team implemented numerous changes to Forge's interface and control scheme to increase its ease of use. Some of these are obvious, such as relegating major commands to the shoulder bumpers. Others are more subtle: objects now have in-game visual cues. Man Cannons, for instance, display a translucent, parabolic line to indicate how far they'll launch players during multiplayer matches. This eliminates the tedious process of entering Preview Mode every time you need to test an alteration.

If all goes according to plan, players who devote the time to crafting Halo 5 maps should have the means to do so more efficiently.

"We made big changes, but there are also little enhancements to let the user know what's going on," French said. "It was important for us to make everything as understandable and relatable as possible. [343] used Forge so much that we built tools to make it easier for ourselves, and now the community can use them as well."

To demonstrate the changes, French selected a massive arctic terrain set called Glacier during the demo. This is one of four available at launch, the others being the American Pacific Northwest-inspired Alpine, the cyberpunk tiles of Breakout, and the outer-space vacuum of Parallax.

These landscapes are big enough to house three or four individual maps within them, French said, but Forge imposes certain limits in the interest of maintaining good performance during multiplayer matches. So in order to narrow focus, he chose a smaller portion of the larger Glacier tileset on which to break ground.

In about 40 minutes, he had created a small map, and shown us how many small touches make Forge more accessible: objects magnetize to each other at crucial junctions. An invisible grid allows for adjustments over a matter of inches. Objects can be formed into groups, and transported in bulk. French designed this base in about half the time it would have taken to construct in Halo 4.

French also dove into Forge's scripting options. These allow for more nuanced item functionality, such as doors opening and closing, or switches activating a distant object. Scripting leads to fan-created modes such as Griffball -- where Spartans play soccer with giant Gravity Hammers -- or Breakout, where players must help their teammates escape from jail cells before fighting.

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One of four available terrain sets.

343 Industries

There are more subtle touches as well, things players can use to create a better sense of place: French placed a spark effect on a nearby wall, then applied a greenish, hazy filter to the entire screen. In only minutes, he had transformed his arctic landscape into an abandoned post-apocalyptic factory a la Fallout 3.

"We really want to foster creativity," French said. "Forge has always been about control, but with Halo 5, we want to make the tools easier to use. Our Big Team Battle maps are spawning from Forge, and we have talented people who devote a lot of time to making great maps in the Halo world. We're hoping we can push that community even more now."

343 Industries is releasing this new Forge mode with the free Cartographer's Gift DLC next week. The pack also includes the Battle of Noctus warzone map, as well as three new arena maps, each of which were created in Halo 5's new multiplayer level editor.

As of now, it seems as if 343 has accomplished both of its Forge design goals: there are more options than ever, and from what French showed us during the demo, the mechanics are more accessible as well. Forge has always been about creativity, and community, and its newest iteration could foster both as we move into a new year.

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