☆ Review: The Forbidden Arts - "Could Someone help these guys make a new trailer?" ☆ #IndieGame

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After my editor sends me a game to review, I usually start by watching the trailer, a short clip of video that is designed to build hype and show off some of the best parts of the game, but the most exciting thing about that was the burning Steam logo at the end. 
That trailer did nothing for me, and I hate that, because that is no way to go into a game, especially one that is unfinished and needs a bit of an open mind.  
The Forbidden Arts is thankfully a straightforward game: an action-adventure platformer with a simple button scheme and a good dose of ambition, but this work in progress from Stingbot Games seems to have a long road ahead still, so this is more like a dry first impression.

The game is set in a high fantasy world and their site boasts a huge lore to go with that, but at first glance it simply seems like a watered down version of The Last Airbender. It puts the player in control of a young man named Phoenix, because of course, he’s a pyromancer, in a world of several other types of mancy-suffixed powers and it only takes one conversation with a druid to send him on quite the adventure. 
The setup feels a bit generic, enemy design is standard and unimpressive, but there were thankfully a few other things to arouse my attention. The sound at the beginning seems fine, fitting, and even a little bit inspired with the sound effects—other than a few awkward ones that I honestly think were placeholders that just haven’t been replaced yet—and all of that feels cohesive until it comes to a screeching halt. Some sections, mostly in the main gameplay portions, don’t have music and it takes me out of the game more than I thought it would. The soundtrack is on the right path, but feels unfinished and in need of some dynamic notes to stand out.

That last statement applies to the visuals as well. The graphics are fine for the most part with an interesting perspective to imitate depth in a 2D game, with backgrounds that repeat a lot but are quite colorful while everything blends well in a smooth environment that could use some shadow and clutter. 
It’s all visually appealing and trying for its own style, but still missing something; a nice coat of paint that may chip under scrutiny. There is an overworld also, one that is in 3D. It looks fine, if not a little bare, but the controls are a tad jerky and I immediately drowned and couldn’t do shit about the annoyance that I left in my heart. It isn’t just a pride thing, partially the surprised / offended I couldn’t swim. It felt as if the game attacked me personally. I made sure to avoid the water, the spikes, and still managed to die a lot exploring. 
The game tries to put an emphasis on exploration and discovery, mostly to find gold or shortcuts. This isn’t too bad in the overworld, but where the main levels are concerned, I don’t feel the desire to search every hallway, but more just feel lost until I stumble onto the exit.

It is easy to die in this world, and not just in the numerous death pits. Missing an attack can sometimes be a death sentence, as in the beginning Phoenix is easily one and two-shotted, and falling on top of an enemy almost surely means death, and each lost life means starting over a ways back. 
Hit detection feels off, but that is a small thing when the pacing of the combat isn’t doing it for me. To not get hit and risk death from one fatal blow, the player needs to wait on the enemies and learn how to attack without risking counterstrikes, but not in the same sense as something like Dark Souls
Here, the satisfaction of slaying an enemy is weak, and victory feels the payoff is light all around. Controls felt solid at first, minus some small input delay at times, but the platforming itself, specifically the jumping, makes this questionable. The double jump after leaping onto a wall is cool but doesn’t feel consistent, making it easy to die or slip once and have to start the climb all over. This is assuming the player can see where they are going, as some leaps are trial and error, ending in a pit of spikes or thorns. 
There are ways to increase the life bar, new abilities using magic, and other ways to augment your character, but I actually think all of that comes a bit slowly in the experience, making it easy to be distracted by anything else. 

I said that the game was a bit ambitious and it is easy to see that they wanted to do a lot without making it too complex, but I wonder if it tried too hard to be a lot of different things and because it is still in beta at best, there hasn’t been enough focus on core concepts yet. 
The gap between the 2D levels and 3D overworld sticks out, and both need more interactivity. I’m trying to remind myself that it is still in early access, but it also just isn’t fun enough for me to continue. 
At $9.99 on Steam, this might not be worth it to most, and may need to spend some more time in the oven for others. It does seem the developers are listening to their fans and working on improving the experience. If nothing else, this deserves a look back in a while to see what has been improved on. 
Meanwhile, could someone help make these guys a new trailer? That’s not forbidden, is it?

Format Reviewed: PC
Dev Link: StingBot Games
Game Link: Steam
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

 Review By Wilds

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