10/01/2022

๐Ÿช™ The Forgotten City | Nintendo Switch | Review | 9/10 | "8-10 Hours of Adventure Mystery Romp" ๐Ÿช™ @ModnStoryteller #IndieGames #GameDev

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I’ll be honest, in the first few minutes I was worried that I really wasn’t going to like this game. And I was wrong, so gloriously and happily wrong. 

A little history: The Forgotten City started out life as one of Skyrim’s many mods, and it was successful. So successful in fact that the developers took the idea, built upon it, and fleshed it out into the standalone game I’m reviewing today, creating a gloriously designed Greco-Roman city, replete with fantastically written characters, period-accurate architecture, and a central gameplay mechanic that is simultaneously clever, fun, and educational (yeah, I know – they don’t go together often). 

I went into The Forgotten City completely blind, and I would recommend that you do the same. It’s hard to review a game like this one without some kind of spoilers, so if you’d like to get the absolute most out of it, stop reading after this statement: The Forgotten City is 8-10 hours of adventure mystery romp, driven by fantastically written and acted dialogue. Play it. 

Still here? Don’t say you weren’t warned. 

The game opens with you waking up next to a river, meeting an NPC (this was the bit that threw me. It was an interaction I thought felt stilted, but it all makes sense in the end), and then after a brief bit of character creation, you head into the ruins of an ancient city. The inhabitants of the city are forced to live under “The Golden Rule” which effectively translates to the popular teacher’s adage “And by doing that, you’ve just earned detention for the rest of the class”. Commit a crime, and everyone in the city dies. That isn’t the end though, as the rule and its consequences, in tandem with a time loop mechanic, form the core of the game. 

Visually, it’s beautiful. The city feels authentic and looks fantastic, with temples, an aqueduct, and various villas to explore. It really is stunning and well designed. Likewise, the characters are compelling, and that’s the standout part of the game. The writing is tight and feels real, with great voice acting employed to bring them very much to life - each character has their own issues to deal with, and if you’re going to solve the mystery and try to escape the city, you’re going to need to help them with the various issues that plague their lives, all of which contributes to the end goal of solving the mystery of the city, and escape. 

As the golden rule dictates that combat is basically forbidden, there isn’t much for you here if you’re looking to hack and slash your way out of the city. That’s not to say that you won’t need to enter combat at all, but you’ll need to do it in a smart way to take advantage of the time loop mechanic and move the story forward. 

Breaking the golden rule triggers the consequences for everyone, and crucially, the time loop. Golden statues dotted around the city come to life, gifting an agonising death to the roughly two-dozen inhabitants, and opening a portal. Passing through the portal resets the day, and your investigation can continue. Everyone in the city is reset, but you retain your inventory and experiences thus far – and this works to your advantage, allowing you to manipulate events in the right order to solve the underlying mystery of the game. 

The controls feel familiar and responsive (and smart, too – letting you follow an NPC with the push of a button so that you can focus on the dialogue), and there’s no real RPG stuff to worry about – no inventory management to speak of, no weapons to maintain or upgrade, and other than picking a gender and voice, no real character generation either. But none of this matters a jot.

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