2021 has been such an incredible year for games, it feels like there has been an abundant amount of unique and interesting stories and experiences to be enjoyed. Just given the quantity it feels like a lot of the smaller published ones are slipping under the radar for a lot of people. This makes sense given Covid and the state of the world but there’s a huge amount of indie games to enjoy. After a few clips of gameplay showing what to expect, The Forgotten City did seem intriguing. It’s a rarity these days for a story to be told in a Roman setting as an adventure game that isn’t action focused and constantly requiring excessive amounts of violence and murder. The Forgotten City is definitely a unique experience in story telling so it’s time to remove any spoilers and jump into a portal to do the time warp again!
The Forgotten City is a first person adventure game where you’ll be walking around a small city of unique characters and trying to escape without breaking ‘The Golden Rule’. “The many shall suffer for the sins of the one” is the ethos of the golden rule and this essentially means any stealing, threatening, murdering or direct cheating will result in numerous golden archers murdering everyone. When this occurs you have enough time to run back to a created portal that loops you back to an earlier moment in time. What caused the golden rule? Why can’t anyone escape? What is really going on? These are all questions you’ll be answering through the loops.
What makes the time loop mechanic so incredibly enjoyable is the ability to not only keep anything you take through the portal but the dialogue choices evolve drastically as you progress. Given the majority of your time in The Forgotten City is spent talking to npcs this changing dialogue as you progress is intoxicating. You’ll start off simply chatting to learn who they are and what the day will entail and end it by manipulating people and changing events for the better or worse. A lot of the best moments come simply from knowing a secret about someone before you talk to them, watching them react to your knowledge and seeing how it plays out. You can be as ethical as you like with your choices and they really do make a difference.
As a first person game there are a few combat moments that are very reminiscent of an indie horror title but these are thankfully few and far between. You will need to rely on your crosshair from time to time but without being too specific these moments are pretty forgiving. Surviving was simply a case of progressing through the linear path and using the environment to your best advantage. The Forgotten City also asks you to roughly create a character when you start and the inclusion of a gun by playing as a covert military player drastically changes the way you’ll interact with the city. I highly recommend skipping it for your first playthrough as you’ll too be busy running, jumping and ziplining to need it.
I’ve been purposefully vague about the story in The Forgotten City and there’s a reason for that. The start of the game begins with a nice forward from the small team of developers that asks content creators to not spoil past the opening hours and I agree with them. A lot of the choices made throughout The Forgotten City are unique to you and although you could watch a lets play the personal feeling of choices making an impact is absolutely cracking and worth experiencing for yourself to the end. The difficulty with the survival parts isn’t something that will tax anyone who’s played a fps in the last few years and you can get through to the multiple endings simply by using logic and perseverance.
There’s a little jank to be had in The Forgotten City. If you talk to an npc facing away from you, they’ll have to take two steps to face you and the pathfinding for them can be a little wonky at times. There’s nothing game-breaking but there are little immersion breaking things from time to time. Visually The Forgotten City is incredibly stunning. There are so many moments early on in the city where you’ll stop and look around in wonder. The actors are impressively modelled and there’s just enough stylisation where they avoid the uncanny-valley some adventure games struggle with. It’s not perfect for screenshots but the motion and animated movements are natural feeling for the most part. The text is easy to read and the subtitling is fantastic although it’s a shame some of the Latin swearing is kept in Latin. From the menus tracking your quests to usable items everything has a nice level of polish and flair.
For a game packed with dialogue and atmosphere The Forgotten City has some incredible acting. There’s a little Doctor Who at work with everyone speaking English but this is quickly explained and the accents and actors are fantastic throughout. It explains a lot of Roman culture through the writing and storytelling but also there’s a lot more to dig into here (that I won’t spell out for spoiler reasons) There are 4 endings and The Forgotten City is another good example of a game that uses achievements as a pointer to little extra side moments you might have missed. The endings are cleverly signposted in dialogue throughout The Forgotten City and it even adapts if you see one before another.
There are a few moments in The Forgotten City where it can feel like you’re running around in circles. When you go exploring in the caves, it can feel a little too dark and a little too twisty. The torchlight provided from the start was essentially redundant as it was far too focused on a small circle of light and I ended up relying on the torches and sun without any problems. There can be the occasional hiccups with dialogue options although these were few and far between and it’s a good reminder to save before trying any big events. The Forgotten City telegraphs the big events incredibly well and you’ll know when you’re about to head off for a linear survival moment or get into an important scene with enough time to save.
I’ve heard there were a few performance issues on launch on the PC version but I didn’t encounter any on the Series X. The Forgotten City has been such a delight to get immersed into. The twists and turns throughout had me saving and loading often just to see every fantastic line of dialogue to be had. The endings were all worth seeing and the ‘bad ending’ had me cackling with laughter like a super villain who’d just doomed the world. The most surprising aspect of The Forgotten City is how just when you think you’ve seen everything, you’ll have a conversation with someone and open up a new path of ideas and interactions. Even after the incredible ‘true ending’ I was firing up the character creator to dive right back in.
8/10 – Don’t forget this city, it’s gold