Review – The Forgotten City
I had the pleasure of playing The Forgotten City from Modern Storyteller in a preview build a couple months ago. I was absolutely blown away by it. Not only did it offer an intriguing premise, but everything from the writing, acting, soundtrack, and graphics were outstanding. It was one of the rare few games that I couldn’t put down once I’d started it. I can’t believe this whole project started out as a Skyrim mod!
The story for The Forgotten City starts off like many others… for about the first ten minutes or so. You are rescued by an unknown woman after she found you floating down a river and pulled you to safety. She asks you to help her find her colleague who went missing after investigating some ancient ruins. After following his trail, you stumble across the ruins yourself and are pulled into a strange portal.
It’s after this event that things start to take an unexpected turn. This portal casts you into a mysterious Roman city, set about two thousand years into the past. Even more curious is the fact that there are golden statues everywhere of people looking horrified or pleading for their lives. That’s when you learn about The Golden Rule: the sins of one will affect everyone.
While trying to figure out where you are or what is happening, you’ll uncover two facts right away. The first is that in The Forgotten City, there is no escape. The second is that if any one person breaks The Golden Rule (no killing, stealing, assault, etc.), then everyone will pay the price by being transformed into a golden statue forever. Think of it as a combination of the curses that plagued Medusa and King Midas.
Since no one has been able to uncover what’s going on, it’s up to you to find out what is causing this curse and how to escape it. The Forgotten City involves a lot of investigation and exploration in order to get to the bottom of things. To me, one of the most interesting aspects is that combat, for the most part, is somewhat optional. The Forgotten City encourages you to speak to everyone, carefully explore everywhere available, and think before you take action.
You can certainly choose to murder anyone you want, but doing so won’t get you very far. Every action has a consequence, so letting your murderous flag fly will only result in the punishment of The Golden Rule, i.e. everyone being turned into golden statues. If this occurs, you’ll have to enter the strange portal again that will take you back to when you first arrived there. In this regard it reminds me a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Even more so because certain story related items will still be in your inventory when you start the loop again. Specific storylines will require that you break The Golden Rule in order to complete them, but this just adds a strategic layer on how to approach each quest.
Just because The Forgotten City focuses more on thoroughly examining everything and speaking to everyone, doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of gameplay. As I stated previously, you can choose to engage in combat if you wish, but that’s not going to get you very far in the story. Instead, you’ll have to figure out connections between people and events in order to understand more of what’s happening. It’s also important to learn how to exploit the time-loop in order to help the people you’ll meet along the way and get past certain obstacles. Discovering all the different ways to utilize is the bulk of the fun.
I should mention that The Forgotten City is completely non-linear. You can pretty much go anywhere you want and speak to whomever you please. There are a few exceptions that won’t become available until after you’ve overcome some feat or helped someone in particular, but not many. This leads to an impeccable level of immersion the whole way through and is undoubtedly one of the reasons I became so hooked.
As is the case with many modern RPGs, you can choose your character’s sex, race, and backstory. Each option for your backstory comes with specific perks. For example, the Archaeologist has additional insight into the ancient world you’re trapped in. The Fugitive moves 25% faster while sprinting. The Soldier has a pistol, but with only ten bullets at your disposal your entire playthrough. Then there’s the Amnesiac who has a thickened skull that makes you 50% more impervious to damage. These perks might not seem that important at first, but I was shocked by how much they affected different aspects of the game. Choose wisely!
Since The Forgotten City started off as a Skyrim mod, anyone who has played that game will feel right at home with its visuals. Although, the graphics and animations in here are much more polished than what you would find in Skyrim. The facial animations in particular are much more realistic, albeit with some questionable lip syncing at times. The environments are highly detailed and feature some dynamic lighting effects as well. I did experience some pop-ins during my time with the preview build, but those issues have been ironed out for the launch build. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that it maintained a stable 60 fps at all times.
The sound design is outstanding. The sound effects are top notch, which is to be expected from a game based off of Skyrim. The voice acting was great all around as well, with many strong performances throughout the whole game. Then there’s the soundtrack, which is marvelous. The orchestral cinematic score creates the perfect blend of wonder, tension, and unease. It sets the tone for this dark mystery perfectly.
The Forgotten City is a game unlike any I’ve ever experienced before. I wasn’t kidding when I said I couldn’t put it down. Then I went back and played it again with a different character. I am truly shocked that this game was developed by only three people! The creative concept, smooth controls, clever time-looping mechanic, and stunning graphics are on par with the quality of work of some major studios. This game also has four different endings, so there is a lot of replayability here as well. But don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself. This is one game that cannot be forgotten.
Since this started off as a Skyrim mod, it’s clear to see that this is what the character models and environments were based off of. That being said, everything is much more polished than what you would find in Skyrim.
There isn’t a ton of combat (unless you really want to go that route), but what’s there feels competently done. The investigative and explorative nature of the game is where it shines brightest.
The sound design as a whole is fantastic. The sound effects are well done, the soundtrack creates a wonderful feeling of tension and unease, and there are strong vocal performances all throughout.
The Forgotten City is one of those games that hooks you with its mysteries and doesn’t let go until it’s over. Relying on investigation and exploration instead of straight combat makes this game stand apart from the rest.
Final Verdict: 9.0
The Forgotten City is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X .
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of The Forgotten City was provided by the publisher.