The Forgotten City - Review Roundup
Here are some reviews for the recently released RPG The Forgotten City.
To delve too deeply into the characters you meet or their particular needs would be to spoil the fun of discovery, but along the way, there are thoughtful questions about morality and culture that juxtapose ancient Roman beliefs about slavery or the role of women, for example, against present-day thinking and current conflicts. While to some extent, each of the characters’ specific quests or situations reflect a philosophical, ethical or moral dilemma, the subtext isn’t too heavy-handed. Structurally, the game is clever amalgam of Roman myth and modern references. The repeating yet increasingly wise progression of time in Groundhog Day comes to mind, but of course, it could be said that The Forgotten City is a roguelike in disguise.
One drawback while playing through is that The Forgotten City doesn’t keep a great record of your objectives and information. While you’ll have a quest guide that walks you through your next steps, it is often missing vital information that you heard from a character, and the only way of regaining that information is to run through the same dialogue again. It's no problem for anyone with a scrap of paper or phone to hand, but it feels like the quest system could be a little more intuitive, especially when players are just getting their bearings.
Those familiar with Outer Wilds will have a very reminiscent experience here. Instead of zooming through space, transcribing ancient alien text and manipulating gravity though, you’ll be chatting with people and tending to their woes with smaller moments of combat scattered throughout. Solving these problems, and exploring and deducing from the evidence you find are inextricably linked in a way that makes the entire game feel like one large puzzle that begs to be solved. Cunningness and creativity will be required in learning someone’s story and all of its potential outcomes to then ultimately manipulate events to get your desired result. Like Outer Wilds, there’s also that fun element of accidentally stumbling into an answer for a different quest that completely changes your immediate goals.
Clearly The Forgotten City is a game that speaks to those who revel in conversation. Those RPG fans who’d prefer not to fight or lash out, but converse and take a more steady, expository approach to finding a solution. It’s no exaggeration to say that the mythos Modern Storyteller both utilize and borrow from here is both surprising and satisfying with where it ends up heading. And while the narrative’s conclusion can come off too immersion-breaking or plain ridiculous for one’s taste, the caliber of writing for the most part is no less impressive for a game of this physical scale. The presence of its time-loop premise may fall too far back into the shadow, but as minimal its influence on moment-to-moment gameplay may be, the consolation is that it allows the writing to rightly take center stage. Its momentary combat segments are woeful in their implementation and there’s always a worry that another annoying bug or two can crop up when you least expect it. But for all its occasional grievances — that don’t add up to too much — it’s the intriguing mystery as much the appeal of its investigative leads across many a conversation where the strengths of The Forgotten City end up standing out most of all.
In case you do turn all your suspects to gold, The Forgotten City makes genius use of a time loop mechanic to keep your investigation going smoothly. Every time you break the Golden Rule by, say, killing somebody or stealing an item, you must run back to the starting portal and begin the day anew. The world resets to its original state but you keep everything in your inventory, allowing tangible progress from day-to-day and leading to some interesting conversations, such as how you know a character is about to do something or how you have a certain item in your possession that you couldn’t possibly have without stealing it.
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.
I will say that the bits of action that make up The Forgotten City are not great. Any time I fired a weapon or engaged in combat, it somehow felt sluggish and weighty. That obviously has a fair bit to do with being built around a game that was made in 2011, but there really isn’t much of an excuse for a 2021 game to feel as awkward as this game sometimes does.
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