The Forgotten City | PS4 Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
It's not often I find myself thinking this but The Forgotten City is a game that has an extensive history and lifespan before it even existed as its own stand-alone game. Initially, The Forgotten City, developed by Modern Storyteller and published by Dear Villagers, was a mod released for Skyrim which has had a whopping 3 million downloads and even picked up an award from the Australian Writers Guild in 2016. I've never known a mod to garner so much attention and hold such accolades so I had very high hopes for The Forgotten City and I absolutely wasn't disappointed. If this doesn't say everything about the game then I hope the rest of my review can convince you. For Skyrim fans, this was set in the Dwemer Ruins originally, however now that The Forgotten City has its own world, it is set in ancient Rome, displaying stunning architecture throughout allowing the player to really feel immersed in the stunning world displayed before us in The Forgotten City. Currently available on Windows PC, PlayStation, and XBox, with a Nintendo Switch released planned for the final quarter of 2021. For the purposes of my review I was playing The Forgotten City on the PlayStation 4.
There are many rules in life but none are quite as important as the 'Golden Rule' which states the following, "the many shall suffer for the sins of the one". The golden rule will become the main, vital part of The Forgotten City. This means you can't steal, kill or wrong anyone around the city otherwise everyone would be turned to gold forever. With this in mind you must progress with the task at hand - figuring out who is about to break the golden rule and prevent them from doing so. You have to use critical thinking to find loopholes in this law to figure out how to resolve situations and occasionally even deception to cause something to happen that would otherwise require you to break the golden rule. The Forgotten City is totally saturated in moral questions, philosophical debates and brain teasers to figure out how to proceed. I'm going to be keeping my review as spoiler free as possible because I absolutely adored this game and every event or conversation held so much significance that I hope everyone can experience them independently and appreciate them the way I did.
As I mentioned earlier, if you break the golden rule at any point you're turned to gold. The Forgotten City makes excellent use of a time loop mechanic where if you make a mistake and break the golden rule you must escape from the city and start a fresh loop at the very beginning of the day. This sounds like it would be tedious but it's not. It's actually done in a really intelligent way. For instance, if you have quest items in your inventory you still have these once you reset and slightly varied dialogue options become available with others once you "die" and return again. An example of this happened early on as I met a NPC that was in dire need of medicine and the only person who has this medicine is a bit of a con artist. Initially, I tried to steal it; I failed. Then I began negotiations with the seller and was then able to pass on the wisdom to the character in need. Later on, I "died" and began a fresh loop of the day and upon stumbling across this character again, I had unlocked new dialogue meaning I could pass on this wisdom of how to negotiate with the seller. This meant that despite the fact I was merely repeating one day over and over again, I wasn't simply doing the same thing over and over again and I was actually using my prior knowledge from previous experiences of the day to impact on the here and now. The Forgotten City continued with this intelligent web and the deep lines of enquiry throughout and always remained intelligent and comprehensive even far into the game. It's very clear an exceptional amount of time went into just the plot alone to tie together so many ideas into cognitive puzzles that all made sense and belonged together.
In terms of length, I would say The Forgotten City had a decent runtime. Initially, I reached what I thought was end game in about 5 and a half hours. However I then discovered this was only one ending and there were a further 3 to discover and to get the true ending it took me double that time. This gives the game real replayability because until I reached the true Canon ending I really hadn't uncovered everything yet and without giving too much away, the Canon ending is absolutely worth the time to discover because it'll simply make everything else make more sense and bring the game to life even more than it already was.
Personally, I couldn't find very much fault in The Forgotten City so this really is a minimal complaint that doesn't diminish how good the game is; but I found the facial animations not to be the best. The graphics overall were tremendous and vibrant but then when having a conversation with an NPC, they were pulling some… interesting expressions. However, like I said because the rest of the game is so tremendous this was more like a bit of comedy relief rather than a total disaster that ruined the game for me.
The bulk of the game is made up of story, dialogue and deduction, however there is a very small amount of combat but it's in no way a pivotal piece of the gameplay nor is it terribly significant. The Forgotten City really proves that a game doesn't need to be fast paced with intense action to grip you and immerse you.
At its core, The Forgotten City is a who-dunnit mystery game however it very quickly develops and delves even deeper into its own masterpiece making the player think logically and critically about philosophical ideas and it'll have you questioning things that you never would have expected to question from playing a game. The idea of the golden rule really made me ask the question: what is actually good? Is running a business with overinflated prices bad? Or is it actually just smart marketing? Is it then acceptable to steal from such businesses because someone needs something more than another? Is it right to kill someone because they pose a threat to many others? Or is it better to allow karma and fate to find them another way? These are all questions I found myself asking and they are all legitimate philosophical and moral concerns and debates that have been going on for centuries and continue on today even in modern society. The Forgotten City truly is a wonderful lesson on morals and right and wrong.
I truly enjoyed The Forgotten City and would really urge anyone to add this to their collection. It's very clear to see why it won an award from the Australian Writers Guild as the storytelling is absolutely phenomenal and as someone who's always been keen on writing and storytelling, I truly felt like The Forgotten City took things to a whole new level and I truly believe could become the benchmark for games storytelling and plot lines as it really demonstrates its core philosophies at every turn.
Lj's Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
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Many thanks to Future Friends Games for the Review Key.