Our Rating: 8/10
Ancient Rome was among the most important and magnificent periods in history, if not the most. A time rich in mythology, cultures, and traditions that have endured to the present day. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been used more in video games under these circumstances. At the very least, there aren’t many blockbusters set during this period. The Forgotten City steps in to fill that void, but not in a tangential way; instead, we are thrust into the heart of the Roman Empire.
The Forgotten City began as a free mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. However, its development grew so large that these three members, yes! three, of the Modern Storyteller studio, decided to release it as a complete set. And the truth is that we couldn’t be happier with this decision. We’re dealing with a fantastic game that deserves to be more than just a leftover mod from another game.
Our current protagonist appears passed out at the Tiber River’s mouth in Italy, next to a strange woman who claims to have discovered him unconscious on the shore. His companion has entered some 2,000-year-old Roman ruins at his back, so he asks for our assistance in finding him. Once there, we discover a temporary hole that transports us to a time 2,000 years ago. Back when the city was bustling with activity, so we’ll have to figure out how to get back home.
The Golden Rule
With a first-person perspective, we are confronted with a primarily investigative adventure. We must look around every corner and speak with every resident of the town to gradually gather information. This will lead us to form theories and obtain one of four endings. Because getting out of there will be difficult; in fact, there is no obvious way out, and the people who live there are imprisoned and unable to flee.
The villagers are governed by a single unbreakable rule known as “The Golden Rule”. And what exactly does this rule entail? So, here’s how I’m going to explain it. The golden rule states that if just one of the residents of a place sins. This includes robbery, murder, etc. Then the entire community is guilty. All of the residents will be turned into golden statues as a punishment. Additionally, the city will be destroyed by a strange curse.
This issue of the golden rule is not merely anecdotal; on the contrary, it has a significant impact on the gameplay of the game in terms of achieving the objectives. For example, suppose we discovered a potentially important clue inside one of the villagers’ chests. However, taking it would be considered stealing and would require the application of the golden rule. On the other hand, not taking it would not imply progress in the plot; what would be the solution?
This is where the other key game mechanic, time loops, comes into play. If anyone, including ourselves, breaks the golden rule, the city will begin to crumble. Then, a dimensional portal will open, and we will have a set amount of time to get there and back.
After that, the day will restart and everything will return to normal, but we will keep some of the key objects and pretend that we are visiting that location for the first time. If this mechanic reminds you of a specific game, you’re right: it’s a direct descendant of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and its operation is essentially the same: it resets time while removing all non-essential objects like money.
Playing with these two mechanics, the golden rule and time travel, is how we’ll be able to progress in the plot, and the binomial is perfect, the combination of both factors is very original and doesn’t become heavy at any point. The game makes things easier for you by adding new dialogue options and events to avoid the feeling of repetition and stagnation that can easily occur.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of The Forgotten City is the freedom with which you can investigate and how all of the subplots intersect; all of your decisions feel very natural and unforced; it’s difficult to see the seams in the game; that way, we’ll see that there are so many open fronts and so many ways to proceed that it amazes in a game as small as this one. The sense of progress and being authentic researchers is incredible; they give us a few chewed things and we’ll have to use deduction to figure out some details, which reminds me in part of that other great game’s artwork, Return of the Dinn.
Plot, Audio, and Visuals
Regarding the main plot, we don’t want to give anything away because it is something that each player must discover for themselves; all we can say is that it is magnificent, capable of capturing the player’s attention and keeping him glued to the screen, eager to see how it ends, and full of twists in a very interesting script.
I’d like to emphasize once more how incredible it feels to feel like a true private detective, drawing conclusions and connecting the dots with the limited information they provide; there are few games I’ve played that have made me feel as accomplished as this one.
Entering the audiovisual field is not a sign of things to come. It carries over certain flaws from the gamebryo engine to the Unreal Engine. In terms of character and scenario modeling, it still maintains a high standard. The main stage should be highlighted in particular because the villa has its charm and every corner is a work of art that we will want to return to time and time again.
Unfortunately, the game’s performance is a drawback, with occasional frame drops and lengthy loading times. The developer recommends that we install the game on an SSD, and I agree because the difference can be quite noticeable.
In terms of sound, the characters deliver excellent vocal performances – in English with different languages in subs, even imitating various accents to give the cast a multicultural feel. The soundtrack is entirely made up of Greco-Roman cuts that are a real treat to listen to. For all of the auditory information that comes to us, I highly recommend playing it with headphones.
The Forgotten City lasts about 4 hours and has up to four different endings depending on the actions we take. True, once the main mystery is revealed, some of the grace and desire to replay the game knowing everything ahead of time is lost, but I recommend doing so because of the number and variety of subplots that can be left unfinished in the first game and are worth seeing.
To sum it up, The Forgotten City is one of my favorite surprises of the year, a game that oozes talent and quality work in every aspect. It’s difficult to believe that only three people were able to complete such a monumental task, but miracles do happen. For my part, I can only recommend it without reservation, because there is always something about the game that you will fall in love with in some way.