Title: The Forgotten City Review
Developer: Modern Storyteller
Release Date: July 28, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Dear Villager
The Forgotten City was originally released as an Elder Scrolls: Skyrim mod. After winning a national Writers’ Guild Award for its script, developer Modern Storyteller moved forward and created a stand-alone game. The result is an adventure fueled by discovery, proving just how far this team has come since the initial mod.
The Forgotten City is a first-person action-adventure mystery heavily based on unraveling the events of the city through the dialogue of its citizens. You begin the game on the edge of the Tiber river in Italy, unaware of how or why you arrived there. Players can choose their character’s background, which provides unique characteristics such as greater health, speed, or even the chance to start the game with a weapon. A stranger with a boat informs you that someone named Al is lost in the ruins behind you, but if you can find him, she will ferry you back to civilization.
You quickly stumble upon underground ruins discovered by this mysterious Al. Upon falling through a trick door, the first thing you notice is that the inhabitants of this place have all turned into gold statues. Searching the ruins leads you to discover that Al has suffered the same fate as the rest of the inhabitants of the ruins. Reading Al’s note, you find that at the apex of the ruins is a portal to the past. Al states in his final message that no matter what he did, he was destined to live the same day over again. Once you reach this portal, you have no other choice but to jump in.
Entering the portal sends you through a wormhole that deposits your body to the same ruins before everything was destroyed. You are promptly greeted by a stranger named Galerius, who informs you that the year is 817, nearly 2000 years in the past and that it’s best to follow their one “Golden Rule” as breaking it results in horrific consequences. This is the beginning of your adventure. Through interrogating all of the city’s inhabitants, you uncover their backgrounds and find out why they are here with the hopes of escaping.
Your primary mission in the game is to decipher who will break the Golden rule, which is the leading cause of these characters’ bleak fate. The magistrate permits you to enter everyone’s living quarters, interrogate the citizens and inspect their personal documents. Each citizen has a unique background that is intertwined in this city. Navigating through dialogue trees provides more of an understanding of the events and citizens. There are weapons in the game, but the gameplay is really focused on dialogue due to the golden rule.
The Forgotten City is a beautiful game with some incredible locals. Underground temples are highlighted by rays of sunlight shining from above. The environment felt like it was in the past, with epic stone villas carved into the bedrock, elegant gardens, and flowing fountains. The game definitely had a Skyrim feel but had enough unique elements to differentiate it.
Scattered throughout the city are golden statues, all in unique positions providing the eerie feeling that they could be previous citizens. Early on, you discover that these golden statues come to life and hunt you down with golden arrows that will turn you and everyone else in the city into gold upon breaking the Golden Rule. To survive, you must rush back to the portal that will bring you to the beginning of the day to revisit the day’s events and dialogue with new knowledge and items.
The opening moments of gameplay are a bit of a chore. Every character has a task or something that must be accomplished before moving on. Further, there are times where I had to redo the task hoping for new dialogue options, only to realize I needed to meet additional requirements before moving forward.
The pacing is kept slow and coupled with heavy dialogue that caused my attention to wane at times. That being said, the second half of the game really made up for the introduction. Characters become more interesting, and progression opens new modes of travel such as ziplines and climbable ivy vines, opening the environment.
Character animations and writing felt incredibly strong. Voice acting was powerful and passionate. Every character had great depth and personality with very few weak links. I felt connected and involved in all of their stories. The orchestral music was soft and echoed the tone of the game, balancing the dialogue-heavy gameplay.
The Forgotten City brings out the adventurer in all of us and showcases just how capable mods can be. While the runtime is kept short, multiple endings increased replay value for a few more days spent in the ruins. In addition, there’s an impressive degree of detail put into these characters that only falters in some aspects of the general gameloop. Regardless, I’m looking forward to what this game encourages modders to produce in the future.
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