“The many shall suffer for the sins of the one.”
This sound thunders from all sides. You were trying to steal a flask of medicine. Suddenly, the solid golden statues that dot the city come alive. Their eyes are flashing, and their bows are drawn. It shoots an innocent citizen. To your bewilderment, he turns into gold.
From the corner of your eye, you can see the city magistrate running towards the small shrine you arrived in. You follow him there, dodging the statues firing golden arrows at you lest you share the fate of the people around you. You make it in time to see the magistrate kneel and pray.
To the front of him is a portal. You enter it and get warped through time and space, back before this mayhem. Galerius greets you again. You’ve been through this before. Wearily, you check your pockets.
Fortunately, the medicine is there. You ask Galerius to deliver the drug to the Temple, and you go off towards the left this time to confront the magistrate about what just happened. Then, you take another step into the Forgotten City. What secrets does it hold?
- Overall: 4.5/5
- Graphics: 4.5/5
- Gameplay: 4/5
- Story: 5/5
- Sound: 4/5
What is The Forgotten City ?
The Forgotten City is a story about a land outside of time. From the moment you step forth into the waters that take you to a shrine that you will revisit over and over again, the game hooks you in. And it won’t let go so easily.
At least for me, I didn’t stop until I finished the game. It is safe to say that The Forgotten City is one of the best games of 2021.
It is also a game with a unique history. It started its life as a Skyrim mod, where it flourished inside of Bethesda’s masterpiece as one of the best mods for the game. The mod creator, Nick James Pearce, even won a national writer’s guild award for it.
He eventually started his own company to fulfill his vision for the grand time-traveling story he wanted to tell. His idea was to make it bigger than just a mod for Skyrim. And then, three years later, and finally free of Bethesda’s engine quirks, The Forgotten City was born.
The first step to the actual Forgotten City is breathtaking. A waterfall flows into a lake in the middle of a Roman city adorned with statues of gold. Marble walls house grand temples and shrines to deities from the Sabine pantheon.
Narrow corridors lead to caves carved into the sides of the rock. Houses with white pillars and golden accents lie below a giant hill. And finally, on the top of that hill lies a temple whose doors have remained closed since the beginning of time. The obelisk at the front lies barren as a warning.
And, as you get to explore and visit different parts of the polis, you will see that this amazing art design echoes throughout. Without putting any spoilers in, the only thing I can say is that not everything in the game is Roman. Although some design decisions were questionable for me as someone who studied archeology in college, the City itself is a marble to behold.
The City was realized in the Unreal Engine, which makes the lighting effects in this game astonishing. This is a vast improvement from the mod it resembles. Now, free of the grasps of an engine that is ten years old, the City comes alive. Warm fog envelops these marble structures and breathes life into the game world.
It isn’t big, but it is beautiful. The unique art style blends perfectly with Unreal Engine’s lighting effects to create a perfect atmosphere for its setting. The only qualms are how faces look, but that is easy to ignore when everything else looks so pretty.
Quests and Gameplay
The main quest of the Forgotten City is simple. You arrive at the break of dawn to a world that is ready to collapse. A local man called Galerius greets you and takes you to the magistrate. The magistrate then explains the one rule that governs the city and all its inhabitants. The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In a gameplay sense, it means that certain things are forbidden in the city. You cannot steal or kill anyone, neither are any of the inhabitants allowed to do so. If the rule is broken in any way, the decorative golden statues will come alive and start shooting everyone.
The magistrate will run up towards your starting shrine and open a time portal every time this happens. You then enter the time portal to reset everything except your inventory and quest log.
The catch is that someone is destined to break the golden rule at the end of the day. You are therefore tasked to stop this catastrophe. You investigate and explore the city, doing quests and questioning the inhabitants to solve this case.
You start back at the beginning each time you fail. But worry not, any ends you have managed to tie up in the previous day can be taken care of by Galerius, who becomes your errand boy.
Speaking of Galerius, he is one of the many NPCs you will meet in the City. Beggars, lunatics, power-hungry aristocrats, star-crossed lovers, the City has them all. Each NPC is a fully realized person with different motivations and desires, and balancing them is key to solving the puzzle.
Almost all characters in the game have a personal opinion about the golden rule and how they live in it. Some find loopholes and exploit others, while some are genuinely kind-hearted and help those in need.
This leads to the most interesting questions brought forth by the game. What does being good mean? Can rules force people into being good, or do they instead invite clever ways of cheating the system?
On the course of your adventures, you will meet NPCs who cheat and swindle you and many others without invoking the wrath of the Golden Rule. It sounds so simple; treat others as you would like others to treat you. But what does that even mean?
The writing in this game is one of the most efficient I have seen in any game. While it won’t match the likes of Disco Elysium or verbose text-based RPGs, it is efficient in its depth and supports the story perfectly.
The strength of this game’s writing is that it is easy to pick up and play. I recommend using this game to introduce people who haven’t played any video games before. The writing is that good.
Even describing some of the NPCs goes into spoiler territory, so I can’t say much. All I can say is this: there’s more to the magistrate than meets the eye… Be on the lookout for his missing daughter.
The Forgotten City isn’t a combat-focused game. If you choose the Soldier class, or once you acquire a wooden bow, there is some combat in it. You will do most of your shooting from a unique bow that turns shot enemies into gold.
The Golden Rule prevents you from harming any NPCs directly (except for some bizarre creatures straight out of a horror film), so you don’t often have to engage in combat. Instead, your words are your weapons. Knowing who to talk to and about what is the core experience.
One interesting aspect of the golden bow is that you can shoot vines to turn them solid. With this mechanic, you can access particular areas of the game that would otherwise be inaccessible. This makes for some unique platforming and will help you find secrets in creative ways.
The Forgotten City’s combat mechanics are not extensive but are adequate for the story it is telling. Just don’t expect to go on murder sprees; you’re trying to save people here.
Speaking of endings, the game has four outcomes. I won’t spoil any of them, but the best ending is where almost everyone survives. If you find that you cannot solve everyone’s problems, you might want to try again to see what you have missed.
To make it clear, each “main quest” you receive is a different ending. Without giving anything away, you can get the four endings by
The final option with the tablets is the canonical ending to the game. You get to save everyone in the city and even get a nice post-credits scene.
A handy map will show you which one of the four you got when you get any of the endings. You can use the map to gauge where you want to make changes to get an alternate ending.
Walkthrough and Tips
I am not going to spoil any of the core story elements for you. This is a game you need to play to understand. However, here are some things that will help you in beating the game.
First of all, as I mentioned before, the game will save any quests you completed in your previous days. This is handled very cleanly by the game without interfering with the time-loop storyline.
If you complete a quest, you can ask Galerius at the beginning of each day to complete the quest for you for that day by providing him with the necessary items and directions. He will then run around the city and complete those quests for you, freeing up your time for other quests or exploration.
Also, make a note of any places you see that have vines around them. When you get the golden bow, later on, the map expands and lets you explore areas that are locked off otherwise. Also, make sure to loot all the chests for as much money and arrows as you can.
Anything in your inventory is saved when you go through the time loop, which means your character won’t lose anything when the game resets.
And lastly, don’t waste your money on the barkeeper who knows the way out. She’s not to be trusted. Many NPCs cannot be trusted. Think a bit before you decide what information you want to give to whom.
The standard trick of exhausting dialogue trees might come to bite you back later if you’re not careful. So, if a shady barkeep is offering you a “way out” for a large sum of money, you might want to reconsider if you’ll get your money’s worth. Things might end up differently than you imagine.
Before you Buy
- Polished Gameplay
- Interesting Story
- Beautiful Ancient Roman Art Style
- Good Performance, Even on Older Systems
- Amazing Writing
- Fitting Soundtrack
- Facial Animations Could Use Some Work
How Long Is the Forgotten City?
If you want to do all the endings separately, it takes about 12 hours to complete.
Is the Forgotten City an Open World Game?
No, it is a non-linear RPG that has open-world exploration, but the map itself is too small to be considered an “open-world.”
Does the Forgotten City Have Multiplayer?
No, it doesn’t have any multiplayer modes. There is no co-op as well.
The Forgotten City is one of the best B-list games of this year. An absolute recommendation.