I do enjoy it when a mod reaches the big time and launches as a standalone game. Think of Counter-Strike and DOTA2 and you have two genre defining games that were born from mods. I’m not going to make an outlandish claim that The Forgotten City is going to be a genre defining release, but for something which originated as a Skyrim mod, it is an extremely impressive adventure.
Hit the break for some thoughts, but watch out: spoilers lie below.
The Forgotten City opens with a mysterious stranger, Karen, informing you that she rescued you from the river. She’s worried about someone called Al who had ventured into an ancient Roman temple. It is apparent from the off that this is a narrative led game, with only one of the archetypes on offer allowing you to enter the temple with a gun. Despite its roots in a mod from 2015, The Forgotten City is a contemporary piece of work with references to the “Karen” meme available in the dialogue with Karen, and other similar present-day references dotted throughout the game.
It’s also a game which doesn’t do filler. I’ve played it for about 6-hours and have found three of the four possible endings, and that is perfectly fine for a £20 game. I’m of the opinion that there shouldn’t ever be a direct ratio between cost and length of game, and for me The Forgotten City is better value for money than something like Deathloop in which I invested 20-hours.
The Forgotten City is also by far a better time-loop game. Once you step through the temple that Al ventured into, you enter the ruins of a Roman city, one which is littered with golden statues of citizens apparently fleeing in terror. You also found a body hanging from a tree, with a note etched into stone revealing that it was Al who had been trapped in this city for longer than he cared to remember. Ultimately, you come to another version of that original temple you entered, and this time you are taken to a version of the city which is alive.
Its not bustling or busy though, this is a city of some 20-odd people, but one where several of the initial residents have gone missing or died. You first encounter the friendly Galerius, who is more than happy to introduce you to the city and reveals that everyone is trapped with no hope of escape. He also talks about The Golden Rule, a warning that if anyone commits a sin then the whole city will be punished and that the daughter of Sentius the magistrate of the city has gone missing.
On my playthrough, consider my surprise that I broke The Golden Rule by stealing some medicine that would save a citizen who had been poisoned by hemlock. I was so surprised by the impending doom, and the golden statues that had sprung to life, that I failed to follow the Sentius back to the temple that you originally entered the city through. After a reload, I stole the medicine again, followed Sentius and entered a portal which looped me back to the start of the day to meet Galerius once again.
If stealing to save someone’s life is considered sinful enough to bring down death and destruction, it throws into question the morals of this city. One where imprisonment without cause goes unpunished, conspiring to enrich yourself without thought of the impact on others is modus operandi for a few individuals and the possible murder or abduction of an Sentius’ daughter has no consequences.
The Forgotten City makes you think about rights and wrongs, and how it is determined what actions are deemed as such. It becomes a philosophy lesson as enjoyable as The Good Place, though of course if you don’t want to spend any time musing on this you can simply follow the various quest lines to their conclusion. Just bear in mind that most of the conclusions will lead to the day resetting and your loop beginning again.
Fortunately, your character retains any equipment and loot collected in previous loops, along with the knowledge needed to ensure the various quests will progress to their natural conclusion. Galerius is such a good man that you can ask him to rush around town completing several tasks on your behalf, and he will do it. Galerius is in my eyes the true hero of The Forgotten City.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Forgotten City, especially once I understood the truth of the matter after achieving the best ending. That knowledge allowed me to start a new game as the only archetype who can enter this Roman city with a gun, using it to quickly create a paradox that ends the time loop. It means that all the wonderful (and less than wonderful) citizens of the city died, but it was worth it to see the fear in the eyes of one particular character.
As the days tick by and we get closer to the end of 2021, I’ll be starting to pull together some thoughts about my Game of the Year. I have no doubt The Forgotten City will be near the very top of my list.