Review: The Forgotten City
Reviewed on: PS4
Developer: Modern Storyteller
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Available on: PS/XB/PC
If you’ve played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you’ve probably heard about The Forgotten City, a critically acclaimed mod that won a national Writers’ Guild award and racked up over 3 million downloads.
This mod was so popular that it ended up being developed as a standalone game that got released on July 28th 2021.
Does The Forgotten City do justice to the mod? Let’s find out!
The Forgotten City is a mystery adventure game of exploration and deduction that sends you 2,000 years into the past to relive the final days of a cursed Roman city.
At the beginning of the game, you’ll have the opportunity to choose between a male or a female character as well as picking 1 out of 4 competencies: the first will increase your defence, the second will make you faster, the third will give you a gun with only ten bullets and, finally, the fourth will give you access to new dialogue options as a specialist in ancient Rome. None of these classes will radically change the game experience, but they do make for an interesting dilemma at the beginning of the game. Once you’ve made your choice, the story can start...
You wake up on the shore of the Tiber river in Italy. Next to you is a young woman who apparently found you unconscious on the riverbank. She asks you a favour, to go and find a man named Al who is lost in the ruins of an ancient Roman city. Long story short, you go to his rescue but end up crossing a time portal that sends you back about 2,000 years before our time. At that time, the ancient Roman city is full of life and you are welcomed by Sentius, the city’s Magistrate that sees you as a divine emissary. He explains to you that the city is subject to the “Golden Rule”, a curse that will turn everyone in the city into a golden statue if one of them commits a sin. If you have arrived here it means that a crime will happen soon. Therefore, Sentius charges you to investigate and find the future criminal before it's too late.
You’ve probably guessed it, The Forgotten City is a detective game where you’ll have to talk to the citizens of the city to get to the bottom of this mystery. Even if the narrative structure remains quite linear, you are free to roam the city as you wish and solve the quests in the order you want.
What makes The Forgotten City special first of all is the dialogues. They are well written and offer you several approaches to a discussion. Be careful not to offend your interlocutor though! Otherwise he/she will refuse to talk to you and you will have to go back in time and pick up where you left off.
Which brings me to the second part of the game: time travelling. Every time a crime is committed (by you or someone else) time stops and you’ll have to run to the time portal in order to start the day again. While the citizens will totally forget about what happened, you on the contrary, will remember everything (and you can keep your inventory!). This faculty plays a major role in the progression of the game so don’t hesitate to exploit those time-loops
Regarding the action phases, don’t expect too much from them. They are few in number and clearly lack dynamism. You’ll spend most of your time running around the city, going through others’ personal items, solving puzzles and talking to people.
About the visual and technical aspects, The Forgotten City is at first sight very pleasant to watch. There are however some display and animation problems. Loading times are long and sometimes I had difficulties moving my character (especially when I had to jump and climb). Despite the technical problems that reduce the quality of the gameplay, the game is still enjoyable. Just don’t expect a triple-A action RPG.
The Forgotten City is a beautiful game that immerses you into an open-world set in an ancient Roman city. In addition to a coherent storyline, we see that the developers made an effort to represent the period’s art, architecture, costumes and customs as historically accurate as possible.
Despite some inconsistencies in the script due to time travel, the plot is well written and interesting to follow. What I especially liked was the freedom to tackle some problems the way you want it. Will you use charm, bribery, intimidation, violence or reason? It is up to you!
Plus, the game will make you question the concept of good and evil and will force you to make moral choices.
Finally, it takes between 5 to 6 hours to finish the game. Despite some good plot-twists and 4 endings I found the storyline is a little too linear. Yet I really enjoyed playing The Forgotten City and highly recommend it to those who like mystery games!