The Forgotten City review

The Forgotten City is a first-person adventure game, which started life as a Skyrim mod, however, went on to be one of the best games of 2021. It’s an adventure where you’re sent to a secluded Roman-style city, trying to figure out who is going to break The Golden Rule. What is The Golden Rule you may ask? Well, sin and everyone dies… and you have to figure out who is about to sin and break the cycle.

I arrived at The Forgotten City late. It came out in July 2021, and I’ve been catching up on some games I missed over the holiday break. This game is relatively short, so it’s a good one if you are in between games as a nice palette cleanser. It’s also funny, sometimes sad, scary, and exciting all at the same time, so there’s something in there for everyone.

At the start of the game you wake up in the woods, there’s a woman there and she asks you to investigate a ruin nearby, as her friend Al is lost. Wanting to be helpful, you agree, but then once you enter the ruin you are sent through a portal to a secluded Roman-style City with a rag-tag bunch of inhabitants. Much like the cupboard in Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, you fall into The Forgotten City with no way to escape. It’s your job to keep moving forward to try and figure out how to get back to your time.

Unfortunately, you are stuck in a time loop and you have to live the same day over and over again until you break the curse. There’s plenty going on in this Forgotten City though, there’s an election for a new Magistrate, someone’s sister has gone missing, someone’s been poisoned and plenty of people are living in fear of The Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule is fairly simple; if someone sins in the City, everyone dies. The game delves into this collective punishment a fair bit, with the Golden Rule keeping much of the people in the city from misbehaving. The game deals with some fairly interesting topics too; how to survive in a world like this when you are living under a hanging dagger, and what is regarded as sin anyway? The current Magistrate explains they can all agree on the basics like no stealing or killing, but the lines in between are grey and blurred.

The Forgotten City is all about the conversations you have and the people you meet. These are a vibrant collection of characters; whether it’s the vendor trying to swindle you out of money for a life-saving medicine you need, or the burly guard who likes to threaten you (and everyone else) at any moment. By speaking to people you’ll uncover mysteries and objectives, and you are always directed clearly to what you have to do next. There are plenty of threads in The Forgotten City, plenty of mysteries to solve, meaning it’s quite difficult to get stuck or not know what to do next, which can sometimes be a downfall in this genre. There are roughly 20 people in the city, and they have questions too. For example, why is the city here, why are they stuck there and how do they escape?

Your main goal in the game is to figure out who is going to commit the sin and then report back to the magistrate your suspicions, however, there are loads of sub-threads going on all the time, which are uncovered through conversations. Uncovering who these characters are, and their motivations is a nice gameplay loop, but there are some exciting scenes and action thrown in there too for good measure. Given the game started out as a Skyrim mod, you can see some of that lingering here with the classic Skyrim jank, but for the most part, the game plays very well from the first-person perspective.

The time loop mechanic is another central mechanic which offers up some breath-taking moments I wasn’t expecting when I first went in. Give you know the Golden Rule is there, and once a sin is performed then everyone turns into gold statues and dies. However, you can trigger this mass-death mechanic to your benefit. For example, someone, unfortunately, dies from poison, and I needed an antidote for a friendly doctor, but the vendor was trying to con money out of the doctor and inflated the price of the antidote beyond her means. Therefore, you can steal the antidote, which kicks off the death mechanic, safely escape through the portal, which takes you back to the start of the loop, where you still have the item in your possession and you are free to deliver it to the doctor. There are lots of similar puzzles like this where you have to figure out how to use the loop mechanic to your advantage and it’s a lot of fun.

The Forgotten City is a memorable gaming experience and is one I think you should check out. The characters are rich, the main story is entertaining and getting to know the characters in this world is a fun time. The game doesn’t outstay its welcome, plus there are some interesting life lessons in there too regarding morality. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass, and if you have a subscription to that service then I’d recommend it.

Developer: Modern Storyteller
Publisher: Dear Villagers, Ubitus K.K.
Platform: Xbox, PC, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch (reviewed on PC)
Availability: 28th July 2021