STAFF REVIEW of Forgotten City, The (Xbox One)

Tuesday, July 27, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Forgotten City, The Box art I review a ton of games, and because of such, I tend to forget many of them once the credit rolls before I move onto the next. Every now and then though there’s a game that sticks with me long after its completion, which speaks volumes to its quality, gameplay or memorable narrative. This was the case with The Forgotten City once I saw a few of its endings, especially its fourth and canon one.

If The Forgotten City rings a bell, you were most likely a Skyrim player that liked to dabble in mods, as it was originally a critically acclaimed mod that garnered more than three million downloads and a prestigious award, and for good reason. If you were a fan of the mod, you’ll be happy to know that it’s now not only its own stand-alone title, but has been re-written, has a new setting, new characters, twists and more. Add a fantastic orchestral score and professional voice acting, and you’ve got quite an entertaining and unique gaming experience.

You begin being woken up by a stranger who pulls you out of the river, saying she saw you floating by as you were unconscious. She said that someone named Al just previously was here as well but ventured away to explore, so she asks you to search for him. Once you find a mysterious portal, this is where things start to become very interesting, capturing my attention until I saw multiple endings. Now, I’m going to be intentionally vague with certain story elements and gameplay mechanics, as spoiling it would absolutely ruin much of the memorable experience, so go in as blind as you possibly can.

Upon entering this portal you’re transported 2000 years into the past within the walls of an underground ancient Roman city. There’s a catch though, there’s not only twenty three inhabitants and many golden statues of citizens, but there’s a sacred Golden Rule that absolutely cannot be broken; If one person sins, everyone dies. That’s right, if one person does something terrible, everyone pays the price. To make things even more intriguing, you’re caught in a time loop and the only person that keeps their memories each time.

The Golden Rule plays a major part not only narratively, but gameplay wise as well. Decisions you make will change future outcomes, as each secret you uncover and item you take can be used in each time loop to make new events or conversations happen. You of course need to be careful, as if you break the Golden Rule everything will come to an end. I won’t giveaway what happens exactly, but it can be quite nerve wracking if you’re far from the portal which needs to be reached to reset the day. Much like Groundhog Day, you’ll eventually start to learn people’s patterns and how to best approach them to get what you want.

This time loop makes the gameplay become quite interesting, as confronting someone with one of their secrets that you already know completely can change the outcome of specific events. The fact that you can steal an item, reset the day and keep what you took makes the gameplay quite interesting. Once you learn how to utilize and exploit the time loop, The Forgotten City becomes quite addictive as you figure out ways to solve everyone’s individual problems and needs. Not everything can be solved in the same day, so sometimes it’s best to work on one quest or person, time loop, then work on another.

Your main objective is to get back to the present in your own world by creating a paradox, but doing so won’t be so easy since you’re seemingly stuck in a time loop. You’ll need to help the other inhabitants with their problems, as doing so might get them to talk about how they got to the city or if they know how to escape, giving clues on how to get back to your time, but maybe even answers to the larger questions, like who created the Golden Rule. With four endings and multiple quests that can be solved in almost any orders, there’s plenty of mysteries to uncover within The Forgotten City.

Play a character that you get to choose their origin, gender and backstory. Certain options will give you extra bonuses for that character, like other dialogue choices or a gun with one bullet. This adds a little more flair to your options, and while you can get the endings with any character you choose, it’s more to suit your playstyle.

As you explore the city, you’ll come across plenty of objects, graffiti, statues that seemingly whisper hints to you and more. It’s quite creepy at first to see these golden statues tilt their head or give you hints as you pass by, but you’ll soon come to rely on their advice if you’re clever. There’s nothing off limits, and if a door to a building is locked, you simply need to figure out another way in or whom you can get the key from and how. Maybe helping someone with their problem will rewards you with a key, maybe purposely getting someone killed will benefit someone else. But isn’t that a sin? You’re going to find out.

The Golden Rule appears to be a deterrent initially to force you to play ‘good’, but once you learn how to use these rule breaks to your advantage, possibilities really open up. “The many shall suffer for the sins of one.” is repeated numerous times, but what if it’s not you that sins, but someone else that thinks the Golden Rule is a farce? What about the person that wants to commit suicide, is that a sin? These moral tug of wars was truly fascinating to see how certain people justify their actions, including myself thinking I was making the right decision sometimes. Sometimes being a shoulder to lean on will get you a long way, other times you might have to bribe or intimidate someone. Thinking ‘outside the box’ usually works quite well when you start to exploit the time loop.

Combat is an option eventually, but it’s very minimal. Rumor has it there’s a beast roaming the underground passageways, so you ought to be careful. While most of the golden statues littered throughout the city are just that, stationary statues, some will guide you along your way, while others may very well come to life and try to attack you. It’s up to you how you want to handle these moments, but keep in mind the Golden Rule at all times.

As you explore the Roman city, you’ll be impressed with its authenticity when it comes to its architecture and clothing. This was achieved by utilizing actual historical consultants, so if you’re a Roman history buff, you’ll enjoy simply exploring the city. Graphically, The Forgotten City is impressive in its scope. Yes, you’re in a small little underground city for the majority of your adventure, but it feels large when you’re sitting at the edge of a cliff and soaking the gorgeous vistas in. Environments and characters look fantastic which makes playing around in the photo mode a delight, but you can still somewhat see it’s Skyrim mod roots when it comes to rough facial animations and lip syncing, something that’s supposed to be improved in a future patch. The voice acting is top notch from every memorable character and the orchestral score is a delight to listen to.

The Forgotten City may have started out as a simple mod, but the small team at Modern Storyteller has taken the time and effort to craft it into its own memorable experience, one that I’m glad to have had and implore you to as well if any of the above has piqued your interest. Well worth the price of admission, The Forgotten City will leave a lasting impression once final revelations are revealed, just always keep in mind the Golden Rule.

**The Forgotten City was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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