Developer: Modern Storyteller
Release Date: July 28, 2021
While I love the idea of time loops in video games, historically I haven’t been terribly successful in getting into any of the ones I’ve tried. This made me hesitant to pick up The Forgotten City – while I really like the idea of being able to repeat a period of time while you try to figure out some kind of mystery, I usually find myself very frustrated by the mechanic due to unavoidable repetition. Not so here. The Forgotten City manages to dial down the tedium to get you right back where you want to be – in the middle of a mystery.
There’s probably a good 20 – 30 minutes of exposition and set dressing before you get into the story proper, but that really is all content you will only see at the very beginning of the game. It feels like the only gameplay affecting choice you make early on is to choose your background – I went with archeologist for the extra insight. Otherwise, it’s a very linear path back two thousand years and into the main story, and after your first time loop, you can really tackle things in any order.
Most of the game play time is spend getting to know the inhabitants of this strange place. It’s a very small city filled with displaced individuals who have survived together over the last seven months by respecting the law of the land – The Golden Rule. Any sin committed while in the city will cause the destruction of the whole – each and ever citizen will be turned into gold statues.
You become part of the story on a particularly momentous day – not only is there an election scheduled, but the current magistrate has reason to believe that this is the day that someone in the city will break the law and has tasked you with preventing this from occurring. However, the chances are good that you won’t figure it all out on the first pass, and you’ll need to run back to the portal and try again until you get it all figured out.
Chances are, there will be characters you like, and characters you don’t, but their fates are completely intertwined and violence is unlikely to ever be the correct choice. In fact, after my first loop, I decided that whatever I could do to help the citizens and gain their trust would be my top priority. As a result, I spent a good half an hour attempting to pick a flower. It certainly wasn’t what I expected to be doing, but I didn’t think it would doom the whole place to do it, so it seemed like the best kind of favor to focus on.
I’m about 90 minutes in now, and I’m really enjoying it. How Long To Beat estimates it’ll take around five hours to find an ending, and around ten if I want to see everything the game has to offer. According to the game’s achievements, there are four possible endings. I finally managed to pull myself away because I was just completely unsure of what to do next, but I find that I’m still thinking about who I haven’t met and what I haven’t done even while the game is closed, which to me, is the best indication that this is a game I should keep plugging away at.
Considering that The Forgotten City started as a conversion mod for Skyrim, what the developers have managed to pull together is pretty damn impressive indeed.
Edited to add: Once I finished writing this, I told myself I was just going to play for a few more minutes. Instead, I ended up binging the entirety of the game. I managed to get the “canon” ending on my second try, it is really a fantastic way to wrap up a very very interesting game.
There is a fairly lengthy action horror sequence, and while it is possible to complete the best ending of the game without it, I would absolutely recommend taking that part on if you feel like you can – it’s probably one of the best sequences in the whole game.
The Forgotten City took me just over five and a half hours to complete.
The Forgotten City is one of the most successful indie games to be released in 2021, and almost definitely the most successful one I’ll be playing for this project. SteamDB estimates that The Forgotten City has sold between 117,200 and 322,300 copies on Steam, and nearly all the reviews it has received are positive. It is ranked 39 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.