The modding community has created plenty of fantastic experiences that have gone on to become fully-fledged games in their own right. The Half-Life franchise has been the basis for highlights like Counter-Strike and Dear Esther, while Dota 2‘s roots lie in a Warcraft 3 mod. A mod is also the origin of The Forgotten City, which is now becoming a fully-fledged game.
Starting as a Skyrim mod, The Forgotten City‘s original form has received over three million downloads. The player wakes up on the banks of the river Tiber, and travels into a Roman ruin filled with suspiciously lifelike gold statues. However, the player is then thrown back in time and discovers that the inhabitants of the city are held by some higher power under the Golden Rule: if anyone commits an immoral act, then everyone in the city will be turned to gold.
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This, of course, does make trying to investigate the history of the city and find a way out rather difficult, as the player doing anything sketchy will awaken the arbiters of the city to shoot its inhabitants with arrows that turn them into statues. However, there is a way to avoid this fate. If the player makes their way back to the shrine from which they first entered the city, then they will go back to the beginning of the day, making The Forgotten City a blend of Groundhog Day and the myth of Midas.
This allows the player to think through the game’s mysteries in a slightly different way, as by resetting the world they will not only have the advantage of knowledge over the challenges they have faced in the day before, but also maintain any items they have procured. The game’s core mission – escape and get back to the present – is solved by helping the 22 inhabitants of the city with their own problems, who in turn will give the player information or tools that will help them on their quest. This could be deliberate, by those who too want to escape from this limbo, or accidental, such as by handing over keys that will allow the player to progress.
The Forgotten City‘s gameplay is mainly puzzle based, although there’s little by way of traditional puzzles. The game requires a solid understanding of how each request from the residents of the city will impact on another, such as receiving a cure for one character’s ailment to ensure they will accept a player’s request for support. However, there is some variety here, including one section that revolves more around horror elements with more direct, violent gameplay.
Overall, though, the structure of The Forgotten City feels closest to a point and click adventure game, albeit without the nonsensical connections between items and puzzles. One request will open up possibilities elsewhere, allowing the player to chop and change between their quests and where appropriate the items in their inventory. The time shifting mechanic opens this up even more, and based on this preview it feels surprisingly fresh.
Its atmosphere also ties in quite well to its Roman setting, although it might be said that things feel a little sparse in this preview build. Given the game’s plot and ties to mythology, it’s only fitting that the game has a feel similar to that of Ray Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans, particularly in those more horror-based sections. It still feels a little bit stilted at this stage, which will hopefully be addressed in its final release, but currently there’s a good groundwork.
Aside from this, so far The Forgotten City is showing the usual bugs for a preview build. Character pathfinding is a bit hit and miss, there are the occasional glitches when it comes to item drops, and there are some issues with clipping, both with the player character and with NPCs. There’s nothing that takes away immersion quite like watching a character standing with their legs stuck halfway into the ground, so although The Forgotten City is in a new engine, there are still hints of its Skyrim past.
As such there’s still some bits to work on before The Forgotten City launches at the end of July. At the moment, however, there’s an interesting kernel of a game here, with a neat premise and a good central time loop mechanic. Here’s hoping the final version will build on this potential.
The Forgotten City releases 28 July 2021 for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this preview.
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Rob Gordon is a writer and musician from Brighton, United Kingdom. A Creative Writing Masters graduate from the University of Exeter, Rob has his roots in fiction writing but also has extensive experience writing about video games and the video game industry. As well as this, Rob is at home with a focus on film and television, particularly when it comes to the realms of horror. Alongside his writing, Rob plays in two UK-based musical acts, the electro-pop band Palomino Club and rock band Titans & Kings, and also lends his vocal talents to the Big Boys Don’t Cry podcast, which reviews and discusses romantic comedies. The bands and the podcast can be found on all good digital distribution platforms, and Rob can also be found on Twitter.