Few games have had such a pronounced effect on the video games industry as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and few individual mods for a game have garnered as much renown as The Forgotten City. After the undeniable success of its mod, Modern Storyteller was formed as a three-person studio and got to work over the last four years to forge their magnum opus: a fully independent and expanded version of the mod under the same name.
The Forgotten City takes players to an ancient civilization 2,000 years in the past, where every person lives under a terrible curse known as the Golden Rule: "The many shall suffer for the sins of the one." If even one person commits a crime, everybody in the city is doomed to a horrible fate. To ensure obedience, the city is littered with the remains of previous groups that failed to succeed.
You play as someone from the modern world, and through a series of unfortunate events, become trapped in a time loop in this ancient city. You'll be forced to replay the same day over and over until you unravel the secrets of the aforementioned Golden Rule and its home, all while trying to find a way back home to the present.
The Forgotten City tells an enchanting tale of mystery and intrigue, and deserves the attention of any player that loves a good story.
Bottom line: The Forgotten City is a fantastic entry in the oft-forgotten mystery-adventure genre, but a handful of flaws slightly detract from the experience.
- Captivating story and interesting characters
- Nuanced dialogue and multiple choices
- A rewarding conclusion based on player decisions
- Detailed and historical world filled with personality
- Visuals, movement, and animations rough around the edges
- Quest tracking and progression can be inconsistent
- May not offer great "value" for some players
The Forgotten City: The good stuff
The Forgotten City is a completely story-driven mystery-adventure game that shies away from violent options and actively encourages the player to explore, discuss, and investigate. If this describes the kind of game you enjoy playing, I strongly recommend playing The Forgotten City right now, without reading further. Our The Forgotten City review is entirely spoiler-free, but the less you know about the game going in, the better your experience will be.
|Category||The Forgotten City|
|Title||The Forgotten City|
|Play Time||8+ hours|
|Xbox Game Pass||No|
|Launch Date||July 28, 2021|
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
The Forgotten City starts with you waking up on the shore of a river, saved by a mysterious stranger. After brief introductions, you're able to customize your character and backstory. Your character appearance and name don't come up very often, but your choice of gender and backstory absolutely can affect the story and the options available to you while playing. I didn't go through every option and choice, but this is one of the numerous ways The Forgotten City ensures players know the power is in their hands.
After this and some more light conversation, you're prompted by the mysterious stranger to search nearby ancient Roman ruins foranother stranger, who apparently washed up on the same shore shortly before you did. This sets you off on a journey that will ultimately trap you in a Groundhog Day-style time loop over 2,000 years in the past. Suddenly, the dilapidated and decaying ruins you were exploring are restored and filled with life, with you as the interloper that disrupts the day-to-day monotony of life there.
It's entirely up to you to break the time loop and find your way back to the modern world, while hopefully helping the people that live there to free themselves from the Golden Rule and its oppressive control. Even attempting to escape dooms the city to destruction. To get to the bottom of the Golden Rule, you'll need to search the city for clues, speak to the residents and learn their stories, uncover secrets, deal with unexpected obstacles and events, and deftly maneuver conversations and debates to come out on top.
Straight away, The Forgotten City gives players access to a wonderfully detailed world filled with history and people that truly feel real. When it comes to all the foundations of great storytelling, The Forgotten City practically nails every single one. With great voice acting, in-depth dialogue options that change over time and adapt to your actions and decisions, stellar writing that draws you deeper into the world, and an overarching story that never stops posing new questions for players to answer, The Forgotten City is a hallmark of a good mystery adventure.
In the beginning of the game, players will likely question a lot of what is presented to them, as some parts of The Forgotten City appear, at least initially, as bad exposition or plot devices that simply exist to drive the story forward (for example: why you're there in the first place and why responsibility is immediately thrust upon you). As you unravel more of the mystery that blankets this tiny world, however, all the pieces begin to come together and form a complete picture. By the end of my playthrough, I was immensely satisfied by the results, and The Forgotten City even goes a step farther than the vast majority of games I've played to deliver a conclusion that made me feel a lot about my journey and dominated my thoughts for hours afterward.
Another refreshing aspect of The Forgotten City is how it uses its time loop trope in new ways, and encourages players to embrace any mistakes they make, as those mistakes will likely contribute to the game's finale. At first, I was tempted to resort to the classic "load to the last save" technique to circumvent my accidental mishaps, but I quickly learned that The Forgotten City was best experienced with all your mistakes in tow.
Gameplay-wise, The Forgotten City absolutely preaches an "ask first, shoot later" policy, and nudges players away from any kind of violent action. In fact, players are given a gentle warning if they're about to embark on a quest or mission that will result in violence or any darker elements, and these quests are entirely optional (so you can simply skip them). Ultimately, you can play the entire game without once hurting a soul. There are also very gentle platforming elements as a result of The Forgotten City's open world, which can be awkward, but none of it is too serious.
The Forgotten City: The bad stuff
After playing The Forgotten City, I honestly didn't have many complaints. In fact, many of the complaints I held in the first few hours of playing were resolved in a satisfactory manner later on, until I was basically left with the technical flaws that afflict the game. Firstly, the visuals. The Forgotten City isn't a bad-looking game and even includes a Photo Mode and a wide selection of fun and interesting "filters" you can switch between at any point. The Forgotten City also isn't going to win any awards for its visuals.
While a lot of the issues I ran into are set to be fixed with a day one patch, there are still some worth noting. The Forgotten City has incredibly awkward and abrupt "loading screens" scattered throughout that can often mess with textures, lighting, and the overall quality of visuals for a few seconds. While performance was never an issue on my Xbox Series X, these load screens and visual glitches were still noticeable and occasionally frustrating (and possibly more so on an older console or PC). On top of this, character animations and overall movement, especially during combat, sometimes felt unpolished and rough around the edges.
I also ran into a myriad of bugs and other issues throughout my time with The Forgotten City, most of which will apparently be fixed by a day one patch for the game. Some of the issues I ran into that weren't reported to me as known included an achievement being activated without me earning it, and some minor quest and progression problems (quests not updating when I expected them to after learning new info or updating prematurely). Towards the end of the game, I ran into a major problem that forced me to reload to a previous save in order to continue, in which a major "event" in the day didn't happen, and all the involved characters wouldn't let me interact with them.
Finally, The Forgotten City offers an interesting "value" proposition. While $30 is a reasonable asking price for most indie games, how much players will get out of the game depends on how they play. If you're looking for an action-packed Skyrim-like game, The Forgotten City is not that. If you're looking for dozens of hours of playtime in one playthrough, The Forgotten City does not have that. If you enjoy a slow-paced story-focused game, and don't mind replaying to explore different endings and paths you can take, The Forgotten City is packed with content and reasons to return over and over again.
The Forgotten City: Should you play it?
The Forgotten City shares a lot of similarities with the mod with which it shares a name, including an eerily familiar intro, but the game is clearly expanded upon in many ways and is successful in pulling away from its Skyrim origins to be set in an authentic and believable ancient city.
The rough edges around The Forgotten City's visuals, animations, and overall movement and combat don't overly detract from the game, and the vast majority of bugs and other issues I encountered should be fixed by a day one patch. The Forgotten City was a satisfying and fulfilling experience for me, but its overall value will differ depending on what kind of player you are and how much you're willing to invest.
I managed to earn the "best" ending in The Forgotten City after nearly nine hours of playtime, but I immediately felt compelled to restart the game with a new character to explore other avenues and endings, indicating that this game has much higher replay value than many other single-player games. Whether you played the original mod and loved it or never experienced the product that gave Modern Storyteller its beginnings, The Forgotten City is one of the best Xbox games for lovers of mystery and great stories.