The Forgotten City review

2022-04-19 by George P

  • Reviewed on

  • Platforms

    Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X och Series S, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 5

  • Developer
    Modern Storyteller

  • Publisher
    Dear Villagers, Ubitus K.K.

An Unforgettable Forgotten City

Immersive is a term that I do not tend to use very often. Of the many games I play annually only a few manage to truly make me feel like a part of their universe, and I can confidently say that the Forgotten City was definitely one of them. In just a couple of hours of playtime, I was already invested in the game’s unique world, and in the personalities, motives, and secrets of its dissimilar inhabitants. The Forgotten City is an adventure that compels you to explore its majestic ancient realm, understand the nuances of its plot, uncover its grand mystery, and care about its characters, the consequences of your actions, and the fate of the city. Achieving that level of immersion, in what is a relatively short experience, is no small feat for even large studios, let alone a very small indie team.

The visual presentation, while not being the highlight of the game, is nonetheless expressive and meticulous, and includes quite a few impressive locations and awe-inspiring landscapes. But what makes the Forgotten City a visually memorable world is not highly advanced graphical fidelity, but rather the town’s unique setting, its enigmatic aura, and its historical foundations. Alongside the visual, both the game’s music and sound design have a central role in the creation of the Forgotten City’s mysterious and captivating atmosphere. The game’s original orchestral soundtrack is excellent and allows for a lot of aesthetic variation depending on the scene’s intended setting and mood. Another crucial audio-related aspect when it comes to immersion in such a dialogue-heavy game is of course the voice acting, which I am very glad to say was absolutely brilliant. The Forgotten City features more than 20 characters, all of which are matched with a series of high-quality performances, with a few specific characters being in the spotlight with top-tier voice acting. Additionally, attention to detail is a consistent theme throughout the experience. There is such an extensive amount of small but carefully placed elements that further reinforce that sense of immersion, either consciously or subconsciously. These include things such as inspectable objects, conversation details, environmental cues, background chatter, and more.

On top of that, the game’s structure, writing, and level design allow for the excellent overall pacing of the story and the game as a whole. From start to finish, there was no instance where I felt bored from the lack of content, and at the same time, there was no instance where I felt overwhelmed by the amount of content. The game manages to maintain an ideal balance between information, storytelling, and mystery on one side of the scale, and coherence and clarity on the other.

The Many Shall Suffer for the Sins of the One

When first arriving in the Forgotten City you will be introduced to its foundational principle and the game’s core plot point, the Golden Rule. The town is plagued by a divine curse that states that if any citizen commits a “sin”, then the city’s entire population will be turned into golden statues. The game begins as a whodunnit as the player is informed that one of the city’s inhabitants is going to break the Golden Rule before the end of the day. And while the journey starts as an effort to identify and stop the lawbreaking citizen, the player will quickly discover that there is much more to this entombed town than meets the eye.

The writing,storytelling, and world-building are the experience’s strongest points, and the components that allow the game’s visual and auditory presentation to shine. As a big fan of history and mythology, I tend to play a lot of games that include such elements. The Forgotten City is one of the few that truly manages to bake mythology into its core narrative and uses plenty of historical references to enhance it as well. The game uses the Golden Rule as a vehicle to explore the nature of individual morality, law, and social moral systems; and calls the player to question right and wrong. The characters themselves represent not only a variety of different geographic regions, but also a wide range of the era’s different philosophical schools of thought, religious beliefs, and personal stances on morality. From the very start and throughout its course, the game is able to combine these ingredients through its writing and presentation to create an impactful experience and a fun adventure. While at the same time encouraging personal introspection on nuanced questions. Unfortunately, in its final act, the Forgotten City chooses to abandon most of these intriguing elements in favor of multiple exposition dumps and a complete alteration of its original atmosphere, themes, and writing direction. Unfortunately, this abrupt transition, alongside some other factors that cannot be spoiled, ultimately led to what I thought was a shallow conclusion.

Looping the Gameplay Loop

In recent years there has been a great surge in time-loop themed games, many of which have seen both critical and commercial success. In just 2021, we saw the releases of titles such as Returnal, Twelve Minutes, the Echoes of the Eye DLC for Outer Wilds, Deathloop, and of course, The Forgotten City. It is therefore very interesting to examine how this game fits into this trending sub-genre, and how it utilizes its time-loop function both thematically and mechanically.

First of all, unlike in many other games in that sub-genre, the time loop in the Forgotten City is not triggered by a set timer but rather by the activation of the Golden Rule. I found this to be a very distinct feature that differentiates the game’s core gameplay loop from similar titles. It is a mechanic that inspires curiosity and fits with the theme of questioning the nature of the Golden Rule, while also complementing the game’s worldbuilding and central narrative. Compared to other similar games, the Forgotten City also seems to be relatively playful and meta with its use of time travel. There are many cases where the game does not seem to take itself and its time looping too seriously, and there are a few moments that subtly crack the fourth wall. I personally did not find any of these elements immersion-breaking and I enjoyed quite a few of the game’s more light-hearted and comedic moments. However, puzzle-wise the time-loop is never utilized in any intricate way and the game’s save system makes the experience very forgiving. This design choice seems in line with the game’s overall direction. Anyone looking for a difficult puzzle adventure or a challenging detective investigation will not find it here as this is not what the Forgotten City aims to be.

More accurately, the game could be described as a piece of interactive storytelling or a more advanced version of a visual novel. And when considered in that context, the Forgotten City is an excellent example of how games can be used to communicate a story and construct a fictional universe in a comprehensive and engaging way. However, there are a few odd design choicesthat did not seem to fit with the game’s style and overall vision. These include things such as a janky combat system, awkward chase sequences, and gimmicky platforming elements. I found it baffling as to why the developers decided to include any of these additions in the final product. In my playthrough, every time I had to engage with these features, all they did was snap me out of the atmospheric narrative adventure and remind me that I am playing a game. And because none of their corresponding mechanics are particularly polished, they seem to undermine the overall quality of the experience as they feel cheap compared to the rest of the game’s content. Thankfully, these features are absent for the majority of the game’s course.


The Forgotten City is an excellent piece of interactive storytelling that offers an engaging and intriguing adventure but is partially held back by a problematic final act and a few odd design choices.