Reviews - Updated on March 31, 2022

There are enough video games that have grown out of modifications, but, as a rule, these are multiplayer entertainments. But focused on a single passage is not so much. The Forgotten City by Modern Storyteller is just such a case. It all started with a mod for Skyrim, but a team of three developers decided that their ideas were worthy of an independent game.

After four years of hard work, the release took place. But is the purely narrative “walking simulator” that was once just a side quest in the last part of The Scrolls worth attention? Now we’ll tell you. Don’t worry, we’ll do without spoilers!

Collective responsibility

The comment about spoilers is not accidental. The authors themselves warn in the main menu – do not spoil the fun for others, do not talk about the plot of the game more than necessary. It is an understandable request, because the gameplay here consists of the absorption of this very plot.

The protagonist, our contemporary, accidentally stumbles upon the ruins of an ancient Roman city, hidden in underground caves and therefore not found before. The ruins of houses and temples, the amazingly beautiful golden statues are already interesting, but these are only flowers: with the help of a temporary portal in one of the destroyed temples, our hero is transported almost two thousand years into the past. The city is in place, no one knows about it either, but in addition to the huge number of the same golden statues depicting people in different poses and situations, there are also ordinary residents in it.

The Forgotten City: Обзор

Judging by the graphics, we have some kind of mod for Skyrim. Oh wait…

As it soon becomes clear from conversations with them, it is impossible to leave the city: newcomers get here under mysterious circumstances and do not remember anything about it, and there is simply no physical way out – the city is in a deep cave, albeit illuminated by the sun from a break in its ceiling. The settlement is trying to preserve the way of life familiar to most of its inhabitants – almost all of them are Romans, therefore an elected magistrate rules here, and a vestal serves in the temple. There is even a gladiator, who, however, in the absence of rivals, is engaged in the protection of the local rich man.

But the most important difference of this small society (it barely has two dozen inhabitants) is not its closeness, but the mysterious Golden Rule. It sounds simple: if you commit a crime, even a petty one, like stealing a piece of bread, you will die, and your body will become another golden statue that is found in the city at every turn. The worst thing is that this punishment will befall not only the violator, but in general all the inhabitants – such a perverted version of the ancient Roman decimation.

Interestingly, the locals don’t know if the Golden Rule actually works. It is clear that it is very easy to confirm or refute its truth, but there is no one willing to risk the life of the whole city. In addition, the ubiquitous statues, so similar to real people, hint that the rule exists and operates.

The Forgotten City: Обзор

Some residents of the city refuse to believe in the Golden Rule.

But the player will feel his action on his own skin more than once, but, unlike the others, he has a chance to escape. It seemed to the developers that all the previous fantastic features of the plot were not enough, and they gave the main character the opportunity to go back in time in case of violation of the rule – but only by the beginning of the current day, when he had already fallen into the past. The time loop is a good thing, of course, but if you don’t break this circle and find a way to leave the city, then our character is doomed to eternal imprisonment in the same day: the inhabitants will sooner or later commit a crime and incur inevitable punishment.

Walking and talking simulator

The plot is intriguing, although similar stories about a small group of people who find themselves in a strange place living according to their own laws have been found more than once in the literature – remember at least The Doomed City by the Strugatsky brothers or Yevgeny Lukin’s Genius Sledgehammer. The city, however, is so-so here: its population is very modest, which makes you remember Skyrim once again – there were also “cities” with a dozen inhabitants.

On the other hand, this made it possible to do without extras – each character is unique, has its own history, character and directly affects the development of the plot. Love intrigues, struggle for power, greed, deceit – despite the invisible sword of Damocles over their heads, the townspeople are not alien to the vices familiar to people. Actually, we have to unravel this tangle of relationships, punishing the guilty and helping the unjustly offended.

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If this is important to you, then keep in mind that it was not without same-sex love here either.

The gameplay of The Forgotten City is assembled from two main parts: running around the locations and talking with the locals. Before us is a typical conversational quest from TES or Fallout, which is not surprising – let me remind you once again that the game was originally just a modification for Skyrim. A walking simulator with a detective flavor is both good and bad. Well, because the plot here is interesting. But from the bad – not the best organization of the gameplay.

The fact is that even the use of a time loop does not always save you from having to visit the same characters over and over again, having the same conversations with them, hoping that now you will be able to learn something new. This is not Outer Wilds, where the solution to the mystery occurs in the player’s head, and not in scripts that allow you to move forward in the story. The ability to return and start all over again allows you to choose a different answer in the conversation, and the knowledge and things gained remain with the player even after the start of the next Groundhog Day. But the need to click through the desired dialogue branch at least once and acquire some things does not disappear anywhere.

The Forgotten City: Обзор

Startup for capital accumulation – steal money, even if it breaks the rule. If you start the day over, the coins will stay with you.

NPCs are trying to create the appearance of life – they move around locations, have conversations and go about their business. A good idea for immersing yourself in the atmosphere, but the implementation let us down again: due to the fact that all movements and interactions of NPCs are subject to a strict schedule (even if it sometimes changes depending on our actions), it is sometimes impossible to start a dialogue – please wait until one the character will not end the conversation with another.

We run in circles

In general, you often have to wait for the next scripted scene to start and repeat what has already been done here. If at first you don’t notice this – there are enough other things to do, such as exploring locations that have not yet been visited, then the closer to the end, the more often you are faced with the fact that the game turns into a routine. There are attempts to automate this: one of the characters you meet at the beginning of the next time loop will help you. But for some reason, this idea was not brought to the end – some repetitive things will have to be done by yourself.

The Forgotten City: Обзор

But here it is better not to refuse – the gameplay will become livelier and will tickle your nerves with a rather creepy story.

And the plot is interesting! I want to know everything: to study the ins and outs of all the characters, to understand what is happening in the city, to find a way to get into inaccessible locations, to achieve all the endings … But the further, the more monotony. Well, the truth is, guessing the right branch in the dialogues with the help of the “saveload” is not at all fun. One of the quests is trying to save the situation, where you will have to not only talk, but also fight, but it is only enough to get a little distracted.

The Forgotten City, despite the status of an independent project, did not manage to go far from the image of the next side quest in Skyrim. There is no catchy zest here, except for the story itself, but even with that, not everything is going smoothly – I have already said about the implementation of conversations and progress in the plot. Outer Wilds, also about travel in the time loop, did much better.

Before us is a game that is not a pity to put “Commendable” – and no more. It is great for immersing yourself in the plot for a couple of evenings, but you should not expect more. That’s exactly what we were promised, isn’t it?

Pros: interesting detective story; many options for the development of events.

Cons: closer to the finale, there is a risk of drowning in the routine repetition of the same actions.

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