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Review: Time Looping The Forgotten City Wants You to Break the Golden Rule

Screenshot: The Forgotten City

I love a good underdog story, and I love a good adventure—and it looks like The Forgotten City meets at the intersection of that combination. Made by a core three person development team, The Forgotten City is an obvious labor of love. Starting as a popular and acclaimed Skyrim mod—here it is on Nexus ModsThe Forgotten City has been rewritten and expanded to become a completely standalone experience. Its basic premise remains the same however: it’s a time looping adventure with a mystery at its core.

The Forgotten City is a first person adventure game about a mystery in a hidden, underground Roman city. You play as a traveler who stumbles upon the ruins, and becomes trapped in the long-dead city. The city is crumbling, but gilded with gold and full of golden statues stuck in postures of fear. Soon, you stumble on a portal that sends you back 2,000 years and thrusts you into the heart of a mystery that involves ancient politics, deception, and angry gods. You can choose to approach The Forgotten City’s story in whatever way you’d like—through wits, bribery and clever problem solving. And while The Forgotten City’s open world encourages you to explore and try different solutions, you always have to be aware of The Golden Rule. If any person in the city commits a sin—murder, theft, etc.—then the entire population will be turned to gold. It’s a harsh reality to live in, but the population is trapped underground in their gilded city—and it’s up to you to stop it. To do so, you’ll need to exploit The Golden Rule and the ensuing time reset.

Screenshot: The Forgotten City

If The Golden Rule is broken in The Forgotten City, you will know it immediately: the population turns to gold, and the golden statues that already exist in the city come to life and try to murder you. It’s easier to break The Golden Rule than you might think. Remember Skyrim (or any Bethesda-style RPG) and how it assigns ownership to items? The Forgotten City retains these Bethesda roots, but instead of pissing off the city guard with theft, you’ll doom the entire city. Of course, you can use The Golden Rule to your advantage since it works as a “reset” to the current timeline. You can use this reset in clever ways, like stealing money to pay for an expensive item, or stealing a cure that could save a life.

Every person in The Forgotten City is an important piece to the overall puzzle—like cogs in a large machine. If you perform a favor for one person, it can prevent another favor from being performed. It’s almost like Groundhog Day as you have to explore the city, find out its issues, and deal with them one by one. Sometimes a solution you’ve been using won’t work going forward. For instance, if you have to give that lifesaving cure to someone, but simultaneously had to be somewhere else, you’ll have to find a way for that cure to get to the right person. And while The Forgotten City doesn’t really have puzzles, the entire scenario can be seen as one large puzzle—one in which you have to carefully nudge the pieces to be in the right position.

Screenshot: The Forgotten City

The Forgotten City  is a beautiful game, full of gorgeous Roman architecture—but it’s all window dressing for an extremely clever story. It sets up the rules for its world and allows you to dabble as you see fit. There really isn’t combat in The Forgotten City, but if you want to pick up a bow and start shooting arrows that’s certainly a choice you can make—of course, it’ll invoke the ire of the gods, turning everyone to gold. You can choose to play how you want since there aren’t really any “right “ answers—though there are multiple endings, with the best ending only possible by really exploring The Forgotten City’s corners, learning each of its characters, and engineering a solution over the course of multiple time loops. Some of the scenarios are genuinely tricky, but I haven’t felt such exhilarating “a ha!” moments since Portal 2.

I absolutely loved The Forgotten City. The time loop concept is developed here to near-perfection. There are a few conceits that must be accepted to truly enjoy its story, but once you allow yourself to get lost in The Forbidden City’s grand mystery, you’ll want nothing more than to solve it. Full of interesting characters and problems with clever solutions, The Forgotten City is definitely something adventure fans should check out.

 

The Forgotten City is available today on Steam.

 

 

 

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