There are enough video games that have grown out of modifications, but, as a rule, they are multiplayer entertainment. But there are not so many focused on a single passage. 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 independent play.
After four years of hard work, the release took place. But is the purely story-driven “walking simulator” worth paying attention to, which was once only a side quest in the last part of “The Scrolls”? Let’s tell you now. Fear not, spoilers are missing!
The spoiler note is no coincidence. The authors themselves in the main menu warn – do not spoil others’ fun, do not talk about the plot of the game more than necessary. Quite understandable request, because the gameplay here consists precisely of absorbing this very plot.
The main character, our contemporary, accidentally stumbles upon the ruins of an ancient Roman city, hidden in underground caves and therefore not previously found. The ruins of houses and temples, 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 a huge number of all the same golden statues depicting people in different poses and situations, there are ordinary residents in it.
Judging by the graphics, we have before us some kind of mod for Skyrim. Oh wait …
As it soon becomes clear from conversations with them, you cannot leave the city: newcomers come here under mysterious circumstances and do not remember anything about it, and there is simply no way out physically – the city is in a deep cave, albeit illuminated by the sun from a crack in its ceiling. The settlement is trying to preserve the habitual way of life for most of its inhabitants – almost all of them are Romans, therefore an elected magistrate is in charge here, and a vestal is serving 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 between this small society (there are barely two dozen inhabitants here) is not its closeness, but the mysterious Golden Rule. It sounds simple: if you commit a crime, even a minor 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 step. The worst thing is that this punishment will befall not only the violator, but in general all the inhabitants – such is the 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 simple to confirm or deny its truth, but there is no willingness to risk the life of the entire city. In addition, the ubiquitous statues, so similar to real people, hint that the rule exists and operates.
Some residents of the city refuse to believe in the Golden Rule.
But the player will more than once feel its effect on his own skin, but, unlike the others, he has a chance to escape. All the previous fantastic features of the plot seemed to the developers a little, and they gave the main character the opportunity to go back in time in case of violation of the rule – but only to the beginning of the current day, when he had already fallen into the past. A time loop is, of course, a good thing, 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: sooner or later, residents will 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 ended up in a strange place living by their own laws have been encountered more than once in literature – remember, for example, The Doomed City by the Strugatsky brothers or The Genius of the Sledgehammer by Yevgeny Lukin . The city, however, is so-so here: its population is very modest, which makes us 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 story, character and directly affects the development of the plot. Love intrigues, the struggle for power, greed, deception – despite the invisible sword of Damocles overhead, 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.
If this is important to you, then keep in mind that this also has not been without same-sex love.
The gameplay of The Forgotten City is made up of two main parts: running through locations and talking to locals. This 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 detective-tasting walking simulator is both good and bad. Good because the plot is interesting here. But from the bad – not the best organization of the gameplay.
The fact is that even using a time loop does not always save you from having to visit the same characters over and over again, to have 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 appears in the player’s head, and not in scripts that allow you to move on through the plot. The ability to go back and start all over again allows you to choose a different answer in a 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 branch of the dialogue at least once and acquire some things does not disappear anywhere.
Startup for capital accumulation – steal money, even if it breaks the rule. If you start the day over again, the coins will stay with you.
NPCs try to create the appearance of life – they move around locations, conduct conversations and go about their business. A good idea for immersion in the atmosphere, but again the implementation let us down: 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 the other.
Running in circles
In general, waiting for the beginning of the next scripted scene and repeating what has already been done here often has to be done. If at first you don’t notice this – there are enough other things to do, like exploring locations that have not yet been visited – then the closer you get to the ending, the more often you come across 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 has not been brought to an end – you will have to do some repetitive things yourself.
But here it is better not to refuse – the gameplay will become livelier and tickle your nerves with a rather creepy story.
And the plot is interesting! I would like 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 thread in the dialogues using the “saveload” is not fun at all. One of the quests is trying to save the situation, where you have to not only talk, but also fight, but it is only enough to distract you a little.
The Forgotten City , despite the status of an independent project, did not manage to get far from the image of another side quest in Skyrim. There is no catchy zest here, except for the story itself, but even with that not everything is smooth – I have already said about the implementation of conversations and advancement in the plot. In the Outer Wilds , also dedicated to travel in a time loop, turned out much better.
Before us is a game, which is not a pity to put on “Commendable” – and no more. It is great for immersing yourself in the plot for a couple of evenings, but you shouldn’t expect more. This is exactly what they promised us, isn’t it?
Pros: an interesting detective story; many options for the development of events.
Cons: closer to the end, there is a risk of drowning in the routine repetition of the same actions.