The Forgotten City Is More Than A Simple Skyrim Mod

The Forgotten City Title Screen
Courtesy of Modern Storyteller

The Forgotten City

Publisher: Dear Villagers
Release Date: July 28, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical

Some Of The Best Games Were Once Mods

The concept of mods from existing games becoming their entities is nothing new, with several franchises being born as mere modifications originally. The Counter-Strike series for example debut as a mod for Half-Life, with other games such as Portal using the Half-Life 2 engine as a base. For a series as popular as The Elder Scrolls, it’s surprising how few self-existing entities there are in comparison to the number of mods that exist within the franchise. While it’s true many conversions exist, The Forgotten City may be one of the first full conversions to become its own video game, joining the ranks of Counter-Strike

Originally debuting in 2016 as a mod for Skyrim, The Forgotten City is more than a remaster of its origins, but rather a remake from the ground up, using nothing more than the mod as a skeletal base. Everything from the graphics, the models, the story, and even voice acting is completely new and professionally made, which is an impressive feat from Nick Pearce, who was the mastermind behind the project. The opening description states that the project was held together by less than five people and upon seeing the amount of love and care within the project, it’s hard to believe that such a beautiful project can be exhibited from the labor of a trio of individuals.

the forgotten city gameplay 1
The Forgotten City - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Some Elements Of Skyrim Exist, But Not A Lot

The personification of the character is limited compared to that of, say, Skyrim, which only gives the player the choice of gender, skin tone, and a choice of four backgrounds between Archaeologist, Fugitive, Soldier, and an Amnesiac. The Fugitive has a 25% increase in sprinting speed, the Amnesiac has a 50% increase in damage resistance referencing their resilience to pain, the Soldier has a gun with exactly ten bullets and no way to acquire more (which will make sense later). The final one that I chose, the Archaeologist, is knowledgeable about ancient history, which is fitting considering moments after you control your character you are whisked into Ancient Rome to prevent a curse from dooming a small city.

As the player explores the ruins of a “forgotten city,” the player will hear the origins of the city and how its inhabitants are forced to follow the “Golden Rule.” The Golden Rule states that one shall not commit a sin or else the entire city will be cursed, with all turned into golden statues for eternity. The player finds this out as they are displaced 2000 years in the past and hear about this from the magistrate who fills them in on more details. One will commit a sin that will cause the Golden Rule to be broken, dooming the city and forcing its ruin. The only way to return to the present day is to cause a time paradox and prevent anyone from breaking the Rule.

the forgotten city gameplay 2
The Forgotten City - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

The Forgotten City Is A Game Of ‘Clue’ In Ancient Greece

This turns the game into a first-person mystery that can end in several ways, the most direct way is figuring out which of the town’s inhabitants is the guilty one, with other ways including helping troubled townspeople with their problems to prevent them from breaking the Golden Rule. One of the earlier instances is the town’s stand-in practitioner Lucretia, who introduces herself to the protagonist on the recommendation of the magistrate to investigate further.

Upon meeting her, Lucretia is very close to breaking the Golden Rule by threatening to kill a shopkeep for purposefully gouging the price of life-saving medicine, thus causing the death of a woman who was poisoned. The mystery as to how a woman was poisoned without breaking the Golden Rule can only be solved by preventing the death, to begin with, which means the player finding a way to retrieve the antidote for themselves. Unfortunately, the shopkeep is unable to play fair, so the only option is to steal it.

TFC gameplay 3
The Forgotten City - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Of Course, There’s Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Shennanigans

This is where the prime mechanic of the game begins to come forth, as stealing is very much so a sin, thus breaking the Golden Rule. However, as the protagonist is aware of their time-traveling situation, they can break the Golden Rule and return to the portal at any moment, returning them to a time before calamity starts. The transition into the world distorted by the breaking of the Golden Rule is jarring, replacing its lush and beautiful scenery with grim darkness as once-dormant statues come to life and begin attacking the player.

 With no way to defend themselves, the player has no choice but to break into a sprint and run. Unless, of course, you were a soldier and you realize that you came into the past with a highly advanced pistol. Remember, that pistol only comes with ten bullets, so it’s best to use those sparingly. 

TFC gameplay 4
The Forgotten City - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Multiple Cycles In The Forgotten City Is A Must To Solve The Puzzle

Returning to the time before the city's ruin with the antidote in hand, the player can save the poison woman and get information from her about what caused her poison situation. It’s then revealed that she chose to ingest the poison herself with the means to kill herself after being dissatisfied with her current situation. It’s then up to the player to talk to the ones who drove her to suicide, opening up more doors to who potentially would break the Golden Rule.

There’s a lot of action going on in the game, although 90% of it is based around the story that each character provides in trying to deduce who is the suspect. Like most mystery cases, the player has the option to immediately pin the blame on the most “obvious” suspect, yet it may just be the one person that the player least expects. 

Regardless, those who are expecting action gameplay may need to look elsewhere as the game takes pride in pacing and story over high-octane fights. For its uniqueness, I respect The Forgotten City as a game and its story is enough to fill me with intrigue on who could be the culprit, all the while I break the rules myself. The ends justify the means, right?

The Forgotten City is now available on PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S.

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