The Forgotten City (PS5) Game Review – A short but memorable adventure

A short but memorable adventure

Created by developer Modern Storyteller, The Forgotten City is a narrative adventure game with some light combat thrown in. Thanks to its time loop mechanic, comparisons can be made to Deathloop but whereas that game was action-heavy, this is far slower in pace with a bigger focus on conversation than fighting a bunch of bad guys.

The game is set in Ancient Rome but the character you play is actually from the modern day. The story begins in the present with you waking up after being rescued from a watery grave by a woman called Karen. She asks you to search for her friend in some nearby ruins, which you kindly do, and this is the catalyst for an adventure of a lifetime (for your character at least) when you discover a portal that allows you to travel back through time.

After stepping through the time portal, you find yourself in a Roman settlement that is populated by a range of interesting characters that you get to meet during your playthrough. One character that is key to the story is Sentius, the city magistrate, and upon meeting him, you will get to learn about the Golden Rule. This rule dictates that should anybody commit a crime, everyone in the city will die and get turned into solid gold. Why? Well, it’s something to do with the Roman Gods but I won’t divulge any spoilers here.

You arrive on the day of an election that could see Sentius get usurped from power. But while this is obviously a concern for the city leader, he is more concerned about the Golden Rule being broken. For reasons that are initially unknown, he suspects the rule will be broken that day and as can be expected, he tasks you with finding out who the perpetrator might be.

From there, you are free to walk around the city to meet its various inhabitants. You need to question each person and in some cases win their trust, as you try to find out who might cause the crime that could potentially end the lives of the people around you. Unfortunately, you are against the clock so you can’t dawdle around at your leisure. If you fail to find the answer you need before the end of the election, somebody breaks the Golden Rule and you are then forced to run back to the time portal to start the day again.

While this might sound frustrating, it really isn’t! There are times when starting the day can be advised as you need to take on quests that can only be completed at certain times of the day. As these quests are integral to completing the game properly and reaching the ‘best ending’ (there are a total of four endings), you need to use the information you have learned the previous day to complete the quests the next.

If you want to start the day again, you don’t have to wait for the election to end. You can simply commit a crime yourself, such as stealing a valuable item from one of the characters, as this breaks the Golden Rule, kills everyone, and causes you to return to the portal to reset the day. You then set out on your mission again armed with fresh knowledge from your previous day’s encounters to get one step closer to solving the game’s central mystery.

The game hinges on the conversations you have with the city’s residents as the only way to progress is to get the information you need from them. The game is rather dialogue-heavy as a consequence but as the characters always have something interesting (and often quite witty) to say, speaking to them is never a chore. Talking to them is especially fun when you can pre-empt what they’re going to say after starting the day anew, as some of these interactions are quite fun when you take them by surprise with your conversation choices.

As I mentioned earlier, the game does contain some light combat so you get to do more than simply chat with the people around you. Combat begins when you find the golden bow and enter the game’s secret areas where golden statues have miraculously come to life. You need to shoot these statues before they dispose of you, which is no easy task as they are surprisingly nimble. An arrow to their heads will usually do the trick but as aiming can be a little fiddly, you might need to run and hide before taking aim at your foes.

These combat sections are fun, despite the tricky controls, and they are a welcome relief from all the talking. Unfortunately, they are short-lived as the game needs you to progress in a hurry, so you can’t spend a great deal of time exploring the game’s golden temples and underground areas where these enemies lie in wait.

I’m not going to reveal too much about the game’s plotting as there are surprises in store that are best kept hidden. Be warned, however. It is possible to complete this game early, without learning all of its secrets, so this can reduce its already short run-through. It should take you about 7-8 hours to see the game through to its best ending but it’s possible to finish the game within 4-5 hours if you find the exit that allows you to return to your own time.

I did finish the game early and this was rather disappointing to me as I was having such a good time exploring the game’s world. Thankfully, I was able to return to a previous save file and complete the game properly and I recommend that you do the same if you inadvertently take the path that ends the game abruptly.

Graphically, the game is good enough although it doesn’t quite push the PS5 to its limits. The Roman settlement has lots of detail and is suitably shiny, as befits the opulent temples and golden structures, and all of the characters are rendered well. This game actually started life as a Skyrim mod in 2015 but the developers at Modern Storyteller have worked hard to ensure the graphics don’t look like something you would find on older hardware. It might be that the Switch, PS4, and Xbox One versions of the games have slightly downgraded graphics but I doubt too many compromises have been made to make the game look good on these last-gen consoles.

I had a good time with The Forgotten City and it’s a game that, despite its title, I won’t forget in a hurry. With a captivating story, an excellent time-loop mechanic, and writing that made me laugh one moment and gasp the next, this was something of a treat to play. If you play it through it to the best ending, you will be well-rewarded by the final outcome and story reveals, so be sure to play through it again (or return to an earlier save) if you fail to reach the game’s proper conclusion the first time around.

My only regret is that the game is so short as I was having such a blast exploring Ancient Rome and trying to solve the intricate mystery that lay within its city walls. But if Modern Storyteller ever creates a sequel, I will be glad to travel back through time again to solve the latest mystery they have concocted.

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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