The Forgotten City: Marcus Crassus, a wealthy general, commanded the empire’s legions in the years before Julius Caesar’s reign over ancient Rome. One of his most famous achievements was the revival of decimation, a terrifying way to control an army by penalizing the collective for actions taken by dissidents. Each soldier would draw a stone and be divided into ten groups.
The nine remaining soldiers would beat the one who managed to draw a white stone, regardless of whether they were involved in any crimes against empire. It created fear in soldiers and instilled a sense of responsibility in them. They quickly learned to be self-disciplined in the face of such punishment.
The Forgotten City is a narrative puzzle game that was originally developed for Skyrim. It uses decimation as its foundation. It is an anecdote that describes the most important mechanic of the game, The Golden Rule. This rule is a constant threat to the small community, who lives in a remote and isolated city in the Roman Mountains. If anyone sins, a god watches over the community and threatens to make everyone into gold.
This could lead to utopia in theory, where people live peacefully together despite the constant threat of total destruction. It is not long before you realize the limits of what is right and wrong and who defines them. This allows the definitions and consequences of sin to be bent in cruel and creative ways.
You are teleported back to the ancient city shortly after the game’s start. There you will be caught up in the political web and passive-aggressive personalities. The magistrate of this society is the only one who knows who you are. He assigns you the task of using an infinite loop to find out who will break The Golden Rule and stop them from doing so.
You will also find that this is the only way to return to your time. This motivates you to become familiar with all the residents of the city and figure out who might be plotting the end of the world. Each loop offers the chance to get to know each citizen better through dialogue. You can decipher their daily routines, identify which citizens they interact with and what problems they might have. Each day eventually ends, and you’ll have to sprint to the shrine to start the next day.
You can follow leads in any order that suits you. Each loop doesn’t have to be strictly time-governed. If you choose not to prioritize a citizen with an illness, they won’t perish. This allows you to explore other threads and avoid the stress of having some tasks completed quickly at the beginning of each loop.
Although characters do follow a certain routine, they may be located in completely different areas of the city depending upon the time of the day. This can make it difficult to find the right person to start a conversation. However, The Forgotten City won’t make you waste your time by making you repeat the same actions.
The character at the beginning of each loop is a symbol of this, as it allows you to skip the tedious introductory dialogue and respond with one reply every time. The comfort of being able to skip through large amounts of dialogue and immediately get back to the same lines of inquiry you pursued last time is felt by all citizens that you interact with. Each citizen has their own way of understanding how you know.
Even though you don’t belong to the same time period as the city, you are still subject to the same rules. Any sins you commit will instantly trigger The Golden Rule, and you will have to reset. Some of these rules are simple to grasp, like stealing medicine or recklessly killing someone. Some of these are simple and easy to understand, but others are subtler and can make it difficult to live with such a threat.
For example, a threat of violence could trigger the end-of-the-world regardless of whether it was made from anger or sarcasm. Sometimes, simply trying to get a bribe back could cause the same result, showing you how clever some characters can be at exploiting loopholes within The Golden Rule. It’s part of the adventure to learn how to do it.
You will quickly be able to eliminate dangerous assassins or make large amounts of money without needing to reset your loop every time. You will be satisfied when you solve these problems the first time. But it’s even better when you realize how each piece is part of a larger puzzle that opens up new possibilities for you.
Most of the dialogue is used to make progress in The Forgotten City. There are many lines of inquiry to follow. Each branching path of dialogue can help you resolve some issues and open up new possibilities. The Forgotten City does a good job of telling you which paths have been exhausted and when new ones have opened based on any new information.
However, there are instances where a new line of inquiry gets lost in the conversation with others. These new lines of inquiry only emerge after you have repeated dialogues that don’t necessarily align with what you want to explore. Although it was not common, this did stop me from progressing significantly.
It made me question whether I had encountered any bugs or if I just didn’t trigger a new lead correctly. The trees of dialogue interact well with one another, so you are never left guessing what to do next.
Your conversational wit and exploration factors can make a difference in your progression. Sometimes you will be required to find evidence to support bold claims. It’s not always easy for residents to be happy about this, but the Golden Rule gives them confidence that you won’t take anything they don’t want to. You’ll have the opportunity to experiment with the rules, as items that you acquire last between runs. You can spend an entire run stealing currency from the town.
These misdeeds are anticipated by The Forgotten City every time. They won’t allow you to stop its progress in huge ways but will let you occasionally color outside the lines with satisfying results.
The Forgotten City is also a great example of how to keep the momentum going. It has a fine sense of pacing and a keen sense of timing that makes sure that no run feels rushed. You will find objective markers to help you navigate the city and spooky hints from a disembodied voice whispering to you.
Combining the two makes it so you are constantly prodded to uncover the next great revelation without being too pushy. Sometimes, your next step will not be marked by any markers at all. This is a sign that you have some information to get from others or an item that you must find until you receive more help.
The Forgotten City wants you to succeed, but not feel like you’re just running around aimlessly. It balances this so well that every story beat feels triumphantly earned.
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You will also find a few moments of traditional action-adventure elements. One optional section is conveniently signposted so that you don’t have to interact with the story. It is devoted to light horror and first-person action. This section can feel a little stale. The game’s story and branching conversations are the main focus, and not the fluidity of fighting enemies with a bow.
There’s nothing wrong with the sections, particularly since they are one-off events that can be used in other loops if desired. These sections are self-encapsulated detours away from the main attraction and offer some of the most disturbing story progressions that take The Forgotten City’s tone down in morally ambiguous ways.
There are serious themes that underpin The Forgotten City’s narrative, which can be explored in different ways depending on the ending you choose, but there is a playful element to the journey that will endear you to each character. One example is when I had to explain what memes are to an ancient Roman priestess.
She then attempts to contextualize my explanation using the only reference she has at the moment. Memes are hieroglyphs that have negative connotations toward people named Karen. She eventually settles on this explanation. This got me so much chuckle that I still associate the priestess that day with memes.
These moments are a constant addition to The Forgotten City’s otherwise grim narrative. They add a level of humor that cuts through the tension at great points.
This careful mixture of themes and The Forgotten City’s effortless way of serving them up makes each moment memorable. These themes provide the drive to explore more. The game will tease you with other endings to give you the best possible conclusion to the often morally complex story.
It’ll be difficult to resist the temptation to dive back in, even if it means seeing small reactions from characters to new dialogue lines or the reactive nature of relationships that can change to approaches you may not have considered. You will find equally rewarding rewards in The Forgotten City for your curious mind. This time-traveling tale is one you should not miss.
* Smart, clever, and well-acted dialogue is the foundation of the journey.
* It seems so simple to investigate, but the results can be satisfying and lead to solving mysteries.
* The Golden Rule is an amusing experiment on common gameplay tropes and how you can circumvent them.
* It is superbly organized and executed with great respect for your time.
* You may find new ways to investigate the conversation trees that you have explored for hours.
* Although the action sequences aren’t very engaging, they aren’t difficult to follow.