It's time to travel back 2000 years and visit a cursed ancient Roman city for this unique take on the murder mystery formula.
In The Forgotten City, you play as someone who was sent back to a Roman city that's teetering on the edge of collapse. The city's small number of living inhabitants survive by the Golden Rule in which if any single citizen breaks an unwritten law then all of the residents are doomed to become golden statues forever. It's your task to figure out who is going to break the Golden Rule and stop the city's demise by using time travel to reset the stage when the rule is ultimately broken while using knowledge of past loops to piece it all together.
When you first enter The Forgotten City, you're greeted by Galerius, an unassuming guy whose job it is to welcome you and show you the way to the city's ruler, Sentius. After a quick chat with Sentius, you find out that you have a purpose for being there which is to discover who is going to break the Golden Rule and then hopefully prevent that from happening. After getting your bearings, you're free to explore the city and speak with the townsfolk in the hopes of learning more about them while digging up some dirt on others.
As you explore the city, you'll be impressed at the size and beauty of it as fancy villas, dusty caverns, dilapidated living quarters, marketplaces, cisterns, and many more environments are free to traverse. Every area is created with great detail which really brings the game world to life. You'll also see characters walking around the city with purpose and as you play, you'll find out that they're actually completing tasks and having conversations which may be pertinent to unravelling the mystery. The Forgotten City does an amazing job at immersing you in the city in this way, especially with character animations such as when you approach someone; no matter which direction they're facing or what task they're doing, they'll naturally turn to face you and be ready for a conversation.
Speaking with residents is the best way to move the story along and unlock quests which are tracked. Thankfully, The Forgotten City does a great job of not hand-holding you through it all while also helping you stay organized by only providing enough quest information to keep you motivated in gathering information. In some cases, it might be a vague hint because that's all of the information that you've managed to dig up on a subject by that point but as you find out more, quest information will become obvious and allow you to add a waypoint to help you find a person or item. The story is complex and has many twists and turns and the fact that the challenge manages to strike a balance between hand-holding and being completely perplexing is a testament to the developers' talents.
The gameplay mostly involves walking, talking, and piecing together clues but as you play, you'll unlock different ways to explore and find new areas. The Forgotten City is first-person and there isn't at ton of platforming involved although when there is, it can be a little cumbersome. While jumping and climbing around, you may be rewarded with coins and wine that can help you on your quest. Oh, and don't steal from people's chests as you'll break the Golden Rule and trigger Armageddon yourself. Anyway, these items are fun to find but it would have been great to see more variety in the items. I stopped looking at things in detail quite early on after seeing the same items with the same descriptions popping up everywhere. Collectibles would have been a nice addition, too, and would have added replay value given that the story can be completed in less than 5 hours without much trouble and that includes unlocking all of the endings.
The characters in The Forgotten City are impressive with a varied cast and great voice acting to match. Also, the writing is interesting and doesn't come across as forced. There are many branches of dialog to go through and what you choose actually matters. Fancy that; a game that says it gives you choices and it actually does something with them. The decisions that you make alter relationships which changes what information you'll find out in your current run before you have to intentionally do something immoral in order to break the rule and reset the time loop again which resets relationships, too. It might be fun to choose something that insults someone but you'll kick yourself after they decide to shut down and prevent you from finding out more information. The different choices that you make also feed into unlocking all 4 of the different endings with the canon one being quite a rewarding treat to watch.
The Forgotten City is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging murder mystery where the decisions that you make actually matter. Exploring the beautifully rendered city is a treat and I look forward to whatever the developers create next.
- + Enjoyable murder mystery with solid writing, acting, and an interesting story
- + Great presentation with a lot of variety
- + Intriguing use of time travel gameplay
- - No replay value after seeing all the endings which surprisingly doesn't take long
- - Platforming can be cumbersome