The Forgotten City is a game that seems like it was made for me: It’s an indie game (obviously), it’s all about an ancient Roman ruin (I studied Roman Archaeology in University), and involves time-travel shenanigans (I love me some wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey action).
Originally based on a mod for Skyrim, The Forgotten City has been recreated in it’s own context, and has an incredibly engaging hook, a brilliant use of time travel as a mechanic and a gorgeous and slightly sinister environment to explore.
Deep underground in an ancient Roman city, twenty-six trapped explorers lay dead because one of them broke a mysterious law. A window in time leads back into the past, allowing you to change their fate – or witness their deaths in a time loop for eternity.
Fortunately, hope remains. The Forgotten City offers incredible freedom, inviting you to manipulate the timeline, Groundhog Day-style, so events play out differently. By talking with diverse characters, making tough choices in moral dilemmas, and thinking laterally, you can unlock vastly different endings.
The demo I played opened with you taking on an altruistic act deep in the wilderness of the Italian Alps: a woman’s brother has gone into a Roman ruin and hasn’t come back in some time. This woman, having just pulled you from the river and saved your life, ask for you to see if you can find her brother, as she’s claustrophobic and cannot force herself to enter the ruins.
You take her up on this, and enter the ruins. The environments here are GORGEOUS and dripping with mysterious atmosphere. Honestly, I think I would have been content with just exploring these ruins without was about to happen.
Entering a small temple, you trigger a false floor and are dropped into a deep pool, emerging to find a whole other part of this city, deep underground and full of…odd..statues. The environment is FULL of golden statues. Some of these look like they are just that, statues, but others appear to be mid-action or in strange locations.
Things get even stranger when you find the desiccated corpse of the woman’s brother, apparently dead for some time due to suicide. His suicide note is even stranger, lamenting being trapped in this place except for that damned portal back in time.
Sure enough, you find this portal and jump through (because video game protagonists). You find yourself in a version of that same city, but full of people and life. You’re greeted by one of this cities citizens and given the tour, learning that this small community is made up of archaeologists, wanderers and other people that happened upon this ruin and took the same path as you, now trapped in this pocket of time.
This strangeplace is governed by The Golden Rule, which essentially boils down to don’t steal or kill anyone. Break this rule, and things get scary REALLY fast for everyone, as it is enforced by mythic overseers. However, you soon learn that there are problems in this society that are going to require breaking The Golden Rule to be completed, and with a convenient time portal just one fevered run away, you can infinitely reset this slice of time like it’s your own personal Groundhog Day.
What The Forgotten City give you is a goal and the freedom to solve it how you want to. Most games would probably feel content giving you a combat option, a stealth option and a charismatic option, but The Forgotten City goes one step further and makes this all a complex puzzle by injecting time travel in to this equation.
I for one cannot wait to see what kind of paradoxical trouble I get myself into.