NEED TO KNOW
What is it? A first-person time-loop mystery set in an ancient Roman city where a single sin kills everyone
Expect to pay: $25/£20
Developer: Modern Storyteller
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Reviewed on: RTX 2080, Intel i7-9700K , 16GB RAM
Link: Official site (opens in new tab)
Most games, technically, are in the time-loop genre. You can reload saves to try again, you can kill and die without consequence, and you can press reset on the world, starting over armed with the knowledge of events that haven’t happened yet. Every day can be Groundhog Day.
The Forgotten City is literally a time-loop game, and it makes excellent use of that magical reset button. You begin the adventure in the present day, stumbling into some ancient Roman ruins filled with golden human statues before being whisked back in time through a portal. You arrive in the same Roman city, but now it’s pristine and all those statues are living people. What happened to them? Why were they turned into gold? Is the city truly a paradise outside of time, or is it more like a prison? How can you return to your own time? And why is an ancient Roman city filled with ziplines?
The answers to those questions (except the zipline one, that’s just a convenience so you can travel around quickly) require lots of conversations with the citizens, who are almost without fail well-crafted characters, many with troubling secrets and interesting stories to tell. And the time-loop is your best weapon, eventually transforming you from a confused newcomer to a nearly omniscient detective in a city full of suspects. It’s a satisfying way to investigate, rewinding the clock each day to meet the same people and witness the same events, only with new eyes and new information.
As with all utopias, there’s a dark catch to the reason the city feels so pleasant and peaceful. If anyone in the city (including you) commits a sin like stealing or killing, the ground rumbles and people begin turning into gold statues. You must race back to the portal, which resets the day, giving you a chance to do things differently or maybe try out a completely new avenue of investigation.
(Image credit: Dear Villagers)
Climbing and jumping aren’t especially smooth in The Forgotten City, something I didn’t really notice during hours of peaceful exploration but that became apparent during my action-packed palace crawl. That entire section of the game felt like it was keeping me from what I wanted to be doing: walking, talking, and listening to the stories of interesting people.
Thankfully, most of the 10-12 hours it takes to reach the ending of The Forgotten City (and there are four endings, so you can take even more time if you wish) can be spent doing just that: soaking up the finer details of a beautiful and mysterious city, and slowly getting to know a collection of interesting, well-acted characters. If you have to relive a single day over and over again, Groundhog Day-like, this is a good one.