The Forgotten City game began its existence as a creative mod for 2011’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. What started as a compelling game tweak, however, eventually became so popular among Skyrim fans that it was reshaped—over four years by its core team of three creators—into its own complete title centered around interesting story twists, exploration and well-voiced character dialogue.
Forgotten City starts off with the discovery of the ruins of an ancient Roman city that’s hidden away in the depths of a mountain. But this isn’t any ordinary pile of old rubble. This is a collection of relatively well-preserved halls and buildings, oddly populated by life-sized golden human statues. Then, during his explorations, the protagonist stumbles upon a time portal that sucks him back 2,000 years.
Your character tumbles out into the same Roman city. But the buildings and their lush surroundings are pristine, and all those gold statues are now living people. Your guy is welcomed but told that there’s a single “Golden” rule that must be obeyed: Those in this beautiful city can never sin. They can eat, drink and be merry. But if they steal, cheat, kill, covet or harm in any way another person, then everyone will be put to death and turned to gold.
What happened to this place? What is this magic that controls everything? What’s the hidden secret behind it all? Is the city truly a paradise outside of time, or a prison? And how can you return home?
It’s up to you to explore, converse with the Roman occupants, help them with quests and find out exactly what makes this place tick and how to use it for your benefit.
As you’d expect from an adventure based on Skyrim, you have a number of characters to interact with, lots of areas to explore and many quests to pursue. In fact, the interesting dialogue interactions are actually a large part of the gameplay since your character must piece together and solve the city’s mystery.
Unlike Skyrim, however, this game rewards you for avoidingviolent or nasty acts. There are a number of quests that ask you to figure out how to prevent violent acts that would ultimately kill everyone.
And if looked at from a certain perspective, the actions of this “sinless” world can promote thought and discussion about the nature of man and the sin perpetrated in our own world.
For all of the sin that you’re challenged to avoid, however, there are some dark choices in the mix here. You can shoot an arrow at someone, and certain sequences depict many being hit with arrows. If you start the game with a gun (an optional choice) you can kill someone with the bullets you have. In one sequence a man can leap to his death. Someone can be poisoned, another set afire. We see a golden statue of a man who’s gotten drunk and hanged himself. And he leaves behind a note suggesting that we should take our own lives, too.
We also find an unconscious woman who’s been kidnapped, chained-up and potentially tortured. We see skeletal remains and a bloodstained torture device. Bits of graffiti depict an orgy. And we encounter some sensual dialogue and modern discussions of characters living in unmarried relationships.
Many of the misdeeds listed above will cause the ground to rumble and a voice to call out, “The many shall suffer for the sins of the one.” And then the citizens are attacked, shot with arrows, and turned to gold. (If players have the wherewithal to make it back to the time portal, they’ll be given a chance to fix what went wrong.)
[Spoiler Warning] In addition to all that, there are also ancient “gods of the underworld” in the story mix with the power to magically conjure up nearly anything they desire. One of the four possible endings reveals that powerful alien creatures (that ancient men saw as deities) were behind everything that took place in this isolated Roman city, and many events in our world. One of those “god” characters helps explain everything and weaves a story tying together many main events of history and how all the historical gods of the Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were, in fact, this same small group of powerful aliens.
Some sequences include the consumption of beer and wine. And one individual is said to be drinking so heavily that she might be trying to kill herself.
The Forgotten City is a compelling game that keeps its time-looping storyline from feeling repetitive or boring. And it’s a rare gaming beast that actually dares you not to solve your problems with some form of destruction or brute force.
Parents should note, however, that for all this T-rated game’s positives, there are some content concerns—from lightly bloody deadly moments to discussions of ancient gods and powers—that are unavoidably woven into the tale.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.