Nostalgic for a place I’m not sure even exists…
It’s easy to get lost in the good old days while you’re in the middle of them, not realizing you are, indeed, in the middle of them. Spending time with friends, lazy afternoons, favorite places, home-cooked meals… all of this we easily take for granted while we’re experiencing them, scattered in-between daily tasks and nagging to-do lists. When we try to recapture what made those moments so magical, they slip from our grasp, and all we’re left with is the bittersweet realization that they belong in a place we can never return to. It’s important to cherish those times while we have them, as time waits for no woman, man, or struggling author dealing with an existential crisis.
It’s this feeling Forgotten Fields explores in its low-poly adventure narrative, a 3 – 4 hour journey spent grasping at memories and the magic they contain. Developed by Frostwood Interactive and published by Dino Digital, Forgotten Fields is inspired by the beautiful state of Goa, India, known for its breathtaking beaches. A cinematic experience that will have you taking plenty of screenshots while its characters wax nostalgic, Forgotten Fields is available on Steam for an introductory price of $11.04 (regularly $12.99).
Forgotten Fields has players taking on the role of Sid, a published novelist attempting to recreate his success by writing a second book. Unfortunately, writer’s block is plaguing the young man, preventing him from making much progress. With dwindling royalties and rising bills, Sid becomes increasingly frustrated with his inability to recapture the inspiration that carried him through the first time around. Although he does have to come up with an entire book at some point, his task at hand is to cobble together enough of a synopsis to apply to a grant, which will allow him to write without worrying about getting a day job.
But how is Sid supposed to write about anything when he’s suffering from writer’s block? It’s not that he doesn’t know what to write about — he knows the character, her world, and the general outline — but what of her desires? Her conflict? Her journey? The friends she meets along the way, and the growth the experiences while pressing forward? All of that is hazy at best, and the harder Sid tries to put anything to paper, the more unsatisfied he is with what he comes up with. Maybe taking a break is just what the doctor ordered: with the help of his friends and family, Sid reminisces about the past, how far he’s come since then, and how much farther he has yet to go…
Running parallel to Sid’s story is the protagonist’s in his next novel. A girl with missing magic, she travels through a malleable world, still being formed in Sid’s mind. Struggling in a similar manner to Sid, she too is trying to recapture her own magic, searching for a place that may or may not exist. As Sid writes, her world starts to take shape — initially, she’s surrounded by darkness, but as she progresses, her world becomes bright, colorful, and full of life. Perhaps Sid’s lost magic isn’t so lost after all?
Although Forgotten Fields can be played with a mouse and keyboard, I suspect it is perhaps best played with a controller. Far too many times I would struggle with camera orientation — supposedly, the scroll wheel is supposed to help with rotating the camera, but I couldn’t get it to work, opting to use control + mouse movement instead. The camera is fixed on Sid, moving with him as he does, which can be frustrating when you’re trying to enter a house or smaller enclosure. I found manipulating the camera to be a frustrating experience, which is such a shame considering the cinematic portions have some incredible camera positioning in comparison.
Forgotten Fields’ aesthetics are absolutely carrying the game. The music is a clear highlight — both the background music and the “radio songs” — so much so that, coupled with the cinematics, the visuals and audio almost don’t match the gameplay. It’s evident that there was a lot of time and effort spent on how the game looks, sounds, and feels to give off a certain vibe or mood. It absolutely works, too; at some points, I immediately felt nostalgic for what was happening on-screen despite not having these memories myself. At certain points, I genuinely felt like I was playing two games — I would ride the highs of the cinematics and beautiful music…
…only to feel a bit let down by the unpolished gameplay aspects. There were certain UI elements that you could tell were generic Unity colors/templates, some so-called “mini-games” were unnecessarily complicated in the sense that there were too many button presses, and just clunky movements that really weighed down how good the aesthetics were. I got to a point where I was just so annoyed with Forgotten Fields that I had to shut it off, only able to come back to it later after my frustration with it had died down. Such a shame for such a beautiful game.
Forgotten Fields, at first glance, is intriguing, meaningful, and deep. And maybe it is — it certainly has its beautiful moments that make you yearn for tropical beaches. But stunning cinematics and dazzling soundtracks can only carry a game so far, especially when movement sticks, cameras are broken, and gameplay itself just feels overall unfinished. Forgotten Fields is done — it’s playable — but I would love to see a lot more work before I can truly recommend this narrative game about narratives. It’s a story worth telling, but until some issues are addressed, I sadly can’t say for sure it’s worth playing.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Dino Digital; Developer: Frostwood Interactive; Players: 1; Released: April 14, 2021; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Forgotten Fields provided by the publisher.