Forgotten Fields Review: Fleeting Familiarity

The feeling of being stuck is likely nothing new. Forgotten Fields takes this stringent emotion, along with others, and examines it in a short, personal story about embracing all that life offers. With graceful sights and sounds, the game hopes to coat the player in a world both soothing and sorrowful.

Forgotten Fields Review: Fleeting Familiarity Cover

Back in the, in hindsight, wonderful year of 2019, I reviewed a game called Rainswept. A stylistic mystery game with a moody soundtrack and fragile characters, it evoked a sense of something more than just standard detective-work. In the years since, developer Frostwood Interactive presumably went back to the drawing board and thought up a scenario more keen on clawing into the recesses of the human psyche. Enter Forgotten Fields, a generally relaxing, picturesque portrait into the life of a writer in creative purgatory.

An “exciting game,” this is not. At least not in the sense that the general gaming enthusiast would conjure on thought. Far more intimate in its execution, one plays Siddharth, who’s struggling to come up with a draft for his next story. As one wades through a single day in his life, they’ll come to understand his mindset, his relationship with others and the world, and how the events that shaped his formative years influence his current self. Vulnerability is generally not a sexy trait, though to those searching for more emotional opportunities in gaming, a proverbial door has opened.

Forgotten Fields is available to purchase via Steam for your regional pricing.

Story – Homeward Bound

Upon opening the game, one will be shown words. These words will not make any sense, as they lack context. Soon enough, frustration and stagnation hold, and the picture becomes clear: Sid lying on his bed, spacing out. Going through his lax morning routine, we learn about the impending deadline for the draft of his next novel, lest he miss out on some much-needed grant money. On top of this, he’s invited back to his childhood home by his mother, who intends to sell it off the morning after. Two momentous events, dragging ever closer to reality, and Sid can do nothing to wade the tide.

For full transparency, story is the non-literal name of the game here. If this summation of the plot and what it entails on an emotional scale does not appeal, turn back now. While some gameplay elements exist (more on that later), the bulk of one’s enjoyment will inevitably stem from the substantial amount of dialogue and soulful pondering. Perhaps the most “riveting” part of the gameplay is playing host to your friends during a dinner party.

What ends up a positive force for Forgotten Fields is the way it clings to its themes. Not so much that it says something profound, but how it dissects the very nature of the message. So simple it is to say something like “Creativity is cool and selling out is bad”; here, this and other mental conundrums are expressed and given perspective through a variety of different characters. Things stated aren’t left to serve as morale baiting—Sid is more like a temple of contemplation, absorbing information and comparing them among all else in his worldview. Looking at life as a puzzle with no answers, only shaping the overall image through choices made along the way.

I made a decision to go to the beach in a long-sleeved shirt and pants.

I made a decision to go to the beach in a long-sleeved shirt and pants.

If the goal was to tickle the creative fancies of players, I would say it succeeds more than it doesn’t. By the end, it was hard not to feel some sense of elation with the choices I had made. To empathize with Sid’s situation and be reminded of the nostalgic binds that hold him, along with most of us. The developer does an excellent job of handling the pacing in a realistic(-ish) fashion, while maintaining some level of conflict or emotional weight throughout. Taking me about 2.5 hours to complete, it’s easy to compare it to a long animated film, interaction aside.

Not all is equal parts effective, however. Various points in the story felt somewhat rushed, particularly when it came to the ending sections. Ironically, one of the things that Sid tries to abide by is the necessity to leave an air of mystery, to not spell everything out. And yet, there are times in Forgotten Fields where things are elaborated on seemingly for the sake of it. Either a little more time to develop the… developments or less time so as to not have them feel necessary could’ve done this story good.

It's not always easy - writing.

It’s not always easy – writing.

Gameplay – Chickens in the Road

Whatever grace can be felt from this game’s story is not mirrored in its gameplay elements. The issue isn’t necessarily its core place within the game, but its execution. Playing Forgotten Fields is pretty simple: you are Sid, and you go around and interact with things. Unfortunately, the prospect of “control” is much harder to implement than it sounds.

I should also note something at the time of this writing. Per the latest update to the game, I have become locked in a constant loop of the game registering me as wanting to change Sid’s outfit. Every time I try to exit, it boots me back in to the fashion screen. Reloading doesn’t work, restarting doesn’t work; a perpetual, constant loop of changing clothes. I did manage to beat the game prior to this specific update, so it only deterred me from collecting my own screenshots. Nevertheless, it’s an indication that the game’s current technical state is not really the greatest. And hey, by the time this review releases, this bug may be gone. (I hope it’s gone.)

[Edit: The bug described in the previous paragraph has been patched out.]

Another consistently irritating detail comes in the form of obstacles, where Sid will struggle with cramped spaces and/or things placed along the path. It can be a pain when running along and suddenly you come to a complete stop by a flock of chickens. These chickens stopped me so many clucking times in a particular area that it prompted me to type this out right now. More specifically, though, this was more commonplace in tight corridors and furniture-laden rooms. Kind of like an old-school Pokémon game, any interference with weighted material brings you to a complete halt. You’ll have to add in your own sound effect, though.

This seems rather Pokémon-esque, yeah?

This seems rather Pokémon-esque, yeah?

A majority of the game comes in the form of walking/running around and pressing “A” on things. Sometimes, though, it gets a little experimental and tries some other features. Quick time events (QTEs) are one of these things—which, ultimately, happens twice and doesn’t amount to much. Other details include first-person view, where you can pick up an object and throw it. This “throwing” occurs once; first-person in general occurs twice. Good of the creator to implement some flexibility in activity… except it also comes off as kind of thrown in. Doesn’t add much to the overall experience.

While it seems quite damning to point all of this out, I should stress that this isn’t too much of a deal-breaker. Sure, sometimes it’s annoying to actually “play” the game, but with how story-driven this is, the importance of gameplay quality is less important than usual. Even if it took a little while to get to the next conversation, just getting there was worth it, most often. The only substantial issue is with coding and controller input; playing this on controller is kind of a struggle.

Deep, dude.

Deep, dude.

Graphics & Audio – Fields Were Not Forgotten

If Rainswept was the foundation, Forgotten Fields feels like a natural evolution. The former had a fairly distinct style that was both simplistic and artistic. This takes a similar path, only in 3D. Models are somewhat low-poly, with animations that seem out of an old Gmod video from YouTube in the early 2010’s. What makes it work is the expectation that this is a reflection of life in a non-realistic fashion. Just realistic enough to be immersive, though separated by the clear distinctions from reality. It’s exactly what I would expect a Frostwood Interactive game to look like in the 3D space, and it’s great.

Forget about the people—the nature shots are so striking. Beautifully detailed in the most dazzling of ways, effectively engrossing the player in the settings at play. Annoying as those chickens may have been, the cow-laden fields were simply divine. Empty as most areas are, one can’t help but explore regardless, even if to just see the sights that make up an area’s identity. Shots of the beach, a simple neighborhood, and driving down an open road are among the visual highlights that the game provides regularly.

Oh, and a burning building.

Oh, and a burning building.

My only complaint is that sometimes the models are just janky enough to break that immersion, particularly with their animations. Sometimes you’ll have Sid sitting with his body clipping through the back of a chair. Other times the game will try to execute a scripted event where a character needs to be in one spot, but something gets in their way, so they idly walk in one place for several seconds before teleporting to that destined spot. Things like this tend to be a problematic, albeit goofy indication of some needed polish.

Another returning factor from Rainswept is composer micAmic, who makes up a majority of Forgotten Fields‘ soundtrack. With Rainswept, there were a few standout hits, while the rest somewhat blended together collectively. Here, it’s something of the opposite. No specific track stood out in my mind, only that the whole remained consistently impressive. Very soothing, almost in a way that has you craving adventure you’re within reach of. Their composition, along with the nice details of the visual make-up, pack a powerful emotional punch. Usually.

Like with the writing, there are times where I think they lay it on just a bit too thick. Ambience and moody tunes are lovely, though I found the balance somewhat in favor of those occasionally overbearing sounds, screaming for the player to feel something. One of the most effective scenes in the entire game was made with a simple realization, accompanied by a simple glance-over and very soft ambience. Sometimes it pays to let the full weight of a situation rest in the mind, with no distractions.

Forgotten Fields was reviewed on PC via Steam. A review key was provided by Neonhive.

Summary
To forget or not to forget? That is the question. With a more personal venture to its name, Frostwood Interactive attempts to denote itself as a company that inspires people's emotional core. Forgotten Fields isn't the most riveting piece of gaming available—actually playing the game comes with its hurdles. Where its success lies is in the way it communicates and molds its characters, how it attempts to bring them to life and have them identifiable. From this, the game is a modest and simple triumph of earnest self-reflection. As it came to an end, I found myself wanting to try just a little harder in my own life.
Good
  • An effectively engaging story with heart
  • Gorgeous shots of nature
  • Soundtrack does all it needs to do to immerse and inspire
Bad
  • Good control is a concept often taken for granted
  • Occasionally lays on the emotional coating too thick
  • In need of some technical polish
7
Good

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