Sid is a struggling writer. He’s had some success with his first novel and is trying, but failing to capture the magic of that first book. With a deadline looming for a funding application he starts to panic. Why won’t it come to him? Brief flashes of his old childhood room play on his mind as he postulates that his new environment and position in life might be the cause of his writer’s block. Forgotten Fields tells Sid’s story as he journeys back to his childhood home for a final meal before it is sold, reliving past memories through conversation and gaining inspiration for the outline of his next story.
Forgotten Fields (FF) is a narrative adventure with 3D point and click elements. It has vibes of both Life is Strange and Kentucky Route Zero whilst being its own experience not really like many others. Sid can move around a space often having to find an item to progress on his journey. This feels secondary however to the conversations between Sid and his friends. There are plenty of things spoken about in these very well realised conversations. The writing is great, from discussions on music not being the same as it used to be, to people moving on with their lives to experience something new. Each character Sid encounters on his journey has a different story, a different perspective and is in a very different place in their lives. These conversations capture the end of the transition from young adult, without a care in the world, into one with responsibilities and that impact very well. It’s a scary transition and one many of the characters are holding off. Discussions on changing jobs, moving away or being ready for the next curveball of life are frequent, reflective and familiar. Sid’s discussion on music almost turns into one of existential dread of the passage of time. These conversations flow and feel real. There was rarely a point when reading where I thought, ummm would they say that?
Sid’s journey isn’t taken alone. As he converses with friends and family the perspective shifts to the fictional characters he is writing about. Parts of the game allow the female protagonist of this story to be moved through that fantasy world. It isn’t quite a 50/50 split of experiencing the two worlds and the fantasy lingers a little longer than I would have liked. Sid’s conversations and thoughts influence that of his fictional character in his novel as he becomes inspired. He is journeying back to his childhood home, the character is pushed away from hers, Sid is looking for inspiration to write, the character has lost her magic and wants to find it again. Sid’s real world experiences influence the story he then tells.
This bleeding over between the two stories, Sid’s and the one he is trying to tell, is also shown in some of the actions Sid has to do. During an early conversation, some washing blows away and it is up to Sid to retrieve it. With a change in the tone this light, melodic Led Zeppelin-esq tune fades in. As Sid is moved through the environment picking up sheets or using items to get them it feels like a quest, an obstacle Sid has to overcome to be able to progress. It was a delightful twist to do this in Sid’s world rather than the fictional one it would be expected in. Placing this play in Sid’s world reminded me that we all have obstacles to overcome and that these can influence what we do, a conversation we have or shift our perspective.
Wrapping all of this dialogue and play up is a wonderful atmosphere and mood. The indie pop soundtrack and panning camera shots on some scenes frame Sid’s world very well. Just as much as the exposition given by the environments and the items in it provide for Sid, the short transition scenes between areas give us a look at the small team at Frostwood Interactive and where their inspirations and even goals lay. The dialogue heavy, play light experience with all of the filmic expressions show a team wanting to do more with gaming experiences.
FF does have a certain level of jank to it and most of this comes from the controlling of the characters. The movement can be awkward in tighter spaces, with loose controls making it a struggle to get through some openings immediately next to the character. It’s almost on the level of Resident Evil’s tank controls with the turning circle being very wide when moving. This then impacts the camera’s position. On occasion, the camera was at a poor angle or panned around through the environment leaving me stuck not seeing what I needed to. Whilst these are infrequent it can take away from a moment. It’s easy to be pulled out of the dialogue when all I can see is a wall. There is also a moment in the water where the camera shifts to first person perspective which made me feel ill. The water is rendered beautifully but bobbing up and down on it with imprecise controls was frustrating and nauseous. There are some other minor bugs within the build that I played but I would think these will be ironed out for the full release.
Finally as mentioned above the story in the fantasy world lingered longer than I wanted. I was much more interested in Sid’s world, his friends and the stories being told. The fantasy world is loose, it is Sid coming up with and fleshing out his ideas for a story, it just felt a little overdone and hung around a little too much. I wasn’t captured anywhere near as much with this fantasy world as I was with Sid and his experiences. It is used well to understand Sid’s thoughts and how he is feeling and reflecting on those experiences, I just think it could have been portrayed a little tighter. I enjoyed my time with Sid and getting to know him through his friends and his work. I very much look forward to what Frostwood Interactive produces next.
Should you play it? Yes!
Why… Forgotten Fields is a fantastic look at experience, reflection and moving on with life. The characters are interesting and the dialogue is very well written. Its atmosphere makes you feel somewhere else for a few hours.
But… A few bugs and some very loose controls spoil the main pull of the game, the story.
Reviewed on PC / Steam
Developer/Publisher: Frostwood Interactive / Dino Digital
Released: 14th April 2021
Review code provided through Neonhive