Thank you to Renaissance PR for providing the review copy of Forgotton Anne.
Forgotton Anne is a narrative story-driven adventure game developed by ThroughLine Games, I was fortunate enough to play for a short while at EGX last September and have a chat with Ingvi Snædal; Associate Producer. Now I’ve had the full Forgotton Anne experience how does it all measure up – well it’s certainly one that is going to leave an impression that’s for sure.
The story revolves very much around the player having a vivid imagination, it is a fantasy game after all. Anne is known as the Enforcer around The Forgotten Lands, which essentially is like a policing system; she keeps things in order. Now The Forgotten Lands are home to all manner of unique and quirky characters, they may be mops, pens, brooms, stethoscopes, scarves, you name it! The interesting thing about these usually mundane objects is that they’re each given a voice, a personality and most importantly a sense of belonging.
In order to understand why The Forgotten Lands exists, you must think about a time you may have misplaced a pair of socks or perhaps your favourite mug from the cupboard or your car keys (come on…we’ve all done that!). Everything you lose or forget is down in The Forgotten Lands and it’s here where the game takes place.
Anne is tasked with investigating a rebel alliance who are threatening to destroy the Ether bridge, the Ether is the magical essence that practically keeps The Forgotten Lands alive and the bridge is her ticket back to the human world; as well as her Masters, Bonku.
I don’t want to give any spoilers and you’ll learn a lot as you progress through the game in terms of the story, they’ve done an amazing job of always keeping you on your toes. You’re always wondering what is going to happen next and what twist and turns the story may take and all I will say is that it becomes apparent that everything may not be as it seems.
As a whole, if you enjoy any kind of fiction whether that be in movies or books I can’t see anybody not falling in love with Forgotton Anne’s story. It’s fantastically magical and brings out that essence of being a kid again and longing to explore the unknown. It doesn’t tend to follow one note either, it’s happy, it’s dark, it’s sad, it’s nostalgic all woven into a perfect balance of great story telling.
I think it’s clear to see that this game is typically gorgeous from that screenshot above. I hate to sound cliche as well but it looks even better in motion, being a fan of anime and Japanese animation as a whole I instantly felt at ease. It’s amazing reading about how much thought and work has gone into the animation side of Forgotton Anne by Lead Animator Debbie Ekberg, described as combining “inspiration from eastern and western animation into a unique cinematic experience” I think they hit the nail right on the head!
“We wanted to tell a story that would capture its audience, and to me it was important to animate Anne in a way that allowed people to relate to her and feel a connection with her.”
Another aspect of the visuals is the backdrops and the scenery of every location, there’s so much detail and depth and when you walk to certain areas the camera will follow you in different ways. It’s very dynamic and a clever use of the environment. There’s a lot of time spent climbing stairs or traversing platforms and the different layers and camera work is really effective.
I really have nothing negative to say about how the game looks, it’s just stunning and telling a story with this type of visual just makes it all the more rewarding for the player and the development team should be insanely proud of the finished look.
You can listen to one of the pieces of music above called ‘The Return’, as soon as you watch the opening sequence it’s the music that accompanies the games incredible visuals that stand out. It’s such an amazing achievement for one game to weave every aspect of things together so perfectly but the composer, Peter Due, has really crafted an audio feast for the ears.
It’s like something straight out of a Disney movie right from the get go. It has a classical feel and plays very much to the beat of Anne’s heart, different things you experience as the story progresses or where you are in The Forgotten Lands you’ll be noticing the music plays in time with where the story is taking you. When you’ve got a project as ambitious as this and that looks and plays as it does, it’s only fitting to have an equally beautiful musical score and it doesn’t disappoint.
You can also read a lot more detail about how it was all composed here. What’s great as well is that you can listen to the entire soundtrack on Spotify right now!
Exploring The Forgotten Lands in terms of gameplay is quite a linear affair, there are times when one area will have different parts to explore but essentially it’ll lead to that one exit point. It works really well though and there’s a lot of time spent running across rooftops and leaping between platforms. I haven’t really touched upon two of the games main features and that is the Arca and the “Forgotlings”. Master Bonku, who you essentially think of as your father, raised you and gave you the Arca which has the ability to draw out or put in magical energy and there’s only two of these in existence; one for you and one for Bonku. So a lot of the puzzle elements of the game fall in line with being able to change the magical element of objects, it can bring light to a room, it can open and close doors, and it can even distill a Forgotling (they will meet their untimely death).
As I said earlier, you’re tasked with apprehending the rebels that threaten your return to the human world, so you can probably imagine it isn’t all plain sailing and much of the game also focuses around the choices you make. Certain parts of dialogue will give you a choice of what to say and these get progressively and morally a lot harder to decide on, which culminates in one of the most emotional finale’s I’ve experienced in any game. It’s very clever as well because much like a lot of narrative driven titles i.e the Telltale games it will remember what you’ve said and at times you may be reminded of that!
There are also light puzzle elements, usually revolving around something mechanical or magical. It never really gets to the point where it’s head scratching, so they’re quite simple logic puzzles and I’d say this is the one part where I wished there was more. They come around quite few and far between as most of the game is exploring rooms/areas and speaking with Forgotlings. For example, a couple of them revolve around opening doors by moving spheres into their correct slots but you have to do it in a certain order otherwise you’ll find all the spheres won’t reach their corresponding points. I really enjoyed those aspects but they did seem under used.
If you’re a fan of collecting things, then you’ll be pleased to know you can gather Memento’s which are odd bits and bobs you can find lying around The Forgotten Lands. This provides a great bit of replay value if you miss one, they’re all quite different as well but usually are in the form of a note of some kind.
The characters. Where do I begin? Every single character is literally full of character, even the gas pump known as Plumbum who barely says full sentences gets a moment in the spotlight. You’ve always got that “who am I going to meet next?” feeling and you’ll most likely meet them 30 seconds later, you’ve got lights, chairs, lava lamps, treasure chests, blankets and all manner of inanimate objects who are given a voice. It works beautifully and really plays into the story, you’ll start to grow attached to the Forgotlings very quickly!
The main characters are two who I’ve already mentioned, Anne and Bonku and then you’ve got Fig and Bulb who are quite central to the story. I don’t want to give any spoilers but they all play a pivotal role to the final scenes. Most of the Forgotlings have names which are in reference to what they are, for example, Bulb is literally a giant bulb.
In summary, my time with Forgotton Anne was an extremely positive one. Everything about the game just has that polish and care that you can feel from the beginning, you’ll never want to put it down because the story keeps you gripped and from meeting all the Forgotlings right up until the final scenes you’ll be emotionally invested. I felt so much during my time playing and even in those final moments, they manage to produce moral dilemmas based on this entire fictional world that you now are a part of.
I can’t find anything to fault it on, if I had to then I would say at times the platforming elements become clunky because of the way Anne moves but that is really if I’m clutching at straws because I know from reading ThroughLine Games’ blog this was something intentionally created during the design process.
An absolutely outstanding accomplishment to animation, storytelling, music and video games as a whole and one that I will treasure for years to come.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam
Developer: ThroughLine Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: May 15th