When walking around big gaming conventions, there’s a lot to trying to grab your attention. Huge 24-person booths blare out the latest Call of Battlefield titles – bullets rain and rockets thunder. All that matters is “kill, kill, kill!” Not forgetting the massive open worlds of games like Far Creed seducing you with epic quests, where in reality it’s hundreds of uneventful bits of nothing to trudge through. But then you happen upon something that truly stands out from the crowd, something that begs to be played without saying a word.
This was Forgotton Anne. And among the all-singing all-dancing triple-A titles on display at this year’s EGX, it was this game that left the biggest impression on me. The artwork immediately draws you in: “every scene is hand drawn, everything from the scripted events down to tiniest details – did you notice how she falls?” says assistant producer at the indie studio ThroughLine Games, Ingvi Snædal, who I pestered for a few moments after I’d finished the demo. For him, Forgotton Anne is clearly a project of passion. And with good reason; the art style really is gorgeous. It falls somewhere in between the whimsical fluidity of Studio Ghibli and the clean precision of modern Disney. It was the art that drew me in, but the narrative is what kept me playing. Ingvi laughs when I tell him this: “That’s what everyone has been saying!“.
During the 20 minute demo, I only got a brief taste of what kind of storyline was waiting to be unfurled, but everything in those 20 minutes hinted at something grand. You wake up as Anne to the sound of explosions. She’s an ‘enforcer’ keeping order in the Forgotten Lands, a place where mislaid and abandoned items from the human world end up, and turn into Forgotlings; as alive as any human. But there’s trouble – a rebellion brews, a rebellion that threatens to prevent Anne and her master Bonku from returning to the human world. And there are narrative choices too. At the beginning of the demo, you must decide what to do with a bespectacled scarf (yes, you read that right) who wanders into your home. He is either an innocent Forgotling taking shelter from the recent explosion, or he could be one of the rebels behind the attack. In the end, I accidentally sucked his soul out – or ‘distilled his anima’, to put it in the game’s terms.
Ingvi laughs again when he learns of my mistake. “We wanted to present the player with choices that have meaningful consequences throughout the game. But it may not always be so clear cut what outcome your words and choices will have. There is no black and white in Forgotton Anne, it’s all about how you interpret your response.” Indeed, my response ended up with me killing a scarf! But I see what he means; no one wants to be dragged down a narrative path with an obvious and predictable outcome. Unfortunately though, it seems that despite being able to effect the storyline as you proceed through the game, there isn’t much in the way of replayability or branching narrative to Forgotton Anne. “It’s more about the journey you take,” Ingvi assures me, and I don’t really think it matters anyway.
The world is so rich in lore from the very outset that it would probably take a couple of playthroughs anyway to absorb it all. One thing I loved is how Forgotton Anne throws you in at the deep end of its world. You’re left to gather little scraps of information as they come to you, allowing you to unravel things for yourself, rather than having them spoon-fed. Ingvi explains that there’s some sort of intro story that will be present in the main game, but I really hope that they’ve kept the unnecessary exposition to a minimum so that exploring the world can stay a solely personal affair.
Luckily, controlling Anne through this world is as artful as how she’s drawn. Every action is hand animated, giving Anne a gracefulness to her movement. It’s very much like controlling your very own movie; there’s definitely a feel of the cinematic as the camera pans and sweeps about. You can jump, run and eventually glide – all within moments of a button push. Before playing, I worried that the art style may have made the controls sluggish. But form and function are nicely balanced; perfectly so in fact. The audio design is the same. The music isn’t intrusive, rather it adds to the overall feel of the demo; slightly overcast, somber, and a delight to listen to.
My only slight gripe was the voice acting – not god-awful, but not great either. It won’t be enough to put you off Forgotton Anne, not by a long way. It certainly didn’t put me off wanting to jump on this title as soon as it’s released … a breath of fresh air in a muggy swamp. This is one to look out for when it comes to PC, Xbox and PS4 later this year. In the mean time you can visit their website here and check out the trailer below.
Looking forward to Forgotton Anne? If you’re not, you should be. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.