Nostalgia is a funny thing. As someone who grew up in the 90s, I often reminisce about the time where I was young, full of hope, and didn’t have to worry about paying the bills. The things I loved as a child are often the same things I like today: Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Power Rangers, Yugioh, and .hack. But as I learned from Forgotten Fields, a card-based MMORPG from Cardboard Utopia, revisiting great memories can often times feel like a curse.
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There’s a rare type of game we don’t talk about much in game reviews. This is the man who is not without problems, but who promises his creators a great future. Forgotten Fields is a good example of such a game. As a three-hour standalone, it’s a heavy-handed, sometimes misguided adventure about a young man’s quarter-life crisis. But their style, writing style and identity make Frotswood Interactive a team to keep an eye on. It seems that his ambition is greater than his resources, but despite his shortcomings, he, like his protagonist, feels that the best is still ahead of him.
Control missed field: Nostalgic Curse
In Forgotten Fields, Sid is a young twenty-something trying to write his second book after the modest success of his first a few years earlier. After spending the last year of his life away from his friends in his room, uninspired, Sid fears that his best days are behind him and that the beauty he could once see in the world that served as his muse is gone. As the deadline approaches for the writing sample for the scholarship he’s counting on and his mother sells his childhood home, a melancholy Sid decides the best way to clear his head is to escape to that very house before it disappears forever. Forgotten Fields is an adventure game, and the game play tends to be very casual. For starters, the players fix Sid’s scooter so he can take a day trip across India back home. He is helping his uncle and aunt clean up the laundry that has blown away when he stops by their house. He even reunites with his ex-partner for a beach vacation a few months before their wedding. Sid is a sad young man, and while the setting and much of the story seem autobiographical and fresh, his uncertainty about the future is more universal. Sid is at the threshold of the age when he is still allowed to struggle with work, rent and relationships, and he plunges headlong into the phase where he is expected to get his act together. As he tries to finish his grant proposal before the long night is over, the player relives his day and thinks about his story in his head, frequently switching from reality to fantasy. While this presentation is clever, the final results are less interesting. In the gameForgotten Fields, when Sid talks to another character, the game is good, if not excellent. But when it asks the player to perform simple tasks, like setting the table for dinner or going swimming with a friend, many problems arise. You’re constantly battling the camera, and the tilted third-person image is constantly changing tasks, moving on its own, and forcing Sid to bump into things. There are often cliffhangers, and the characters who should be drawn into the scene often stay in geometry, spoiling what could have been an intimate moment with endless creaking of doors. It made me long for a more limited experience, withForgotten Fields simply focusing on the running simulation genre and not trying to gamify these mundane tasks. The ordinary thing about them is actually beautiful. They even help explain Sid’s dissatisfaction with his life. But these game mechanics break down so often that it seems like a small team couldn’t make them work as well as they should. These problems are obvious from the start and persist throughout the short plot, both in Sid’s world and in the fantasy world to which the story keeps returning, although, as I said, much of what makesForgotten Fields so strong is its authenticity and even the fact that it is thought-provoking despite these problems. The central theme ofForgotten Fields is nostalgia – how it distorts our memories, how it spoils our future, or even how it pushes us away from our present. For Sid and the hero of his book, it’s about escaping to a place where time stands still – literally in a case of fantasy brainstorming. As for Sid, he can’t help but revel in the past. He wants to be a kid again and play in his room without the adult stress he is now saddled with. He feels that his friends are separated, that his career is already over, and that something is missing, although for a time the game hides from the players exactly what that is. Every time Sid interacts with another character, his words seem sincere and forgive me for the game’s many technical shortcomings. It’s clear that underneath this uneven shell is fantastic material to work with. Later we find out why Sid is so stuck in the past, and each of his friends, though they initially seem to have a more reliable head on their shoulders than Sid, eventually discover that they are all going through something similar. Aren’t we all? Sid and his friends can’t help but look back, thinking back to the so-called good times, while looking forward to the future with the prospect of decay, which one character even mentions by name. These scenes – sitting at the dinner table, helping Sid’s mom prepare the meal, borrowing cups from the boatman so they can drink on the beach, etc. – are never interesting from a playful point of view, but are always fascinating from a narrative point of view. – are never interesting from a playful point of view, but are always fascinating from a narrative point of view. On every scale man seems condemned to always look back with fondness and forward with doubt, but this is only a prejudice, in fact a survival instinct that drives us to do better and better. Sid’s struggle to forget his rosy past is worth watching, if you can forgive the game’s own gameplay problems in the present.
Review of Forgotten Fields – The conclusion of
- A well written story about the charm of nostalgia.
- Authentic characters in a unique setting
- The game has many problems, including cliffhangers, an unstable camera, and musical lines that seem to have been ripped apart.
- Things like washing dishes or doing laundry with a game can work, but don’t do it in this case.
In Forgotten FieldsI see several things. First, I think the game is very well written, with bittersweet moments that can make you cry at times. I also feel that the ambitions of the game are greater than the resources of the team, so it seems rather disjointed when the credits roll. Looking ahead, as Sid so often refuses to do, I’m much more excited to see what this team does next. There are some really nice moments inForgotten Fields, even if you have to face some flaws to appreciate them. [Note: Frostwood Interactive provided a copy of the game Forgotten Fields used for this review].