As I write this, I am two weeks away from being finished with my university undergraduate degree. I’ll be handing in my essays, articles, and dissertation and, along with them, my sense of structure and certainty. It’s a very particular feeling; not quite happy, but not quite sad. It’s a feeling that Forgotten Fields sketches with a delicate, but no less potent, touch.
It’s no surprise really. The game promises to be a cozy game about nostalgia, creativity, appreciating the present, and the passage of time. And it keeps its word, backed by the focus on storytelling and atmosphere by Frostwood Interactive, the one-man studio behind the game.
In Forgotten Fields you play as Sid, an up-and-coming author struggling with writer’s block who is shaken from his creative panic by an invitation to return to his childhood home for one final dinner with old friends before the house is sold. It’s a chance for him to say goodbye to it and the memories entangled within its four walls. But, as to be expected, Sid’s journey back home isn’t as straightforward as he might like and some old faces crop up along the way.
Running parallel to Sid’s story is, well, Sid’s Story. That is the one he’s trying to write as the game progresses. It’s a lovely touch, falling into the shoes of a fantasy character who, much like Sid, is on a journey to rediscover a time and place that has been out of reach for sometime. When you are first introduced to this secondary story it is proposed as an interactive story-creation but this quickly falls away and is far better for it. Your choices do not matter, but they also don’t need to. It’s a slight shame that your welcome to this side of the game is tinged with initial hesitation, but this is swiftly left behind by dropping the reciprocative aspect, letting you fully engage with the story and its analogy.
These sections also display some of the heights that the visuals of Forgotten Fields reach; a particular section sees you walk through the Temple of Time where spirits of animals dwell among luscious luminous trees. The game in its entirety is comparatively simple in its design. Graphics are subdued and character models aren’t incredibly detailed (or immune from occasionally glitching into their surroundings). But they do enough to convey the basics and allow for the more interesting interpersonal moments to take place. In spite of this, there are some gorgeous sets that show off some of its setting’s beauty: a beach at sunset, an empty road, a rustle of leaves in the wind.
Music too plays an important role in crafting the bittersweet atmosphere of Forgotten Fields. The game features several songs by Portland-based singer songwriter Altadore, his music capturing a melancholy yet contended sense that is perfectly fitting for the games central themes. Working together, the visuals and sound cues underline an otherwise hard to express sentiment: the appreciation of our presents without suppressing the fondness and mourning we have for our pasts.
Where emotionally and tonally Forgotten Fields excels, it does remain lacking in terms of gameplay. Controls are basic, with little more to do than run, talk, and grab. Within each of Sid’s stops there are one or two mini-games to get through to progress the story, from throwing a rock to knock down a football stuck in a tree to helping roll a boat into the ocean. While there is some benefit to breaking up the story and dialogue-heavy elements of the game, many of these side-activities are unfulfilling and at times repetitive. This isn’t to say they are unenjoyable, they simply could have been stronger.
Still, there is an argument to be made that these mundane tasks are designed to fill this space of ordinariness in an attempt to support the message of appreciating the present moment whether that moment is exciting or everyday. But if this is the case, I can’t be sure that it’s a move that pays off.
Ultimately, the quiet poignancy of Forgotten Fields outweighs the games minor issues, all of which come with the constraints of such a small studio. It’s message is moving and one that I believe everyone can connect with, but the extent to which this will be the case is hugely dependent from person to person as with any story. I found parallels between its sentiment and my own thoughts about moving into ‘adult worlds’ that have made me reflect back on Forgotten Fields every now and then.
If you carry a creative mind or hold tight to nostalgia in your own life, this game is sure to become a quick favourite. It’s hopefulness, though bittersweet, is certainly a feeling many of us are in need of at the moment.
Tested on PC (Mac)
Also available on N/A
Developer Frostwood Interactive
Publisher Dino Digital
Disclosure a copy of Forgotten Fields was provided by Neonhive