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Forgotten Fields intro

Your 20s can be a rough time in your life, to put it lightly. Being a so-called ‘young adult’ can be exciting, yes, but also scary, uncertain, and weirdly melancholic. Trust me, as a 23-year-old, I’m going through it right now. Touted as the defining decade of one’s life, the choices one makes in these years are more important than ever, and I’m painfully aware of that. 

There’s a lot to deal with, especially in your early 20s when you’re just a dumb kid still, despite what the government says (or at least I am, I don’t know about you). The transition from the glow of graduation to the mundane stress of being a good real-life NPC has been anything but smooth for me.

Trying to be a responsible adult and pay your own bills while dealing with the feeling of unpreparedness, the constant anxiety for the future is, surprise surprise, not fun. Plus, you’re constantly aware that you’re in the so-called ‘prime of your life’ both physically and mentally, which can at times be a lot of pressure. This can lead to the lurking fear of not making the right decisions, of taking the wrong path in the ever-diverging road of life, which can be mentally paralyzing. 

To quote Robert Frost’s famous poem, ‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I tripped on a fallen branch, hit my head on a rock and perished’. Yet, the yearning to prove yourself and the ambition to accomplish great things still hold strong and with a bit of luck, will hopefully push you to greatness, if you give yourself a chance.  

This is a game review, not a self-indulgent blog post, I swear! 

Alright, getting to the actual game though on the surface it might look like it’s just about a writer dealing with writer’s block, Forgotten Fields by one-man Indian developer Frostwood Interactive is in actuality a very introspective game about all these complex things, about grieving for one’s past and allowing oneself to move on, portrayed through a pivotal day in the life of our protagonist, Sid.

Closing Walls and Tickin’ Clocks

You play as Sid, a mid-to-late twenties up-and-coming introvert writer with one successful fantasy book already under his belt and a major problem. The deadline for the submission of a book idea for a much-needed grant is tonight and, try as he may, he’s woefully unable to come up with any good ideas. The game conveys this perfectly with a mostly blank page open on his computer, an email exchange with a publisher, and multiple outstanding bills on his desk. 

As he racks his brain for ideas, he’s visited by a friend who brings him a letter from his mother inviting him to the last dinner at his childhood home prior to it being sold the next day. Hoping that a little fresh air and some family time will inspire him or at the very least, help him get out of his head, he agrees. 

The rest of the game is made up of interactions with friends, neighbors, and family – helping them out with various chores and most significantly, reminiscing and having introspective conversations with them. These conversations range from topics like the weird way we experience time, the sense of childhood magic that dilutes over time, how art hits you less and less as you age, how it’s impacted by social media, etc. These conversations are for you to discover, so I won’t give away any more details, but suffice it to say, these nuggets of relatable thoughts and feelings brought to mind many conversations I myself have had with friends (and more often, with myself) and these are what made the game worth playing for me.

The writing is simple and natural and like I said before, highly relatable for anyone in their 20s. Plus as an Indian, it was wonderful to read dialogue incorporating common slang words like ‘Chal’, ‘Arey’, ‘Yaar’, etc. None of the dialogue is voice-acted, which may be disappointing to some, but personally, I prefer it this way as external voice-acting might have made it feel less introspective and taken away from the almost daydream-like quality of the game.  

When you finally make it to Sid’s childhood home, there are flashbacks to Sid’s childhood when you were most susceptible to the ‘magic’ of the world. As you enter each room and interact with objects – you learn about the first fantasy book that inspired Sid to write, an archaic laptop evoking memories of writing his first short stories, the band he loved that has since gone pop, etc. This, along with the conversations you have with friends and family, adds further layers to the character of Sid and really fleshes him out and makes him a solid, believable character, though most of the side characters are nothing more than one-dimensional tropes.

There are also sequences where you play through the story that he’s writing as and when he comes up with ideas. Though it’s a cool idea, it could’ve been executed better as I don’t think it added all that much to the story. The story he’s writing is not much more than an unsubtle allegory of what he’s going through in his life – feeling creatively bankrupt as he progressively feels less connected to the ‘magic’ of the world that inspired him to write in the first place. It’s his way of expressing his struggles and ultimately choosing to either move on, or stay in the past. 

In the end, I can say with no doubt in my mind that these themes of the passage of time, nostalgia for the past, losing the ‘magic’ of life as you grow older, and the importance of moving on are all expressed effectively and beautifully, and definitely struck a chord with me. What makes these themes hit harder is the setting and visuals of the game, so let’s talk a bit about that, shall we?

Swallowed In The Sea

Forgotten Fields takes place in a serene village in Southern Goa, probably inspired by the developer Armaan Sandhu’s own hometown (don’t quote me on that), and boy, is it beautiful! The pastel color scheme and lowish-poly graphic style make Forgotten Fields truly pleasant on the eyes and a joy to experience. This soothing effect is further bolstered by the soundtrack, which, though there were no standout tracks per se, offers a great background presence overall. 

The game is quiet for the most part (even the scooter you ride makes no sound) and this along with the kinda-lowkey soundtrack and comforting visuals contribute to the daydream-like quality of Forgotten Fields I mentioned before. I played Forgotten Fields in two sittings close together and when it was done it almost felt like waking up from a pleasant nap after experiencing an optimistic, life-is-worth-living kind of dream.

There are also quite a few cinematic sequences throughout the game, especially during the scooter rides, which are extremely pretty to behold. Riding through the peaceful landscape of Goa, past the typical coconut trees and fields, the calming beach across it, all shown through beautiful drone shots, first-person view, etc. was a great sight to see and contributed immensely to the serene sense of atmosphere. 

Having been to Goa myself a few years ago, this also helped the nostalgia factor of Forgotten Fields as I kept reminiscing about my own friends, the songs we had on repeat on that trip, and the fun times in general. 

As for the storybook sequences, these too have some pleasant scenes (the Temple of Time comes to mind) but nothing as memorable as Goa itself, though that may be an unfairly high standard as I’m sure anyone who’s been to Goa would agree (MakeMyTrip, you’re welcome to sponsor this review). 

Dude, Where’s My Camera?

In case you were wondering if Forgotten Fields lets you ride the scooter – it doesn’t, and that’s probably a good thing. You see, for all the praise I can mount on this game, the gameplay (what little there is of it) is buggy at best, extremely disorienting at worst, and immersion-breaking at times. 

First off, the camera. Never have I been this disoriented and annoyed trying to navigate and look around the rooms of a house in a game. You have the freedom to control the camera, but the camera also has a mind of its own and constantly moves around as you explore an environment, at times dizzyingly so. This means you’re constantly wrestling with the camera to get a good look around. The speed of the camera is too high as well, and there’s no option to adjust the sensitivity in the settings either. 

What makes this so annoying (other than how immersion-breaking it is) is that it seems like it could’ve been an easy fix – either have the game always control the camera indoors or give the player full control. Trying to do both is exactly the recipe for disaster you’d think it’d be. That being said, the developer has been actively patching the game so here’s hoping this issue will soon be fixed. 

Second, the QTE sequences in the build of the game I played, were always stuck in a loop – a QTE of jumping from a rock to another rock triggered another QTE event automatically to jump right back. Also, whenever a QTE event occurs, time slows down to a crawl giving you more than ample time to press the required key, which defeats the point of a QTE in the first place. I’m not sure why the developer even wanted to incorporate QTE mechanics as this isn’t an action-heavy, fast-moving game, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. 

There is also a pick-up and throw mechanic that’s used a couple of times, which also felt buggy and extremely unnecessary. They weren’t fun and literally served no point at all to the narrative. So as you can tell, Forgotten Fields, for all its merits, is unpolished in its technical aspects, which is a shame.

The gameplay elements that do work are much simpler, point-and-click segments where you repair a scooter, turn on a washing machine, interact with objects, pick up and read the front and back covers of books, etc. 

Real Talk

Real talk indeed

Forgotten Fields is an exceptional game in many ways – it’s made by a single person, it captures the serene, nostalgic atmosphere of Goa perfectly, and has a great, relatable and relevant story to tell about appreciating the beauty of fleeting moments and the importance of sacrificing the comfort of familiarity in favor of something greater. 

Forgotten Fields opens with the definition of the German word Sehnsucht – ‘yearning, wistful longing’ and ends with the definition of the Japanese word Mono no aware – ‘the quietly elated, bittersweet feelings of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life’, and successfully manages to get Sid, and through him, the player, from one to the other over the course of the game. 

Sadly, this great package is hampered by uninspired, buggy, and unnecessary gameplay which breaks immersion and would’ve been best left on the scrapping table. Even so, Forgotten Fields is a 3-4 hour experience that’s definitely worth experiencing and may just inspire you to take the pivotal next step in your own life.

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