Title: The Forbidden Arts
Available on: Switch, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Stingbot Games
Publisher: Stingbot Games
Version Tested: Switch
Official Site: https://www.stingbotgames.com/forbiddenarts
Release Date: August 7th, 2019
Where to Buy: Microsoft Store, Nintendo Eshop
At first glance, Stingbot Games’ The Forbidden Arts seems like it takes inspiration from Fable or The Legend Of Zelda. Despite its aesthetic similarities, it’s actually not an action-RPG or action-adventure game. It’s also nowhere near as ambitious as the previously mentioned games. The Forbidden Arts is a sidescrolling platformer that uses fully 3D ‘hub’ areas to connect its levels. It’s an interesting choice, and at only $14.99, is it a game that’s worth your time and money?
Nice Fantasy Setting But The Story Lacks Depth
In terms of graphics, The Forbidden Arts looks like an early PS2/Gamecube era game, with simple character models and bright textures. It does look similar to the first Fable game but animations aren’t quite as smooth and in general, there’s less polish in almost every area. You play as a young fire mage called Phoenix whose goal it is to collect various artifacts to save the world. It’s pretty generic fantasy storytelling, but it does its job and encourages the player forward. Phoenix doesn’t have much personality himself but you meet a new NPC between each 3D ‘hub’, which is interesting if only for the fact that their often some kind of weird creature (the elf guy was pretty cool).
Even though The Forbidden Arts seems like a cross between a Zelda-like adventure game and a traditional platformer, the phrase “collectathon” describes it quite well. On top of the useless (at least in terms of gameplay) items you get once you beat the boss at the end of each level, there’s also gold you can collect. The gold is always spread throughout the levels often at the end of some otherwise dead-end path. You can spend gold to rebuild little buildings that you find in the hub worlds to compete in challenges to upgrade your equipment. I feel that there could have been more diversity in unlockables and maybe a bestiary or achievement system. Collecting gold can get tedious, especially if you’ve just trekked through half a stage only to find out it’s a dead end with a piece of gold.
Floaty Controls and Imprecise Hit Detection
2D platformers and Metroidvanias often nail the controls and combat well. A 2D game with tight controls make combat and jumping fun and any time you die, you know it’s your fault through lack of skill and not a cheap death. Games like Shovel Knight or Chasm show how 2D pixel art games rather than 2.5 platformers often control best. The Forbidden Arts is an example of a 3D sidescroller that just fails in terms of control and combat. Bad hit detection and floaty jumps make the game feel slow and unfair. Despite the good enemy variety, combat is just plain frustrating. The flame abilities feel equally as unreliable and leave you feeling more like a duck out of the water than a cool, agile fire mage.
Only Mediocre Music?
In terms of sound, the tracks are relaxing but you won’t remember them or find yourself humming along to them when not playing. In fact, they get quite repetitive and annoying after a while. There is also voice acting in some parts of the game and it’s generally well done, it doesn’t seem out of place or over the top. There are also sound effects when you’re attacking enemies that are generally what you’d expect. In terms of dialogue and voice acting, I found it funny that the first thing an NPC says to you when you start the game is that he wants a beer. Maybe that’s why the game has a T rating.
Cool Looking Bosses
At the end of each level, you’ll come across a boss. They are large and well designed. After you’ve listened to their dialogue (which I actually find funny as they’re often referring to how ‘epic‘ your quest is), you’ll fight them. You’ll have to learn their patterns and attack at certain points. It’s the same as any other 2D platformer/Metroidvania but The Forbidden Arts controls much less precisely than the best of the genre. The fact that the controls aren’t tight and the hit detection is poor creates a false sense of difficulty that, when combined with the labyrinthine levels (full of dead ends), makes the game frustrating.
Verdict: The Forbidden Arts is an average fantasy adventure that is a solid experience but lacks polish. The premise and combination of 3D and 2D adventuring are interesting but it doesn’t come together to create something special. Nice graphics and enemy design are let down by poor hit detection and floaty controls. If you stick with it for the full 10-hour experience, you will get a sense of achievement. However, for $14.99, there are much better options on the Switch Eshop.
- Nice Graphics
- Good Enemy Variety
- Imprecise Combat
- Floaty Controls
- Weak Story