Developers Blue Bubble Games have finally released their highly anticipated game Foregone to the public, with the game leaving early access on its PC platforms. Forgone is the tale about a super-soldier who is tasked with saving the world of Calagan from an evil force called the Harrow. The world is surrounded in Chaos and it's down to you so stop it. Foregone is another indie Metroidvania game to grace our consoles but the question is, does it live up to a massive legacy of cult classic games, or does it find itself stuck amongst the limitless stack of other indie games of this genre? Read our review below to find out.
Foregone identifies itself as a retro era side scroller, also referred to in the gaming community as a ‘Metroidvania’ game. To this effect, it feels very old-school when booting up, in which you are given a very simple menu, and once you click start, the games setting, portrayed in a beautiful orange horizon, is shown. The camera starts to slowly pan downwards, and text appears on the screen giving you context to the story. Much like many of the Super NES era titles before it. Although this time it is overlayed with a really well-constructed theme tune and surprisingly, voice acting! It's once this sequence is ended that the game begins to feel modern. Warning in advance, this game starts off relatively easy, but gets incredibly difficult as it moves to the later stages of the game.
Within minutes you are thrown into the action, learning how to combo up your attacks and effectively take down the well-designed enemies. Developers, Big Blue Bubble have really taken time to design this combat system and fine-tune it. Although it appears to be simple, the battling in this game is fluid, robust, and requires skill. To explain this in more detail: If you use your melee weapon you will inflict standard amounts of damage, but the important thing to note, is that this collects ammo for your ranged weapon. Melee weapons are fully interchangeable and could be for example nunchucks, a short-sword, or even a broadsword, depending on what you end up looting. Your ranged weapon is what I found to be the most varied, depending on what you are using. A shotgun will deal incredible damage when at close range, a pistol has a high amount of ammo, but low damage, and a rifle will shoot bursts of fire, dealing overall medium damage and there are many other weapon types to be collected. It's these blends of weapons that make up for the incredible fluid action fighting gameplay. Having a shotgun and lance will allow you to inflict massive damage up-close, pushing back those melee attacking enemies. Although this combination will leave you susceptible to ranged attacks. It’s this mixing up of weapons that make up the overall experience and brings a level of experimentation to the board. It also helps the game always feel like it's constantly challenging you, making it always new and fun. You would be surprised as to how two types of attacks can make for fluid, deadly combos.
The game is full to the brim with customisation! Every few seconds you will find more and more powerful gear. This gear ranges from melee weapons, ranged weapons, armour, trinkets, rings, and all sorts of other items to find along the way. Due to the frequency of better drops in Foregone, it’s this approach that forces you to change up your weapon combos and find new, inventive ways to take down enemies. This is something that I loved most about Foregone, although one criticism I do have, which is a small thing in the grand scheme of things, is that Armour never changes the appearance of the lead character, it would have been nice to even just get a change of the colour palette. Although again, this is a tiny criticism and doesn’t have any bearing on the actual gameplay.
There is also a soft leveling system in Foregone which does not come in the form of the typical leveling system you usually find in games like these. Instead you are able to collect in world orbs, which are used as a currency to upgrade your skills and learn new attacks. Additionally, money can be earned from killing enemies which will enable you to ‘level up’ a weapon, a select number of times. Due to this, expect that in the early game you will start off slow and weak, but within a few hours of gameplay, you'll be using an overpowered combo of different weapon types, performing deadly takedowns against a whole host of different enemy types.
Foregone presents itself in a set of stages, where each area has a specific number of secrets, and multiple routes to navigate through. Some secrets cannot be accessed until certain special abilities have been unlocked, creating a need to travel back. The world is huge, and to help the navigation across it are fast travel shrines. If you navigate to these, they will take you to a hub area which is where you level up your weapons and skills. Additionally, it is here you can teleport yourself to any other shrines that you have found in your journeys. It is a standard mechanic that we’ve seen time and time again, although it works well for this title. I would state that Foregone feels more Metroid than it does Castlevania, but it does not quite have as much creativity when it comes to finding hidden areas.
One final area to highlight is in Foregones random crashing. On both the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch versions of the games, I experienced random moments where the game would crash and close-down entirely. The problem this serves is that the game only saves once you reach a shrine, so, if you’ve just beaten a difficult boss and then suffer a game crash as mine did, you’ll find yourself frustrated and annoyed. It will likely be fixed quickly with a patch, but in its current build, it is something that needs to be highlighted.
The art direction of this game is quite frankly stunning and unique. When you play the game, it feels as if you are playing a remastered classic game, but still somehow manages to look retro. The world is presented in a way which makes it look hand-painted, using complementary colours to really make the areas which you can navigate, stand out. Characters and interactable objects have a stylised, pixelated look to them. In fact, it’s very similar to the technique used in the original Prince of Persia visuals, in which the character appeared to be 'pixelated 3D' when doing specific animations.
The designs of enemies (known as the Harrow) in this game are done exceptionally well. There are enough enemy types to keep things interesting, and as you find stronger variants of enemies you’ve fought along the way, these will be highlighted with a new unique colour palette, which emphasises visually that this enemy is going to be tougher than before. The bosses look amazing when contrasted to their setting, in-fact it was the boss designs that helped explain the time period that this game is set in, which is quite a unique approach.
The world that this game is based in has so many visual elements that just tell the story of what has happened. It’s very clear that there is a war ongoing, which is made evident from all the destruction that surrounds you. You will find mass graves, derelict buildings, destroyed tanks, and everything else between. It’s a beautiful way to tell the story, and I love the amount of attention that the team and artists applied to the game’s layers.
My only gripe is that the first 2 stages of the game, feel remarkably similar which initially had me worrying that the entire game was going to be using the same visual pallet throughout. I can imagine that less understanding gamers might not have the patience to bear with the game as it finds its footing, as it unravels the next worlds
Foregone voice acting is one of its biggest treats that surprised me the most. As the game opens a voice peers over to tell the story of Foregone. As you progress through the game and meet new enemies or face new bosses, our lead character makes a comment. What’s nice is that this hasn’t been over-done either. It’s not too often you hear her speak, but when she does it fits in nicely and naturally. Although, I will say that our lead character has got the personality of your stereotypical super-soldier. I wish we could have learned more about her, as a person, during the events. There is a moment where you come across a mass grave in the game and the protagonist states how horrible it is. But you never really hear her thoughts or hear how she would wish this war was over etc. I wish we got more interactions with the world like that, as opposed to the very usual 1 sentence views.
The music in Foregone is well fitted to the genre and atmosphere. It is quiet when it needs to be but will boost up when things start to get heated. The music is not anything too memorable, or anything that you will be humming too later, but it does the job of supporting the overall atmosphere well. Although this game carries its weight in its sound effects. Foregone adds to that retro feeling tone through the sounds it emanates from its actions. From the sound of shooting a weapon, to slashing a sword, to even hitting an enemy, it reeks of things like Castlevania: Symphony of the Knight, which is a wonderful baseline to set for a title like this.
Foregone is a game that slowly drip feeds you elements of the story, in which the rest is told be the world that surrounds it. One of my favourite aspects of this game is that I could see what had happened to the world, just by paying attention to the background. Things have been added into the background that gives you little nuggets of information, that you as a player need to piece together. There is a small element of storytelling that’s done via a bit of narration and the protagonist's comments to many things you find on your journey, but the majority of story telling is done visually. Additionally, books can be found scattered around the lands with tonnes of information about the world and what is happening to fill in any gaps you might have.
Whilst this approach to story-telling was something that I liked, it also has its drawbacks. By inserting books to fill the lore in the middle of the worlds which you fight in, reading them slowed down the overall pace of the game, far too quickly. One minute you’d be slashing apart enemies, then next you would stop to read a page on how the world of Calagan was on the brink of collapse. Additionally, the game's story does feel very much bare-bones compared to some of the stories told in genres similar to this. Although, it's important to highlight that this isn’t a huge factor in a game like this. It's normal for titles like this to tell a small story, in the trade-off for better gameplay and that’s exactly what Foregone has done
Foregone does an amazing job of understanding its inspirations and building its own concepts upon them. Its strikes an excellent balance between new and old with its approach to graphics, taking cues from its retro predecessors, whilst maintaining its own modern identity. The gameplay delivers an extremely fun and fluid experience, with easily some of the most addictive loot mechanics, in which inspires gamers to consider its approach when tackling difficult areas. The game does experience some ad-hoc crashing, although it’s never too much trouble to get back to where you died unless it crashed after a difficult boss that is. The audio surprises you with full voice acting and delivers a pretty robust soundtrack. The barebones story will leave you pining for more, but overall Foregone is a great experience, of which I definitely recommend Metroidvania fans to have a go at!