Much Ado About Forgotlings
May 22, 2019

Before we begin, be advised that this post entirely concerns the story content of Forgotton Anne. If you wish to preserve your gameplay innocence, here's your chance to duck out. You have been warned.

So here we are, with a beautiful game that no one seems interested in playing. "Beautiful" may be something of a stretch, since the art design is just above the level of a school project. For some reason the art lacks the polish one would expect from a game sheparded by industry leader, Square-Enix. Unfortunately for us, this reflects almost every aspect of the game.

Forgotton Anne is at its core a storybook tale of cold, uncaring humans and their relationship with the objects they use, which in Anne's world become self aware with memories of their past lives on Earth. Or, as they call it, "The Ether". Anne is an Enforcer, charged with keeping the peace and ensuring these Forgotlings get along.

Of course nothing is as simple as that, as Anne herself has no memory of her past on Earth, only the time she has spent in the care of her adoptive Father. As you play you learn that there are potentially sinister motives at play, for which her Father may be responsible. A helpful rebel named Mr. Fig seems to trust Anne and does his best to enlighten her about the truth of things.

This is unavoidable, naturally, though there is a loose sort of morality system at play as well. Your first interaction with a Forgotling can have one of two possible outcomes, forewarning you that choices will have an impact on future events. However, all of the choices you make affect just one "boss" Forgotling meant to perhaps tug on the heart strings. Whether you were sincere or not assures nothing, because one insincere word - even if you think you mean it - swerves you into a disastrous result that has the same net outcome: Your end game options are unchanged.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I couldn't find the happy ending in this game. Having the game automatically loop when you choose to save Anne, and her Father, tells me that's the "bad" ending. Whereas sacrificing Anne and her Father preserves the world of the Forgotlings, but ... well, I have to say that's not at all satisfying.

To me it's not befitting for a game that presents a friendly face to players, with no failure states and puzzles of infinite patience, to have such a harsh, cold outlook. I appreciate that this studio is presenting what is perhaps a hard reality, that sometimes sacrifice has no apparent reward, but is still valued.

However that doesn't ring true. The game itself isn't consistent with its message. It wants you to choose, to be sincere and honest, or cold and deceptive, but when you make those choices no balance is recorded or tipped to one side or another. At times all you can do is deceive, and disappointment is assured.

That is also a part of reality, that not everyone will understand your choices and motivations. But what of ideals? It seems the overarching message is that ideals are just that and impossible to hold onto. In my humble opinion Forgotten Anne had an opportunity to share a much stronger message, but decided that disappointment will overshadow you no matter what you do, so you might as well accept it and be prepared to sacrifice everything.

There's an element of truth to that, but again it doesn't fit the storybook imagery that also struggles to achieve something greater. Victory without Anne and her Father present and alive, are in my mind and heart, empty. The game defeats itself, and that's regretful.

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