The Forbidden Arts: Review- The Art Of Frustration

The Forbidden Arts

Story

The Forbidden Arts sees you take control of Phoenix, a young Pyromancer looking to perfect the element of fire.

Your adventure will take you through 5 different locations, each with their own unique hazards, enemies and bosses.

Developed by Stingbot Games and built upon the Unity engine, The Forbidden Arts is an action platformer with some puzzle elements thrown in. 

Let’s Get Arty

The bulk of the game is played through a side scrolling perspective. Whilst the world map is fully 3D, complete with controllable camera.

I really liked the art-style on offer here and appreciated the minimalist approach taken. Opting for this direction, as opposed to pixel art or an uber realistic one, creates a far more vibrant and fantastical atmosphere.

This also meant that the game ran at a very pleasing clip of 60fps in docked and handheld, with no slowdown from what I could tell.

Unfortunately I did find the animations for both the main character and the enemies a little stiff. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what it was, but the various characters and enemies never truly felt a part of the same game.

Control Yourself

This, sadly, was to become a common theme throughout my time with the game. If you can look past some of the basic animations, then you might be fine with this one. Me, on the other hand, didn’t get on very well with the controls.

Moreover, how Phoenix would react to the environment and enemies around him. All too often I found myself dying, a lot, for silly reasons. Like my attack not connecting whilst standing right next to an enemy and vice versa.

Not grabbing ledges, even though I’m clearly touching them, leading to me falling to my death, over and over again. Also there is a lot of very cheap enemy attacks, leading to even more deaths and frustration.

For instance, you have your Dark Elves and Goblins that can rush you, seemingly from off the screen, giving you next to no time to react. Or the giant Bixies with their tracking shots, that seem to follow for quite a while.

It wouldn’t have been such an issue if your character was a lot faster and more nimble, as his assassin-like appearance would have you believe. But he feels  so clunky. It’s just as well that the game saves frequently as you will die, a lot!

Whether this was a conscious decision, or merely a side effect of the clunky controls is unclear, however, it left the game feeling unfinished, unbalanced and with no discernable difficulty setting, unavoidable.

Level-Headed

The game follows most of the trends found in many other action adventure titles, rather than RPG’s. So whilst there isn’t any levelling or statistic system to speak of, you do have both a health bar and a magic bar at the top of the screen.

These can be increased incrementally through completing challenges throughout your adventure. The challenges are found in towers scattered through each region and are unlocked by paying gold. 

There is a nice sense of variety with the challenges. Some will require speed to complete before your shade does, whilst others require some platforming prowess.

On completion of a challenge, you’ll receive a much needed buff to your health or magic. Speaking of magic, whilst it is finite, you can replenish it by syphoning any source of fire. For instance, a torch or campfire, which I found was a unique little touch.

It’s also worth noting, that as well as powering up your health and magic, you also receive several magical abilities as you progress, such as a super jump and fire shield.

Gimme The Lute

The sound design in The Forbidden Arts did fair a little better, but only just. 

To my surprise, there are some voice acted cutscenes, which to begin with were ok, if a bit amateurish. However, they did sound a little canned and compressed, almost as though they were converted from a MIDI file.

That said, I still appreciated the extra effort taken. You can quite easily spend way more money on a higher profile game, from a much bigger studio, with a lot more budget and be forced to read a wall of text with each scene.

You have your standard protagonist grunts and yells, with some fairly decent enemy voices, even if most of the time they’re laughing at you.

The music was actually the standout part of the audio style for me. Rather than going for a retro chip-tune vibe or a clichè medieval military score, what you’ll hear throughout your journey is some lovely Lute melodies. Almost as if a tavern bard had joined your party!

Unfortunately, as nice as the music was, there didn’t seem to be quite enough variety. It was just enough to define a specific environment, such as a mine or snowy mountains, but it never built up to much of a crescendo, not even for the boss fights.

Final Thoughts

If my opinion on the game comes across as a tad harsh, then know that it isn’t from me hating the game per say.

Sure the game is flawed in many aspects and I feel the developers could’ve spent a little longer making it, or would have benefitted from a bigger budget.

It’s more a feeling of disappointment. The game shows so much promise and wasted potential. Every little unique element that they’ve added that could’ve truly set it apart from the competition.

At a mere $14.99USD and with the developers claiming 12 hours of play, you can do a lot worse on the eShop. My only hope is that a lot of these issues can be ironed out with future patches.

Needs Improvement/Not Quite There

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Reviewed by micramanic on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Stingbot Games.

Neil

Gamer enthusiast, huge Nintendo fan and of anything retro. Fulfilling my dream of writing game reviews, thanks to AnyDayReviews.

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