Early Access games can sometimes be like Kickstarter-funded games. As a consumer, you are gambling on whether or not the game you invest in is going to provide the entertainment value that the developers intend for it. The Forbidden Arts is a game that looks very promising, an action-platformer that I would classify as a title to keep an eye on as it gets closer to full release.
It is important to note that when I began working on the review for The Forbidden Arts it only had about 35% of the content that it will have on release. As of February 16th, after a major content update, this number has increased to 60% of the final amount of content. However, they have also stated that while it is purchasable right now at a $9.99 price point, the developers have stated that the price will increase at launch based on the amount of content they are able to put into it, and the value of the content they offer.
The Forbidden Arts is an Action-Platformer with a focus on deep lore and exploration. You are put in the role of Phoenix, a young man who seeks out a druid to sort out the meaning behind his visions. The druid awakens latent pyromancy within him and begins a journey to save the world of Chora from an evil necromancer.
In the first Early Access build of The Forbidden Arts, you could explore two overworld areas, and all of the levels in each overworld. With the Northern Wastes update (the first major content update) they added a third overworld area, as well as a new boss and extra levels. The major content update also fixed a few bugs, which I will talk about later on.
In the current build, the developers at Stingbot Games have implemented a player inventory function that showcases what Phoenix has equipped; but as of right now there is no interchangeable equipment so the full functionality isn’t available. Additionally, there is a full options menu, but gamepad controls are not currently customizable.
There are a few issues in the menus, particularly in that, there is no option to toggle windowed mode. The Alt+enter trick works, but only in some instances. There are also some animation issues in the overworld (which serves as a hub of sorts for each of the levels) but overall for the state of where the game is in development, I have seen far worse. One of the bigger issues I have noticed is that when you transition between an overworld and a level (or you die in a level and respawn at the last place the game saved) it undoes your windowed mode (Alt+Enter) and sends you back to fullscreen mode.
The Forbidden Arts alternates between two overall sections. A 3D overworld that serves as a hub for each of the levels, and 2D side-scrolling sections; Phoenix, the main character, starts out with only two daggers to fight with, however, once his pyromancy awakens, he is able to utilize fiery magic attacks as well. Fire magic is fueled by campfires and sources of fire, with which you charge up your stock of flame. Each fire spell takes a certain amount of the gauge, and once it is empty you cannot cast magic until you refill it.
The combat is a little stiff, but for a game early on in its development, I can somewhat see why. The Forbidden Arts is visually appealing, but I could see some improvements made down the line. Currently, the enemy collision is a bit unfair. Sometimes you may shoot a fireball at an enemy, only for their height to be just out of reach, causing the enemy to hit you and kill you. What sets it apart from most Early Access titles is the voice acting, which shows up in various cut-scene areas to add context to the story and flesh out the world a bit more.
Bosses slowly escalate in difficulty as you play The Forbidden Arts, but test not only your precision in movement and mastery of combat but also test your understanding of Phoenix’s pyromancy.
In the overworld (and hidden throughout each level) there are gold chunks to collect, which open up challenge areas. These challenge areas require you to utilize your abilities to reach the end, where you will be able to increase your health or fire gauge. There is room for improvement in the progression system I think, but I like what Stingbot Games has done so far.
The platforming is where I personally struggle, mostly because of the fact that it is very precise; sometimes to a level that I feel is a little excessive. Add to it that sometimes if you land on enemies with low health, you can immediately die and have to redo a section over, and it makes things somewhat frustrating.
My hope for The Forbidden Arts is that it continues to evolve. I see a framework for something special here, but there are some improvements and bug fixes that should be made before the full release. There is a lot to love about what Stingbot Games has created here, but to reach the pinnacle of its potential will take a bit more work and time.
A PC Early Access Copy of The Forbidden Arts was provided by Stingbot Games for the Purpose of this Review.