Have you ever seen a Nintendo Switch fly? No? I didn’t either, but it didn’t last much longer or I had thrown my expensive console out of the window. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit now, but while playing The Forbidden Arts I got frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, The Forbidden Arts is a wonderful game and you can really notice that the developer has put a lot of love into it, but please don’t start this game if you get frustrated quickly, have no perseverance, are a spitfire or have a high head or have a high blood pressure.
The Forbidden Arts is an action adventure platformer from the small indie studio Stingbot Games. The game follows the story of Phoenix, a young man who has strange visions. One day he is sent into the forest to visit a druid. She tells him about the ancient forms of magic that are called the Forbidden Arts. These forms of magic are based, among other things, on the elements. The druid tells Phoenix that he has the power to control the element of fire. She also tells him that he must quickly master these forces in order to stop an evil necromancer named Voltaire.
After getting acquainted with this druid you will be sent on your way to explore the world of Chora. Out of the blue you have the opportunity to shoot fireballs as if you had never done anything else and you have now been given the thankless task of saving the world by uniting the masters of the other elements against Voltaire. No, the story of The Forbidden Arts certainly has potential, but is simply told in an uncomfortable way. How can I suddenly shoot fireballs while I literally couldn’t do anything at all five minutes ago? Don’t I have to train or meditate for that or drink a crazy potion before? And what if I don’t want to save the world at all? Why is it precisely Phoenix who has to bring the elements together? Oh well, every reason to go on an adventure is one.
When you discover your destiny of the druid in the forest, you get the task of learning to control your fire magic on the one hand and the task of traveling the world on the other and bringing the leaders of the other magic elements together to fight Voltaire. The world consists of five areas, each with its own distinctive features. for example, you have a snow section where the levels for the most part consist of smooth icy platforms. The five different worlds each consist of a kind of overworld that can be played in 3D. From this overworld you can go to the different levels and to the other areas. The levels themselves can be played in 2D sidescrolling style.
The 2D levels are the places where you spend most of your time. Each level consists of multiple floors and multiple routes that you can take. In this way you are really invited to explore the entire level and that is of course always a big plus. Throughout the levels you have to do standard platforming, such as double jumps and wall jumps, but there are also enemies that you have to tackle. In addition to platforming and fighting, you will also find gold pieces throughout the levels. You can use these gold pieces in every overworld to unlock so-called Spirit Towers. These towers give you a difficult challenge that you must complete. If you succeed, you will have the opportunity to increase your life meter or energy meter that you use for your fire attacks. And believe me, you will really need that.
The gameplay of The Forbidden Arts consists of two parts. On the one hand you have platforming and on the other you have to fight. Let me be the first to state that I am definitely not a pro in precision platforming. I really do know that I sometimes miss it and that my timing is not always correct. However, I also know the other way around that in this case it is not always my fault. Yes, I really died countless times while playing The Forbidden Arts and it may sound like a weak excuse, but sometimes that really was the game. For example, the hitboxes are not always consistent. Sometimes Phoenix wants to hang on the edge of a platform when it is half a meter away. However, it sometimes seems that he jumps just above a platform during a jump, but then he leans against it a bit uncomfortably and falls down. You are also sometimes forced to jump so high that the platform you have to land on disappears from view and you have to guess whether you will land properly.
In addition, there is also the combat section. Phoenix has two daggers at his disposal with which he can stab his enemies up close. These can be upgraded twice to better daggers throughout the game. In addition, at the start of the game he is also given the opportunity to shoot fireballs. As you progress through the game, Phoenix gains new fire-based powers, such as a shield or the ability to see in the dark. The enemies in The Forbidden Arts range from wolves to dragons and from goblins to giant spiders. Some enemies can only attack from close range, other enemies shoot projectiles or attack by approaching you. Most enemies are really not hard to beat, but sometimes the game wants to deal with it a bit unfairly. Because you cannot immediately attack with your daggers or with fire when you have just landed on a platform. Just let enemies be positioned regularly on the edge of a platform, so they almost always hit you immediately with an attack. In addition, there are also enemies that have virtually unavoidable attacks and some can kill you in one go.
No matter how you look at it, in The Forbidden Arts you often die for different reasons. Now I don’t normally have a problem with that, there are plenty of games that I just don’t like and I often die. What I do have a big problem with at The Forbidden Arts is how ridiculously long it takes to respawn. When you die, you respawn where your game progress was last saved. The game does this automatically in some places, but you can also do it manually. When you die, it takes a long time before this happens, as the game has to reload the level for whatever reason. On the Nintendo Switch, this means that every time after you die you are watching a loading screen for about ten seconds. When you die because you fall into the water, a drowning animation of six seconds precedes that.
The Forbidden Arts is for the most part developed by a single person and you can see that well. The love that this developer has put into his game is splattering, but at the same time you can also see that things are not always going well. The game is unnecessarily unfair at some points, which means that you often die a lot at the same point. Add to that the fact that respawnen takes incredibly long every time and you have a perfect recipe for frustration. However, The Forbidden Arts did have the potential to be a really cool game. The setting is nice, the visual style is beautiful and the story is really very interesting. Were it not for the fact that the way in which the story is told is quite weak and Phoenix has no personality as the main character. Despite everything, I enjoyed this game in between. The levels are fun and when I finally managed to get past a certain enemy or a difficult piece, I really felt satisfied. So give it a chance, but get used to the sight of your own disappointed face in the reflection of the black loading screen.
The Forbidden Arts is a great first title by Stingbot Games, the main character does lack some personality and some loading times need to be patched out.