When I first saw the title of The Forbidden Arts on Xbox One I thought it might be based on a late-night erotic thriller that may have been plastered all over Channel 5 a couple of decades back. But alas no, instead it’s a game about magic; the good and the bad. See, in the rules of magic, we know that creating fireballs and throwing them is generally a good thing, and raising an army of the dead to fight alongside you is pretty much frowned upon. It is however with these set of rules in mind that I fully prepared myself to enter the world of The Forbidden Arts, ready to master it all.
The Forbidden Arts is an old fashioned action adventure platformer – plain and simple. It’s not trying to pretend to be anything else and what it does do it does very well. You play the part of a hero – Phoenix – who is advised by a druid after getting some disturbing visions to venture out and master the art of controlling the flame. Then you’re off through lands and 2D worlds to fight creatures, gain spells and platform your way to glory.
The gameplay swaps between the 2D world of platforming and the 3D state of exploration and journeying between levels. Initially you are presented with a whole host of enemies to slay, with a quick slash of the sword or a fireball sorting your foes out. Getting your timing right is essential though as the enemies are very tough, even in the early stages. One enemy that I absolutely hated has been a ninja type character who attacks and then magically appears behind you, before attacking again. Things like this can be hugely frustrating, but it’s all about learning the attack loops and jumping in and out of the way of the rhythm of the offence. Like I said before it’s an old school platformer with old school rules, so if you like that type of game then you’ll be in clover here.
The platforming elements are quite basic to get hold of but, as always, tricky to master. You will have to bring your full skillset to breeze through this game, as you jump and double jump, slide down walls and move across vines; the usual suspects of this gaming genre. It could be said that my time with The Forbidden Arts has seen a pretty high death rate, but the checkpoint and restart areas are pretty dense throughout and you won’t have to do a huge amount of backtracking. There are times when the jumping does feel a bit floaty though, and not as stable as you will probably want it to be, and this fails to allow real trust in where any landing point would be.
There are also moments where the framerate skips a beat and misses a few frames, and you find yourself suddenly go from jumping to holding the ledge. The same can be said about some of the swordplay; the hit ratio can be quite off at times and that goes double for the aerial attacks. It’s these gameplay moments that take the shine away from the core experience quite a bit.
The whole journey is a decently sized one though (over 10 hours or so) and that’s very good value for the price that The Forbidden Arts comes in at. There are boss battles that are very tough – almost too tough for this useless gamer – and while the game itself delivers on the promise of a good old school platform experience, after a while it does get a bit tired and fails to offer anything that is surprising or unique.
It keeps that idea in the visuals, with an old old school look which wouldn’t look out of place a few generations back. This isn’t necessarily a criticism as the retro feel is what will hopefully bring the audience into this gaming world, and while I like the colours, some of the creatures and the general feel of the cutscenes, once again it doesn’t offer anything particularly new. The soundtrack is good though, with a brilliant folky guitar score throughout that becomes very calming on the ears when you have died for the hundredth time that hour.
To conclude and The Forbidden Arts on Xbox One is a good solid action adventure platformer that just so happens to come with some mechanical issues. If you’re a big fan of the old school vibe that mixes combat in a special way then I think you might have a lot of fun with The Forbidden Arts. I like the fact that there is plenty of content on offer, and it’s clever in the way it mixes the 2D with 3D worlds, but I do have issues with some of the platforming and fighting mechanics; they certainly get tedious the more you progress.
It is because of those reasons The Forbidden Arts is not a game that I am going to rush back to play again, but it is still better than watching a dodgy late night movie on Channel 5.