I saw the trailer for Fe when it was first released and was thrilled when I had the opportunity to review it. It is, by and large, a wonderful game and since I hadn’t played anything from studio Zoink! before I will definitely be looking out for their name in the future.
In Fe, you play a small fox/wolf type animal, (I’d say more wolf than fox but he is rather small) that must learn the languages of the forest in order to save it from what I first assumed were evil robots. (Spoiler alert: They’re not.) The story in itself is ambiguous, you know the robots are the bad guys but players aren’t totally clued in as why they’re here or what their plan is. All we know is that you must avoid them unless you want to end up in a mesh bubble and get thrown into what look like open lava lamps.
There are murals dotted about the landscape which players can uncover by singing, and these provide clues as to the games back story, however they don’t give it all away. I spent a good amount of time staring at the walls in ABZU, trying to figure out exactly what had happened to the ocean and even then I couldn’t totally figure it out. Perhaps you’ll decipher more than I did, but I really enjoyed the hints at the larger story and I’m looking forward to hearing your fan theories!
As far as story goes, saving the forest has been done a number times, Ori for example, but it never seems to get old. Perhaps there’s something about restoring the natural balance of things that we reach for, or crave. Despite being familiar with this narrative, it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
Your primary action in Fe is singing. This is how you make friends with the animals around you, learn their language, uncover murals and talk to the plants. It is a charming feature and not something I’ve encountered before so points to Zoink! for creating something serene and beautiful. In order to first connect with an animal or plant you must sing at the right pitch and it’s lovely to hear all the different kinds of songs.
You also run fairly fast for a little wolf and that is a real bonus. I didn’t test to see if I could walk but as long as we’re moving at a solid pace when there’s lots of ground to cover that’s okay by me.
I also have no complaints about the other abilities you pick up as you go – climbing trees is quick and adorable, gliding works nicely and does not make you feel as though it’s too short, and running on all fours is another cute addition. I didn’t collect enough crystals to try out the others but it was good to know they weren’t essential to progression. The only two that really mattered was the ability to climb trees, (given to you on a plate after collecting one crystal) and gliding which doesn’t take too long either.
As with most run, jump and glide games there are the odd frustrating moments when you’re doing the same jump again and again, or falling and having to restart from the beginning. But I didn’t encounter too much of that and that tells me that this game has been polished and fine-tuned to encourage the gamers not to rage quit.
Gameplay was strangely addicting! The challenges in learning each language varied enough that although you knew the system (run over there, sing to that plant, free that animal, learn the language) you weren’t bored! I found myself strangely addicted to discovering the next place, learning a new language and discovering more. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in a long time as a gamer and I honestly didn’t feel as though I was grinding – another bonus.
As mentioned before, there are crystals to collect which give players little bonuses like the ability to run on all fours, but the ones following the gliding ability and tree climbing aren’t essential if you can’t be bothered.
The game also feels brilliantly open world. When you first land, although it’s clear you must follow the deer, there’s no immediate sense of pressure or tension, and players should feel encouraged to just sit back for a moment and enjoy the landscape. When I first started Fe I did what all side-mission addicts do and turned around and went the other way. There are walls and borders but nothing feels out of place to keep you on the straight and narrow. Once you have the two main abilities too, the forest is pretty much yours to explore with no loading screens.
I often find graphics a subtle art, and it’s an element of a game that’s probably looked over if there’s nothing to complain about. Fe has brilliant colours that perfectly capture the range of hues that cover woodland and even more so in the lighting. The design is reminiscent of ABZU, with a kind of hexagonal texture. But this works nicely with the environment, who ever heard of a forest with smooth parts anyway? I would love to see a patch of some sort that offered the player a chance to see the game again with smoother edges, just to see what that would look like, but overall the graphics work brilliantly.
Value for Money
It’s currently £11.69 on Nintendo Switch (a bargain in my humble opinion) £17.99 on the EA store and around £15.99 for Xbox One. I would say selling it at £18 is asking a little too much for a game that has around 6 hours of gameplay if you don’t stop to smell the flowers. £14.99 would be slightly better – with £10 being the best.