For a while now the indie early-access scene has been overflowing with action-platformers of varying quality; many with terrible animation quality and little to no originality in gameplay. Often, they contain very little style and even less substance, but occasionally a gem rises to the top of the heap. Releasing to early access on the 7th of February, The Forbidden Arts hopes to become one of these gems; but can it actually cut the mustard?
The alpha release is simple but shows off a lot of promise. The story, whilst basic in it’s current iteration, introduces a young man named Phoenix who holds the power of flame. Once his power is awakened, he is sent on a journey to defeat an evil necromancer using the titular forbidden arts.
At the start Phoenix only has a couple of tricks up his sleeve; running, jumping, wall-jumping, and slashing with his dual daggers. Whilst these things work adequately, there are a few issues with animation which make them feel somewhat loose; especially when wall-jumping. The attack animation also simply repeats, making the combat seem a little boring and difficult in an anti-Dark Souls kind of way. Hopefully the game will progress to include combos and tightened animations, but despite this the animations do seem very nicely done; even if they could do with some work when combined as a whole project. This issue extends to other NPCs, whose movements are sometimes unclear. Again, they just need to tighten things up; it’s the little things that count after all, but these can be easily forgiven so early in development.
There’s a decent variety of enemies in the game, from Wolf-men to giant Wasps and Griffins, though again, they need some tweaking in order to make them more fun to battle against.
The individual 2D platforming areas of the game are split up by a 3D overworld. It’s functional and ambitious, though I’d dare say it does seem a little un-necessary. Whilst I admire that they are trying something different and this sets the developer in good stead, I’d also argue that perhaps a more elegant 2d map structure between areas would be just as effective.
The Art style of the game so far is excellent, with Stingbot Games showcasing this in promotional materials effectively. It’s one of the most startlingly good looking early access games I’ve played, even if I’d like a little more modelled texture on walls. There’s a unique sense of style in it’s current iteration, with bright and colourful designs filling the whole world and interesting choices – such as the Honeycomb area – setting the universe apart from similar games.
Compared to the vast majority of Early access games on Steam nowadays, The Forbidden Arts seems to be a game made with real ambition and love which is sure to have a devoted fan following. The art style is appealing and the gameplay itself, with a few tweaks, could potentially be an interesting diversion. This is definitely a game worth watching!