Developed and published by the Californian studio Stingbot Games, The Forbidden Arts is a colorful adventure that places you in control of Phoenix, a young adventurer with a special spark inside his chest: the flame of the Pyromancers. And as darkness spread over the world of Chora, you will embark on a journey to master the element inside your chest and to gather the support of other elemental lords, acting as a beacon of light in this time of need.
Sharpen your blades and keep your inner flame lit because we’re about to explore this beautiful and colorful world – and maybe even the next! – while listening to one of the most touching soundtracks of the year. Follow us through the review of this challenging game!
- Sound: My, my… The colorful visuals of the game were the first characteristic to catch my eyes in this title, but its soundtrack is what will stay with you after finishing the game! The acoustic guitar-based soundtrack is just wonderful and I want to take off my hat for the team responsible for it. And not only the soundtrack, but the voice acting also deserves praise. Unfortunately, the voice acting is only available in the few cutscenes spread during the gameplay, but they compensate the low number with quality work. Kudos, Stingbot!
- Old-school gameplay: The old-school feeling of The Forbidden Arts is present during the exploration of its 2D levels composed by platforms, some puzzles and loads of enemies for you to dispatch – or to dispatch you, I’m afraid. And yes, there are collectibles scattered (better saying hidden) in each level so you may eventually need to revisit a few of them to get the 100% of the game. The world is divided into areas with different themes (you have green forests, icy mountains, poisonous swamps and more) that you can access through gates that take you from one area to another. Each area has some challenges you can complete to upgrade your maximum health and magic – but to have access to these challenges, you must collect enough gold inside the levels, what will motivate you to further explore each section
- The world of The Forbidden Arts: The world of The Forbidden Arts is something quite remarkable! The quest you find yourself into, the different ambiances you will explore, the NPCs you will interact with and the magic that flows within your character. As a pyromancer, he finds himself in a mission to reunite the other elemental masters and, together, stop the plans of the necromancer. Not the most original concept, I may say, but the journey will make it worth.
- Bosses: The level bosses deserve a special mentioning in this review. They are big (well, not all of them are), they are challenging and will require all your skills to use your magic and attacks correctly to avoid their assault and be able to reach them. They are a welcoming change in the combat pace of the game, bringing something fresh and new at the end of each level.
- Visuals: The colorful and shining 4K visuals of the game levels are charming and will definitely catch your eyes! The different ambiances you will explore and the visual effects of your magic are great, while your enemies and your character animation are ok. But after a few minutes playing, you will realize the lower textures in the world map (where the game changes its perspective from 2D for a full 3D) and pallor could have used some more details. No, they aren’t bad, but the contrast between the world map and the interior of the levels and the good visual effects make me believe they could be so more remarkable.
- Combat: During your journey, the enemies won’t give you a minute to rest – what is great! To defeat them, you can always count with your faithful pair of daggers and your fire magic. But the combat is the biggest disappointment for me in this game: sometimes, your attacks don’t seem to have an effect over the enemies, who can hit you back even during a chain of attacks. Enemies also have an unstoppable attack that you must avoid at all costs (as they shine in blue when using this attack, they are easy to identify. So, no worries here ok?). Problem is that you must avoid this attack and your dodge/roll command don’t work as expected and you will eventually get hit and this will become really frustrating the more you play it. There’s no problem in enemies repeating their attack patterns over and over, like old-school classics used to do, but the inconsistency of my attacks got me upset.
- Frustrating Platforming: The platforming segments of The Forbidden Arts are very frustrating. Your double-jumps allied to the wall-jumping ability are usually enough to traverse any gaps or fissures you come across. The problem is when you jump aiming for a wall jump and the wall-part of this jump doesn’t connect. Or when you’re trying to climb a ladder by pressing the action button and the command input doesn’t work… I’m sure you already imagine where it will take us to… cheap deaths. Dozens of them! Fortunately, the checkpoints in this game are frequent so you won’t lose much progress every time you miss a jump.
I must be honest with you: I was expecting a more from The Forbidden Arts. With such amazing premises, beautiful art and, especially, this amazing soundtrack, it had everything to deliver an epic adventure, but it falls short in two of the mains aspects of a game of this genre: the combat and platforming. But don’t take me wrong: the title from Stingbot Games is undoubtedly a good action game, with an old-school feeling that enchants. If you can manage to overcome or ignore the mentioned problems, you will find a pleasing and colorful quest good for players of all ages – be you an old player like me or a young adventurer eager for something new.
Developer: Stingbot Games Publisher: Stingbot Games
Played on: Xbox One X Also available on: PC, Switch, PS4
Time to beat: Between 6 and 8 hours
Achievement difficulty for 1000 Gamerscore: Finding all the damn gold pieces in each level can take a while.
Perfect for: Platforming adventure fans.
Xbox Game Store link: Click here