Disclaimer: This review of Fe is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. As soon as the Switch version is in hand, we’ll make sure to adjust the review (score included) accordingly, should there be any factor(s) that affect our opinions.
Fe is a game I’ve had my eye on since the original trailer was revealed last August. Its colorful world, isolated atmosphere, and unique gameplay hooks intrigued me from the very start, and I’m happy to say my expectations were met, and even exceeded in some cases. While I expected atmospheric storytelling, I didn’t expect to be moved by Fe’s story and tone like I was. It’s simple but profound, shallow yet deep. It manages to tell one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspiring stories I’ve seen in this medium. Fe is a gorgeous experience on all fronts, and it reminded me just how much meaning and impact video games can have.
Friends in the Forest
In the opening moments, Fe, the purple Fox-like creature you control, drops onto Earth in the middle of a forest. With no HUD, you’re able to completely lose yourself in the world. There are rarely onscreen prompts in Fe, either, which left me with the feeling that I was actually in the forest with all of these beautiful creatures.
I was left to figure out how to start on my own. My eye caught sight of a deer, and I pranced after it. I realized that the deer was skittish, and would scamper off if I approached it too quickly. I slowly walked up to it and began to sing. The deer sang back, and when our pitches matched, he became my friend. Suddenly, just five minutes into the game and with no instructions at all, I had been given the building blocks that all of Fe’s gameplay would expand upon.
There are roadblocks that your character’s song will not be able to clear. By befriending deer, birds, and other creatures around the forest, you’ll unlock access to new areas by using the songs to open up flowers, seeds, and new pathways. Interacting with the friendly creatures in Fe is always a treat. Seeing how wild animals react to my approach, solving how to get in close enough, and finally befriending them through song is a satisfying cycle every time. The scale of creatures in Fe ramps up quickly, too, as I found myself scaling a beautiful, colossus-like creature at one point in the story. It’s moments like this that make Fe’s world feel like a living, breathing ecosystem with all sorts of creatures and environments.
The song mechanic seems simple enough, but it actually leads to some very smart gameplay elements. One of my favorite missions comes from early on in the game, where Fe needs to steal four bird eggs back from the Silent Ones. You can’t speak to the parent bird at first, because you haven’t learned its language yet. Later, after completing the mission, you’ll eventually be taught the song of the birds, allowing you to communicate with adults of that species. It’s a smart mechanic that separates children from adults, leading to a satisfying Metroid-like progression that helps make the world more manageable.
There aren’t any loading screens in Fe, which is another element that adds to the immersion. You can seamlessly explore the world, with an accessible map to help you. I recommend turning the objective marker off, as it is much more rewarding to stumble upon the next task yourself. If you get really lost, you can call a bird to guide you to the next task. It’s scalable difficulty at its finest, letting you choose if you want to explore on your own or quickly go from objective to objective.
The Silent Ones
It’s not all fun and games, however, as evil lurks in the forest. The Silent Ones are the villains in Fe, and they require stealth and nuance to avoid. Fe can hide in the tall grass to avoid being seen, and you’ll have to use this mechanic a lot as you make your way through the story. Upon being spotted by one of the Silent Ones, the whole tone of the game shifts immediately from peaceful to extremely anxious. It’s reflected in the color scheme, which goes from cool colors to hot colors — and the music, which picks up in intensity rather quickly.
The Silent Ones are trying to destroy the forest, and it’s safe to say they make up a vital part of the story. I don’t want to give away too much, but you’ll even get to experience small parts of the game from the Silent Ones’ perspective.
At its heart, Fe has a lot of collection aspects inspired by games like Banjo-Kazooie; however, so many of these collectibles are optional that finding them never feels like a chore.
Pink crystals act as upgrades. Find enough, and you can make your way to a specific point on the map to trigger upgrade cutscenes, which also give more insight into the depth of the story. Upgrades include climbing, flying, and other traversal abilities, all of which expand the scope of the world. Pink crystals are scattered everywhere, and I often stumbled upon them while working on a different objective.
Stone carvings are also scattered around the world of Fe, usually in a zone filled with the Silent Ones. These carvings depict events that happened long ago in the forest. They’re not a crucial part of the story, but they contribute to the world-building if you’re able to take in as many as you can.
Restore Hope to the Forest
It’s hard to talk about Fe’s story without giving too much away. For the first hour or so, you’ll likely have no idea what the story is really about. But, as you play on and continue to befriend animals, upgrade yourself, and thwart the plans of the Silent Ones, you’ll be able to slowly piece together the big picture. Personally, I found a story that will stick with me long after I stop playing Fe. The gameplay in Fe is great, but it’s the atmospheric storytelling that really puts it over the top.
Do yourself a favor and go play Fe. It’s a world to get lost in, and it’s a world to remember. Fe pushes the envelope of what a video game can and cannot do, and it does so wonderfully. Exploring the forest is an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life, and I hope you go and discover it for yourself.Leave a Comment
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: February 16, 2018
Publisher: EA Originals