Foregone – Science Has Finally Gone Too Far
DISCLOSURE: Code provided by Big Blue Bubble
Foregone has been one of those interesting Indie games that seems to have flown under the radar but still has been very hyped. The sprite-like pixel look is beautiful, and it seems to play similarly to Dead Cells, but it’s far from it. Foregone is a 2-D action platformer through and through but it adds its own twist of soulsborne looter mechanics to make a very compelling and dark experience set in the fictional post-war kingdom of Calagan. Similar to many modern soulsborne games, you feel like you are picking up the game halfway through the story, and learn about Calagan’s past as you play through this six-ish hour experience that you probably won’t be able to put down until you’re done. Heck, I’ve beaten the game already and I still can’t stop playing it’s New Game + mode (more on that later).
You play the game as a woman who is the first super soldier, or first Arbiter, who is returning to the capital of Calagan to right wrongs that she’s done. Naturally, things don’t go well and you are brought to the Outpost, a place that seems like a refugee camp for those affected by the war, and getting away from the Harrow. Similarly to other soulsborne games, the enemies you kill don’t die. Every enemy is infected with the Harrow, a darkness that infects machines, creatures, and soldiers and makes them stronger than before, and more evil. You slowly learn more about the Harrow and the dark creatures that inhabit Calagan as you slowly make your way to the castle. Additionally, you learn about dark genetic experiments done to in the name of helping the kingdom (more on this later as well). Experimentations that are made from different subjects from wildlife to children to help with the war efforts. I just want to applaud the story telling here. The first arbiter is full of regret and you are slowly revealed the first arbiter’s role in what happened during the war and what led to Calagan’s victory and very immediate downfall as you’re exploring the kingdom. However, exploration is key as well.
There are 16 journal entries that are easy to find but missable that add even more context to what exactly happened to this once beautiful kingdom. The first arbiter’s self-reflection is great, but the journals elevate the world building to eleven. Reading the journals, you learn the experiences of the kingdom’s commander and his growing doubt as the war continues and how his orders are testing the citizens to their limits. In another you learn about the fall of Calagan and how each of the projects you’re hunting down were made and escaped captivity. Finally, you read the journal of a test subject and how their feelings of betrayal turn to their bloodlust and hate towards the country that forced their parents to sacrifice them for the greater good. I just want to reiterate how dark this game gets. It doesn’t hold punches when it comes to the risks people will take to protect what they love, but also what humanity people are willing to sacrifice to win a war and the ramifications of that sacrifice. Each story beat was a very nice cherry on top reward that made me feel shocked once I beat the final boss, with a choice that made me immediately jump back in to Foregone so I can see what the other option led to.
In between each story element, you are exploring a 2-D layout of many, many different areas of Calagan ranging from the lush forests, to the sewers, to the inner neo-future city streets and buildings as you make your way to the central tower. How do you fight these enemies? Well, as you start the game, you’re given a shortsword. This is where the interesting part of Foregone begins. Enemies drop a lot of loot. Particularly the weapons start dropping quickly. Not as many items drop as what you’d find in Diablo or Borderlands, but it’s still a substantial amount. I want to break down the different weapon types and gear you’ll equip because each have their own feel.
There are 5 different melee weapons you’ll find each with their own playstyle. There’s the shortsword, daggers, falchion (a big slower sword that packs more of a punch), a spear, and the gunchucks (nunchucks with guns at the end of them). I tended to prefer the shortsword and daggers by the end because of their speed. Speed really is key in this game. Enemies telegraph their attacks and you need to dodge in time to make sure you don’t get hit. Once you get it right though, you end up with a very satisfying fight whenever you encounter enemies; especially when you come across a boss. Enemy AI isn’t that intelligent, with each performing about 1-2 attacks each depending on how close or far away you are from them, but the deadliness comes when you have at least 3 enemies going against you and each are a different enemy type. One may have a minigun, another may have an electric bow staff, and the final with shields that can be thrown at you if you get too far away. It’s watching all the enemies at once where this game gets very tricky and very deadly. What took me a while to learn was you cannot dodge in the middle of an attack swing. After my third death with the sluggish Falchion, I switched over to the Gunchucks. The Gunchucks also didn’t feel quite right because they didn’t do too much damage until the finisher which locked the Arbiter up for a few key seconds. The daggers and shortsword felt best, as previously mentioned. I was sliding all around and getting key hits in on enemies and finishing them off with flourishes from the knife or a well-timed critical strike explosion that took out a lot of enemies.
In addition to the weapon types themselves, there are different effects you can find randomly on the weapons. These effects can range from plague, which is a damage over time poison cloud that affects other enemies nearby, stasis, which freezes enemies, aftershock which is a big explosion, and an explosive charge, which is exactly what it sounds like. Additionally, the effects can change how fast your abilities recharge. As you explore Calagan, you come across different abilities that can be used any time during battle, but only recharge as you’re dealing damage. Foregone also limits you to two abilities equipped at any time and these can only be changed in the Outpost or at a specific ability swap vendor in some of the maps. Gear optimization is key here. Your rings, necklace, armor, and weapons all may have stats that specifically change up certain abilities. For example, my sword that I finished the game with recharged Nova, an explosive AOE attack, faster. Others have a chance to immediately recharge an ability to full. What ability I ended the game using the most may very well be different than your favorites. But, the key one that I highly recommend equipping is Restoration, a channel ability that quickly heals you up. You may have used up all of Restoration, but it will not come back until enemies take damage. If there is one takeaway from how the combat is designed, it's "be aggressive". Everything from your abilities to ammunition revolves around landing hits on the enemy. The only way to get back into combat is to stay in combat.
Along with the different abilities, the Arbiter can equip a ranged weapon. The ranged attack you equip also can change up your specific playstyle immensely. The four different range weapons are the short range but big damage shotgun, the burst rifle, the longer range but slower firing longbow, and the all-around average pistol. The ranged weapons also carry their owns stats and benefits that need to be juggled with all the other equippable items to find the best loadout for you. Also, the ammo only recharges with dealing damage. I’ve found this balance of finding the higher level items with the most optimal stats to be fun, but tedious by the end of the game. I may have found a nice weapon, but the upgrade mechanics make equipping most items tiresome. Not only is there different rarity and item levels, but each weapon can be upgraded a certain amount of times depending on their rarity. All of this costs gold which can all be potentially lost if you die. Not only that, but breaking down unneeded weapons and equipment doesn’t give that much gold back to match how expensive the last couple of upgrades can get. In addition to upgrading gear, there is also a small but expensive skill tree that uses dropped essences from enemies. I would like to warn you that there are very meaningful but mundane choices to be made here. Mis-spending essences can lead to a longer time-consuming venture. You can take away points from spent nodes, but they only give back gold rather than essence. Additionally, most nodes give stat boosts or faster recharge rates with one meaningful choice that changes the possible damage over time or area of effect that the ability can cause. It would have been nice to see the skill tree be not as costly, a little bit more liberal with refunds, and possibly changing the nature of abilities instead of the aftereffects of the damage the deal.
As mentioned before, Calagan is expansive. Each area takes about 20 to complete with many different branching pathways. Most don’t feel like they overstay their welcome, particularly those with bosses in them, but some do get tiresome. It is only so much fun running around what seems like a mini maze to find the switch to advance. This was most noticeable in the later areas that began to drag. These later areas knew they were the end of the game, and some parts just felt like padding to extend the game time a little bit longer. Particularly when it came to re-fighting past bosses affected with more Harrow. Additionally, as you start killing of the main experiments, you are rewarded with different mobility items that eventually let you wall jump, dash through the air, and ground pound. They are necessary for progression in later areas of the linear game, but they also help you find secret areas in previous ones. Thankfully, the map has a specific tracker to keep track of how many secret areas are found in each area which helps with getting that 100%. The rewards are nice to for the most part. The loot didn’t feel as good as the mythic items I got from later bosses, but the ability upgrades really felt like they made the abilities pack way more of a punch. Exploring past areas like a metriodvania was a nice enjoyable late-game thing to do as I got ready to go against the final boss.
Finally, once you beat the game, New Game + mode unlocks. You bring along all of your gear, unlocked abilities and upgrades to a tougher version of the game, but you also begin to collect more powerful gear from enemies. Another fun twist is bosses respawn now. Whenever you teleport to an area, that area’s boss respawns, which may help with farming the more grindy achievements and getting better loot. The replay value is very high and overall addictive. Big Blue Bubble found a way to constant loot grinding, getting more gold and essence to keep upgrading your skills and equipment, and getting better and better at the game until you breeze through it. I am still on my second playthrough and the difficulty jump feels just right to keep the game interesting. It's nowhere near a breeze, and the difficulty feels fair while still punishing if I ever mess up.
There weren’t too many issues in Foregone as Big Blue Bubble made a very solid game; however I did encounter some. For instance, even on the One X, depending on the number of enemies on screen and particle effects in the environment, I noticed a significant frame drop which felt very jarring. Running away or pausing the game seemed to help the console catch up and let the game run smoothly again. This still doesn’t change the fact that in a faster paced game like this one, frames dropping could be life or death; and with death so meaningful in Foregone, it hurt my experience a couple of instances. Also, while the combat is fast, I noticed my arbiter not performing actions even though I pressed the right button. This could have been because I was hammering buttons too close together, but I did die once or twice to a couple bosses because my arbiter refused to dodge an attack. But these happenings felt few and far between.
Foregone is a dark deep dive into a kingdoms actions to win a brutal war and how the sacrifices made can cause even more strife for that country. You will feel for the Arbiter as you learn about the choices she made for the good of her country, and every single regret she’s had since. There are many pieces to this complicated puzzle, like upgrading items, skill trees, weapon choices, randomized stats, etc. but they all make sense in the end. The freedom is there to allow each player to make their Arbiter their own as everyone works to free Calagan of its twisted fate. I honestly had an amazing time with Foregone. I couldn’t and still can’t put it down. Even with the technical issues and overwhelming amount of stuff to balance as I progressed, this is a game that I know I will remember for a long time to come.