The length of video games has and will always be a hotly debated topic, with many believing that the length vs cost continuum is often out of whack. Personally, I prefer games that don’t require me to give up hundreds of hours of my time (time that I don’t have) and I’m of the belief that quantity doesn’t equal quality, with many short games having large impacts, such as Journey and What Remains of Edith Finch. The Fabled Woods from Cyberpunch Studios and Headup is a title that is hoping to add its name to that list, but can it have the same impact?
Billed as a short story narrative adventure, The Fabled Woods is a one to two hour linear experience that explores three interwoven stories set deep within an idyllic forest. Narrated by a fella named Larry, players will need to find clues as to what happened in each particular story. As a story, The Fabled Woods has an interesting premise, and each individual anecdote is voice acted with enough quality so that it adds to the overall intrigue, however the narrative design isn’t without its flaws.
Looks can be deceiving
Each chapter plays like its own vignette, with the player exploring small areas of the woods to piece together the puzzle about what went down. The game’s main mechanic paints everything in a glowing red that allows players to see clues in an area. The downside to this mechanic is that while it is simple, it’s not explained very well at the start, and once you activate it you have to wait it out, meaning you can’t activate it, see if you’re on the right path and deactivate it. Plus, your walking speed somehow gets slower when in this mode.
The biggest question is does it all come together in such a short runtime? The answer is both yes and no. While there is closure, each chapter has an interesting backstory that isn’t given enough time to build; the game wants to wrap things up and move on as quickly as it began, which makes it hard to feel invested in each individual story arc.
One thing that the game does do very well is in the visual department. Supporting DLSS and Raytracing, The Fabled Woods looks incredible and can run at 60fps at 4K if you have the right rig. Even on an older GTX 1070 the game looks stunning, with the picturesque woods looking like a place that you’d love to visit for a bit of peace and quiet on a weekend. There’s also a nice atmospheric soundtrack (that comes with any purchase of the game) that highlights the tranquillity and mysteriousness of the woods.
Follow the red glow
The main issue with short games is that they need to be a tight experience; try and cram too much in and they often feel rushed. Unfortunately, this is The Fabled Woods undoing, with the game trying to tell a poignant story with multiple links inside a movie-length runtime. There’s a good story here, it just needs a little longer to have more of an impact.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher
- Cyberpunch Studios
- March 26, 2021