Isn’t it wonderful when a game appears from completely off your radar and manages to blow your socks off? Foregone is one such game for me. I never saw it coming and yet it gave my socks so much rocket fuel that they were launched off my little piggies, punched through the atmosphere, and are now circling the Earth like some sort of polyester satellite.
The first thing that your eye will be drawn to is the gorgeously silky smooth 2D pixel art of this action platformer. The protagonist – a super-soldier referred to as the Arbiter – leaps, dives and unleashes bullet hell with a level of detail in her animation that would even impress Don Bluth. The same level of care has been lavished on the character design and animation for every single enemy in the game, and the environments are beautiful and varied until the conclusion, each screen crammed with multiple layers of detail. From the teeniest bug to the mightiest boss, Foregone is a party for your eyeballs from beginning to end.
Even so, I still had my reservations when going into Forgone. Here is, I thought, another game that will inevitably be so hard that it crushes my delicate ego into psyche paste. As I booted the game up, I resolved to accept that the next ten or so hours of gaming would be spent with my inner critic being very mean to me about my pathetic lack of hardcore gaming credentials. Then, something wonderful happened; I discovered that Foregone has an actual difficulty curve. I was flabbergasted.
This is a game that steadily grows in challenge as the player develops their skills. To my astonishment there wasn’t a single brutal and unnecessary difficulty spike to ruin my fun. Instead, every time a new baddie or boss popped up I felt ready to take them on. I almost cried tears of joy when I realised I had a decently sized health bar and my character wouldn’t flop over dead after one hit. If you, like me, are fed up with unforgiving difficulty spikes of the stereotypical roguelite and soulslike, then Foregone is the game for you.
Foregone elegantly brings together aspects from a number of different genres and make them accessible to a more general audience. Upon her death, the Arbiter loses any experience points that she had gathered up until that point and had not invested into new skills or weapon upgrades. In familiar soulslike fashion, they aren’t lost forever, but sit in a little Canopic jar can be retrieved on your next go by reaching the same spot. Alternatively, there’s a nice chap called the Ferryman who lives in the Outpost you return to after death, who will retrieve the jar for you at the cost of half the experience it contains. Either way, you can just jump into your teleporter and get right back into the action.
That seems to be the modus operandi of developers Big Blue Bubble throughout, they want you to actually play and enjoy their game – rather than hiding it behind a near-insurmountable wall of insta-deaths and restarts. That’s great, because there’s a huge amount to enjoy here.
Combat is chunky and satisfying, with an impressively varied range of weapons on offer, the highlight of which are undoubtedly the Gunchucks. These nifty bad boys turn the Arbiter into a boni fide Bruce Lee, though one with nunchucks that explode with gunfire on every collision. Ranged weapons are on offer too, though in another nod to accessibility, these auto-aim, allowing for their swift inclusion into a combo.
There’s a lovely pace and sense of agency to the combat. Sliding under a hail of bullets, dashing past some guards then turning and hacking apart a turret is a definite dopamine hit. Its fast, fluid, frantic and thanks to its diverse range of enemies, you’re always kept on your toes. There’s something new to see in every level, with multiple new enemy types being regularly dropped in to keep the combat fresh. Sure, the promised story of regret and conspiracy disappoints, being primarily delivered in a selection of data logs, but you’ll be having far too much fun actually playing the game to care.
Foregone also considers itself to be a looter, so it’s vital that the weapons, armour and items are worth collecting. Fortunately, that’s definitely the case. Each newly upgraded item offering notable improvements to the Arbiter’s abilities, making the return of a previously challenging area to uncover secrets an absolute cakewalk. It frees the player up to find the numerous ingenious secrets squirreled away in each level. Most are worth discovering too, as they’ll provide power-ups that offer numerous manoeuvrability improvements.
Sadly, this isn’t the case with the new skills that can be collected. Whilst fun to use – there’s a floating barrier that absorbs damage and a short-lived god mode that can be activated – they are also oddly superfluous. Your initial skills, a swift dash and a healing factor, are soon so well upgraded and so useful that they render all other skills inconsequential.
There are also a few mildly annoying glitches to be found. For some strange reason, the Arbiter is frequently knocked back by an invisible wall whilst leaping over flames. Try to jump the flames on a few occasions and it’s a no go, try again and curiously the Arbiter will be able to make the jump and clear the fire without so much as a toasted toe. Then there’s the auto-aim, which mostly works well but will on occasion decide to send an arrow flying at absolutely nothing – a bit of a problem when ammo is precious.