Fe Preview: Can You Hear The Forest Speak?
Fe is a peculiar creature. Stirring in a mythical Nordic forest, it’s hard not to feel unnerved at how unsettling your dark surroundings appear at first. With no immediate understanding as to who your character is or their purpose, you tentatively start to explore – looking for some indication as to what to do. But, then you notice it.
The lone deer that playfully leaps across your path and into the distance is the first visual cue that guides you ever forward on your adventure. This is what quickly sets the game apart, an experience that feels all the more personal for lending you the freedom to energetically scurry in any direction that you choose. We can chase after the deer, continue to explore, or idly stand around soaking up the soothing, ambient sounds of the forest.
It’s a brave move that developer Zoink has chosen to take with this platform adventure, a game that feels a far cry from the comedic tales that were spun for Stick It To The Man and Zombie Vikings. With no handholding, we’re instead left to tread our own path, and Fe soon becomes all the more magical for it.
That comes from your own discoveries that, even in the short 30 minutes or so that I spent with the game, never failed to leave me wide-eyed or gently smiling at how the mystical creatures and plants that I bumped into reacted to my attempts to interact with them. That’s because Fe sings with a gruff but melodic growl, a sound wave emanating between you and whichever creature you are communicating with.
In these moments, the player must carefully use the Joy-Con motion control to match the tone of the creature that they are singing to. Get it right and a pulse from each character will slowly make their way along the sound wave. Once they meet in the middle, you make yourself a new friend. This soon becomes a gameplay mechanic that’s key to your continued progression ever deeper into the forest – a flower that you befriend sprouting plants that help you climb to an otherwise out-of-reach ledge, while the deer that I mentioned earlier can open orange flowers that spin to create an updraft.
These aren’t always simple encounters, however. If you approach the deer in a hurry or sing too loudly at it, you’ll scare it away. It’s a natural reaction though and something that never becomes a frustration, the player learning that their interactions will require some patience before they can befriend the creatures of the forest.
This is an important distinction in Fe, considering the threat that you soon discover. You soon cross paths with the Silent Ones, which are seemingly mechanical beings that are subduing creatures against their will. There’s an air of mystery to their appearance, and, I can assume, only those that reach the game’s conclusion will uncover what’s really going on, and there are rounded stones that are hidden in the forest that will let you witness interactive cutscenes that will reveal more about the Silent Ones.
There are definitely moments that will astound, too. As seen in an IGN First video, later in the game there will be a giant deer that has been attacked by the Silent Ones that you must free, which is a moment that has clearly been inspired by the hulking Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus. This is where the powers that you steadily unlock by collecting crystals come into play, the first seeing you learn how to climb trees. Fe is a nimble creature, and, once you have learned how to glide as well, it’s hard not to make a comparison with a flying squirrel.
This becomes your main traversal method, and to scale the giant deer the player scurries up trees that have sprouted from its humungous body before leaping on to the next. It’s a magnificent moment and once you eventually reach the top, you pluck up the courage to sing to the deer to calm it. In thanks for your help, it teaches you the deer animal cry – meaning that you can then temporarily switch Fe‘s voice rather than having to rely on a nearby animal to open orange flowers anymore.
There are other animal cries to learn, with the promise that, as a game that has been built in a Metroidvania-style, players can return to places that they visited earlier in the game to unlock new areas to access the secrets that they hide. And, for those that may be worried about the lack of handholding, you can choose to loudly cry out for a small bird to appear that will guide you in the right direction, while a map will help orientate you with your surroundings. These are optional though, and perhaps it can be argued that there is more fun to be found in letting yourself become lost in the world as you explore.
There’s much that I haven’t talked about whether that be the playful iguana-like creatures that I befriended, the motherly bird whose crystal eggs were stolen by the Silent Ones, or the ferocious bear that I had to distract with a berry to recover one from. That’s all in our gameplay video for those interested, but, just 30 minutes in, I was surprised at how much happened and even more excited about what’s left to discover.
Fe is a game with plenty of heart and, from early impressions, carries an important message. But, just as importantly, it has a world hidden with secrets that I can’t wait to explore and become a part of. I hope that you are just as excited, too.
Fe will release on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch worldwide on February 16th.