The majority of conflict in the world can be traced back to miscommunication and differences. It’s only natural that one is weary of something that is different and strange to them. Pushing back against such differences is a natural occurrence, even if it’s an incredibly childish and disappointing one. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, and there’s almost always a chance for both sides to understand each other (with the obvious exception of Nazis, who deserve all the pushback they can possibly receive).
Fe, the latest game from the talented folks at Zoink Games, is all about communication. The way the player interact with the beautiful wilderness landscape is by crying out by using the right trigger. It’s actually one of the best uses I’ve seen of analog triggers in gaming, as the intensity of your roar is tied directly to how far down the player is pressing. Thus, players can do a slight noise in an attempt to befriend other animals in the forest, or use a loud noise to grab the attention of predators.
This mechanic of speech is a fundamental part of the experience, and the player quickly begins to learn the other languages of the land over time. This is done by being selfless and helping out the other animals that also need aid. For example, early on I helped a bird find its missing eggs after villainous creatures stole them. After doing so, I was able to interact with birds that had previously flung me away from them, and they now were happy to let me crawl on their back and fly around.
Fe is very much structured like a Metroidvania, as each language the player learns will give them access to new areas and different abilities. In addition to these core moves, there are also a bunch of shards scattered about the world that can be collected in order to learn new abilities (such as a sprint). Zoink does a wonderful job of making exploration feel optional (players can call on a helpful guide bird at any time if they are lost), yet rewarding the player for taking time to look around rather than dash through the main story.
I wound up finding plenty of collectibles during my playthrough, and it was all out of sheer curiosity. The world of Fe is fascinating from a design and ecological standpoint, and I loved entering a new area since it meant that I got to see a new slice of this wondrous world. It also helps that the game is incredibly gorgeous, and there are some real breathtaking moments once the player learns to glide.
While exploration and going at your own pace is a pivotal part of the experience, there is a core story and through line that players are expected to see. This means dealing with the game’s most hostile creatures, the Silent. While nearly every other creature is open to communication (although they might not be nice if they can’t understand you), these mechanical-looking creatures will instantly try to kill on sight. There’s no traditional combat in Fe, which means that players have to hide in bushes and attempt to avoid them.
Fe Review - One of the Best PS4 Indie Games | PSLS
It’s these stealth portions that can sometime slow Fe to a crawl, and the main story often has the player completing objectives (usually destroying a contraption or rescuing an animal) in hard to reach places. More than once, I found myself accidentally falling from a high area while trying to avoid enemies since the movement can sometimes feel awkward. down below. This is an absolute frustration since it means more backtracking, and repeating your steps. The world is definitely more fun to explore at your own pace, rather than in a directed setting.
There’s also a few disappointments with regards to the enemy encounters, as there were a few times when it seemed like the Silent were just thrown around the area. Death can come very quickly in Fe (it only takes a few seconds to die), and there were a few stealth scenarios that had me staring at the game’s loading screen since I kept dying. These didn’t occur often, and it was typically fun to outsmart these foes, but they definitely made certain parts of my playthrough feel like a chore rather than fun.
Although there are certainly stumbling points, it’s the aspect of exploration that really makes Fe a memorable experience. There’s seemingly always something to do from stumbling upon ferocious animals that are hidden in a cave to figuring out how to get an upgrade shard. The game world that Zoink has crafted is truly wondrous, and learning to work together with its inhabitants is a truly rewarding experience. Sometimes we just need to learn how to understand each other.
Fe review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.