Fun, original platforming and puzzles, wrapped in a great soundtrack and beautiful aesthetics make Fe an instant indie classic.

Fe was one of the games I was most excited about when visiting Gamescom 2017, where the indie adventure game was introduced to me by lead producer, Hugo Bille.

In his presentation, Bille explained how growing up in Sweden, he and many others in the dev team freely roamed the Swedish woodlands, creating their own wonderful adventures. Fe is meant to let us, the players, experience these adventures too.

Now the first thing you’ll notice about the game is its aesthetics. It’s obvious the developers went out of their way to create a really special visual experience.

The environments are detailed with vegetation, boulders, caves, and what not, and everything radiants colors. Fans of visual masterpieces like Ori and the Blind Forest will really enjoy these aesthetics, as the style is fairly similar.

The different interactable objects are color-coded but never look out of place, and the animals, while designed a simplistic low-polygon style, all have their own unique look. They are all beautifully animated in a way that makes you feel like they were actually alive.

As I was capturing screenshots for this review, I realized how every single shot I took was breathtaking. I mean, I could just go and explore the map, snapping loads screenshots to use as wallpapers.

The fantastic soundtrack is the kind of relaxing, almost meditative music a game like Fe needs. While none of the tracks are especially memorable, I was very fond of how they made me feel during the gameplay. The combination of orchestral music with an emphasis on strings was hard to ignore, and the occasional synthetic effects that signal a change to a darker mood or add a little tension is brilliant.

The one thing that kept bugging me and always broke that calmness I got from the rest of the soundtrack was Fe’s singing voice. Fe sings in an odd, high pitched growl of sorts, which kind of reminded me of a baby crying. I feel like Fe could have had a “cuter” voice that would be easier to connect with, instead of the whine it makes.

Fe review - Platforming

Fe, by the way, is the cute little weird creature we are playing. The name is pronounced fee-uh, in case you were wondering.

Fe is a fox-like creature that has a strong connection to the forest and can interact with it by singing. Singing to the animals and plants will gradually grant us different abilities. As mysterious creatures known only as the Silent Ones invade our forest, it’s up to us to save it and all its inhabitants.

I was a bit disappointed by the lack of emphasis on storytelling. The story is conveyed through cutscenes, stone engravings, and Silent Ones’ memories. It’s nice, but it is also very vague, but it mainly raised a lot more questions than it could answer.

But when you get right down to playing the game, you discover the sweet Metroidvania gameplay. Fe obtains many neat abilities along the way, becoming more and more agile. You start with basics like running, jumping and singing, but as you gain more skills, you end up climbing trees, gliding, and opening new paths.

I remember a specific point mid-game where I was climbing on top of a giant deer, in a fashion very similar to Shadow of the Colossus. After reaching one of the higher points, I accidentally jumped in the wrong direction, and almost ended up throwing myself all the way down. Luckily, thanks to Fe’s delightful gliding ability, I managed to quickly return to the tree I jumped off from, saving myself from having to climb the whole thing again.

Fe review - Singing

Platforming through the environment is generally very fun. The lack of a fast travel system is a bit of a downer since the map can be harder to traverse in some areas, and it can be a pain to make your way through them again and again.

Alongside new abilities, you learn different languages and communicate with new species of animals. You need to sync your singing tone with that of the animal you are singing to, and this contributes to that meditative and calm atmosphere I’ve mentioned earlier.

The singing makes for an important aspect of the gameplay. Fe can sing to different animals and plants to interact with them. Some plants you sing to might open up an turn into a platform that launches you into a secret area, while others might turn into a bomb that you can pick up and throw. The animals you sing to will accompany you, assist you by singing to plants which you can’t sing to yet, and attack enemies to help you advance through areas.

Because Fe is a very gentle creature, the game doesn’t have a combat system. Whenever we do encounter the Silent Ones, which happens quite often due to them being a huge part of the story and all, we use stealth instead.

I’m not a huge fan of stealth myself, and I’ve actually abandoned many games due to forced stealth sections, but in Fe I actually enjoyed it. The stealth sections are usually very open, with many ways to approach your targets. You are often able to interact with animals and have them help you distract or dispatch Silent Ones in your way.

Fe review - Stealth

While in other games I always feel taking anything other than a very specific path would result in failure, Fe wasn’t as unforgiving. Even if you do get spotted, it’s not an instant game over, and you can usually hop back into cover without any penalty. If you screw up and get caught, the game quickly reloads, so you’re never left to stew in your frustration.

The game does a good job of removing the stress out of the situation in a way that keeps it fun and turns it more into a puzzle, which is nice even for people who are less into stealth gameplay.

The combination of tight platforming, flexible stealth segments, and relaxing singing gives you unique ways to tackle every challenge the game throws at you. While it does not have well-developed storytelling like its two-dimensional brother from another mother, Ori and the Blind Forest, Fe has a distinct charm to it that will immediately appeal to your sense of wonder.

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