The Forgotten City introduces a novel gameplay mechanic: Time travel.
During the player’s investigation of the city, they may deliberately or inadvertently break the Dwarves’ Law, which triggers the spectacular destruction of the city. When this occurs, a time portal is opened and the player is able to pass through it, in order to return to the city in its pre-disaster state. This gives players unprecedented freedom to explore and experiment with different approaches to conversations and dilemmas.
This sets up the two most challenging and rewarding lateral thinking puzzles of the game:
1. Players must exploit the ability to loop in time
In order to discover the ancient origin of the Dwarves’ Law and save the city, the player must obtain all four pieces of a unique suit of armor. The player may obtain the first three pieces through exploration, but the fourth and final piece is in the possession of a character who refuses to share it under any circumstances. The only way to obtain the armor is by killing that character, which goes against everything the player has been told to do, and their own instincts. Of course, killing the character and taking the armor breaks the Dwarves’ Law, but the player is then able to reset time, bringing that character back to life - only very surprised to see the player wearing an identical piece of armor! In essence, the only way to obtain the armor and save the city is to destroy it first.
2. Players must create a time paradox
After a thorough investigation of the city, the player realises that by following the directions of the city’s Jarl, they have become stuck in a time loop. The local scholar then suggests that the only way to break that cycle is to create a paradox. As he explains:
“A "paradox", you see, would involve changing the past, so as to prevent the events which caused you to travel back in time in the first place... Creating a paradox should fling you back to your original time, having changed the past for you and everybody else… Essentially, you could do anything that would remove your means or motivation to return to the past.”
The player is then left to work out how they might achieve this. The simplest approach is to murder the Jarl, preventing him from opening the time portal, but this results in the city being destroyed and its inhabitants killed. A better approach is to instigate a violent uprising against the Jarl; while this also destroys the city, it does so in a way that allows most of the inhabitants to evacuate. The best approach is to venture deep beneath the city to confront the city’s immortal founder and persuade him to abolish the Dwarves’ Law; this results in the city being saved, and sets up an emotional reunion between the player and the transformed city’s inhabitants, many years later.
What critics said:
“There are definitely some tough ethical dilemmas here, and if you make the wrong choice: Boom. Everybody’s dead. Go back in time, re-do it all over again. But it’s cool because every time you come back, you know a little bit more, you’re going to make the right choices, and that is the beauty of this mod.” Skyrim Mods Weekly
“How the mod utilizes paradoxes and time loops is fantastic." Brodual
What users said:
“This mod is a marvel of scripting. I don't think I've seen a Skyrim mod that has more complex scripting than this! Absolutely amazing that through all the timelines everything keeps functioning correctly.” Eolath, Skyrim Nexus
“Excellent work here. A thinking man's mod that requires far more brains than brawn.” Lwj5573, Steam Workshop