EA and Zoink’s Fe is a cute pseudo-indie game that essentially requires you to accept that language is a gameplay mechanic. As my roommate decreed, it is the world according to our cat, where you yell at things until you become friends. Because you start as a small alien dog creature who rode in on an asteroid, you can only chat with adult creatures when you learn their langauge, and they then help you solve puzzles.
The primary game mechs come down to platformer puzzle solving, but there is also a decent amount of stealth involved. You do have to rescue fellow woodland creatures from enemies that will one-shot kill you.
The game has a pretty obvious environmentalist slant to it, as your main enemies are these humanoid robotic creatures that fire a laser beam out of their chests which encases you in a bubbe of what looks like plastic.
There is some fascinating irony involved when you consider the fact that Fe was published by Electronic Arts which is quite possibly the most industrial of all the AAA publishers. So having them publish a game that is all about the dangers of overindustrialisation is somewhat hilarious.
Fe’s biggest challenge is the fact that the game has no spoken dialogue. Having a game with no dialogue is not an impossible challenge, but it is a tricky situation. But Fe also doesn’t have much of a tutorial or help feature, and the levels are a bit too… same to really figure out exactly where you need to go. For that reason, getting lost in the Nordic forest of Fe is a definite possibility.
Many of the game’s visual queues are gameplay hints rather than storytelling beats, which is something of a missed opportunity. Other wordless games often use mosaics and found artefacts as storytelling tools, but because Fe is set in a the natural world, free from most human interference, it cripples itself in terms of storytelling capacity.
If you get the hang of things, Fe is an enjoyable indie platformer. But if you don’t, it can be brutal and unforgiving. The control mapping is not intuitive, but it is sinple, so getting the hang of things shouldn’t take too much of a learning curve.
My main gripe with Fe is just how much of the story goes ignored. Party because of the game’s lack of dialogue, but also because of its lack of visual storytelling, Fe ends up missing the mark of being a truly compelling indie game. It is visually impressive, a genuine challenge, but still simple. However, there is a distance between the player and the characters, which prevents full immersion into the world. Fe should grab you by the shoulders and pull you into its world, but it doesn’t. While you can enjoy the game and its world, you are always reminded that you are separate from it. Fe suffers from a lack of heart. And that is its biggest failing.
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