Singing a different tune
There’s a lot to like about the world of Fe. It’s one of the dreamiest games we’ve played on the Xbox One in recent months—a strange journey into a vibrant but intimidating woodland. You can tell the title was developed in Sweden—the forests of the game all have a proper sense of place to them. From towering oaks that block out the light from above, to steamy swamps brimming with life,
Fe does an incredible job of making you feel at home in its gorgeous but unsettling world.
Fe is an odd mix of genres in one game—for the most part, the title feels like an adventure title. There is an emphasis on exploration and Metroidvania-style backtracking once you’ve unlocked new abilities, but there are also elements of stealth games and even light RPG mechanics, too. Imagine something like Journey, but with a little more narrative thrown in— Fe seems more concerned with telling you about its world than forcefeeding you a story.
Wood you believe it
The main gameplay conceit sees you communicate with various woodland animals, singing in harmony with them in order to convince them to help you on your journey. Different animals will help you in different ways, and you need to carefully apply pressure to the right trigger in order to find the right pitch and sing with them. You can sing to the plants, too, once you’ve learned the right song from the animals in a certain area. It’s a pretty unique mechanic, and one that breathes a bit of life into what could otherwise be seen as a standard adventure game. The most interesting thing about Fe is that there is no combat in the game: You are a vessel of peace, it would seem, a force coasting through the world to unify the forest, bringing everyone (and everything) together. That does lead to some frustrating moments later on in the experience, though: Jumping away from the threatening black masses of predatorial enemies and hiding in bushes can only be entertaining for so long.
While Fe does a good job of communicating its world and guiding you through some fantastic setpieces, there are also issues with the gameplay. The controls are cumbersome, and as you obtain more abilities, they just get more unwieldy and frustrating—you’ll often find yourself gliding past a platform you need to land on and sailing down to the bottom of an area, forced to climb back to it a few times before the game does what you want it to do.
“Fe is a smart adventure game trying very hard to do something new”
Considering the later part of the game revolves mostly around chaining hops and glides, this can get tiresome—especially if you get to a ledge, only to have the hop-up animation fail to trigger for whatever reason. As the dodgy controls get more frustrating, you start to see past the charming wilderness and see Fe’s constituent parts… and they’re not that impressive.
Most puzzles revolve around figuring out which animal you need to guide where, or throwing seeds at breakable obstacles to clear the way ahead. At first, they’re interesting, and the cookie-cutter puzzles are broken up with some interesting, Journey- esque set-pieces. But eventually, even the puzzles start to wear thin—all the singing and seed-throwing and jumping comes together to form a finite number, and by the end of the game we were left feeling pretty underwhelmed by the puzzles and their predictable solutions.
But perhaps that’s being too harsh. Fe is a short game—maybe three to four hours if you take your time—and overall the experience is pretty, soulful, and a bit different. Once you’ve played through the main narrative of the title, you’re left with a sort-of open world you can explore at leisure—no more arbitrary stealth nonsense holds you back here. The soundtrack also subsides a little once you finish the game… and it’s actually quite nice. We know this is a game all about harmonics and sounds, but at times the soundtrack is far too intrusive, and doesn’t feel like it fits the rhythm or pace of the game.
So Fe is not a bad game. There are frustrating elements to it, sure, and the controls really do hold it back from being as special as
Journey, or even Rime. Fe is a smart adventure game trying very hard to do something new, and the singing mechanic is genuinely interesting for the first hour or so. It’s just a shame that for such a short game, Fe starts to unravel a little towards the end.
It’s a fascinating approach from developer Zoink—and something pretty different to what they’ve put out in the past. We hope that Fe proves a satisfying proof of concept for the studio to build on for its next soulful adventure.
Left The game’s blue hue can be relaxing and vaguely hypnotic.
far left The various nervous creatures in the game all speak their own language and behave in their own special way.
Right If you can get over the occasionally frustrating controls, Fe’s world is a joy to explore— especially in the post-game free play mode.