The Fabled Woods
Gameplay 5
Graphics 9
Sound 8

The Fabled Woods is a visually impressive narrative short story set in a very picturesque environment. The game is all about marveling at your surroundings and soaking up the atmosphere, but the story could have been more immersive. With the right hardware, the game looks incredible, but it is a pity that the overall story doesn’t quite reach the same heights. If you are a fan of the genre it is worth a play, but aside from the visuals, there’s nothing here that really pushes the envelope for these types of games.

Gameplay: The story starts strong and mysterious, but feels somewhat rushed towards the end.

Graphics: With the right hardware the game looks downright incredible.

Sound: An atmospheric soundtrack and decent voice acting

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The Fabled Woods

Developer: Young Horses | Publisher: Young Horses | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Action / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

The Fabled Woods by CyberPunch Studios invites players to take a stroll in nature, but there is more than just fresh air and sunshine to soak up. The game opens with the unnamed protagonist being greeted by the voice of a man named Larry. It seems like Larry owns a cabin in the woods, but his reason for being in the woods and his connection with the protagonist is just one of the three intertwining narratives in the game. While players make their way through the beautiful surroundings they will slowly uncover the purpose of their visit to the woods along with the stories behind the other people whose memories linger among the trees.

CyperPunch Studios describe The Fabled Woods as a dark and mysterious narrative short story, which is a pretty accurate summary. There are no puzzles to solve, no monsters to fight, and no quests to complete. Instead, players slowly follow a linear pathway through the woods while basking in the beautiful visuals. Occasionally a locked door requires players to pick up a nearby key and notes or newspaper clippings flesh out the story, but mostly it is a lot of walking.

The game runs on Unreal Engine 4 and supports DLSS as well as Ray Tracing features for owners of RTX hardware, so the visuals are definitely the highlight of the experience. Walking through the woods as sunlight filters through the trees and reflections ripple in the water is a truly immersive experience. It also helps that players can navigate their surroundings at their own pace, without fear of jump scares or monsters. However, as beautiful as the woods are, they also hide some dark secrets. Early on as players stumble across a campsite they are prompted to press spacebar to “remember.” Doing so turns the screen an unsettling shade of red and previously invisible clues become visible. These clues mostly take the form of blood trails, which players must then follow to reach specific objects. Touching these objects triggers a dreamlike sequence where players walk across a path stretched across a seemingly bottomless abyss. During this journey, a monologue plays that provides some more insights into what happened in the woods.

Completing The Fabled Woods and picking up all the achievements shouldn’t take more than two hours and due to the linear nature of the experience, there isn’t a whole lot of replay value either. The game starts very strong thanks to the mysterious atmosphere and feeling of bewilderment that stems from the dreamlike sequences, but sadly it begins to falter towards the end. While the story had a lot of potential it feels a bit rushed and none of the characters are given enough time to empathize with their plights.

This, unfortunately, also means that the conclusion is not as satisfactory as it could have been. The “narrative adventure” genre is already a very divisive one and is often referred to as “walking simulators” due to their lack of traditional gameplay elements. The Fabled Woods, unfortunately, doesn’t contain anything new or revolutionary that is going to sway players who are not already fans of this niche genre. The story just doesn’t have the same type of emotional resonance as some of the best titles in the genre. Some of the big “twists” are also too obvious, which can leave the final act feeling a bit flat and anti-climatic. The Fabled Woods does come with a digital notebook in PDF format, which we recommend reading after completing the game to gain some more insights about the character and their motivations. It is rather brief but elaborates on some of the things that are only hinted at in the game.

Although the gameplay elements and story of The Fabled Woods could have been better the visuals are superb. The game is a great showcase of what can be done with ray-tracing and the foliage, shadows, as well as reflections, look incredible. Simply strolling through the woods is an immersive experience and virtually every location would look great on a postcard. We don’t want to delve into any spoilers, but not every location in the game is set in the woods either. To complement the visuals The Fabled Woods also features a wonderful soundtrack that veers between tranquil and spooky. The entire soundtrack is also included in both MP3 and WAV files with your purchase of the game and well worth a listen. In addition to the atmospheric soundtrack, the audio also features some great ambient noises, such as bird sounds, to make the woods feel more alive. Finally, the game is fully voiced and the acting quality is very decent for an indie title.

Making your way through The Fabled Woods is very easy as it is played in the first person and uses standard WASD controls. Players can left-click on certain items to pick them up and these items can also be rotated to view them from different angles. As we mentioned earlier, there are no puzzles to solve and most of the items that can be interacted with are completely optional. It is also impossible to get lost in the woods as you can’t stray very far off the path set out in front of you. There’s some occasional backtracking to follow the “clues” when making use of the memory vision, but for the most part, players will be walking along an obvious path. Although some players might find this overly restrictive it helps the game to keep players focused on what is important. The other benefit is that it allowed the developers to lavish more attention on the environments.

Overall, The Fabled Woods is a very impressive effort for an indie developer and the visuals alone can stand toe to toe with some of the best. The visuals are without a doubt gorgeous and the story held a lot of promise, but it is hard not to walk away from this one feeling slightly disappointed. The atmosphere of the game is also great, but the short duration definitely hampers the overall impact of the story, which is a pity. If you don’t mind short, linear experiences then The Fabled Woods is worth a playthrough, but don’t expect it to blow you away.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 / Windows 8.1 / Windows 10 64-bit (latest Service Pack)
  • Processor: 3.2 GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • Memory: 6 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Geforce GTX 1060 / Radeon RX 580 or equivalent
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 10 GB available space
  • OS: Windows 7 / Windows 8.1 / Windows 10 64-bit (latest Service Pack)
  • Processor: 3.2 GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • Memory: 12 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Geforce RTX 2060 / AMD RX 5600 XT or equivalent
  • DirectX: Version 12
  • Storage: 10 GB available space

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1 Comment

  1. BarbossaJ March 30, 2021
    Reply

    Can’t say I’m surprised really. I got the sense from the demo already that the game is pretty but shallow. Since i don’t have a RTX card even the pretty graphics are wasted on me.

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