Fe is the first game to roll off the EA Orignals line, and boy is it, well, original. Following its success with Unravel in 2015, EA decided to lend its support to other indie developers, a setup which will see games such as Sea of Solitude and A Way Out on their, well, way out. That said, despite publisher involvement, Zoink Games made it known that EA has very much left them to their own devices when it came to making this third-person adventure. So, what have they produced?
The first word we have to use when describing this game is "enchanting". You play a small squirrel-like critter who looks a little bit like an arty version of Spyro the Dragon crossed with a chipmunk, and it's called Fe. The setting is a land full of strong colours and amazing art which feels like something out of a beautifully crafted anime film. The game is visually stunning and has a gentle pace that will relax you in a way most other video games won't. We need to point out now that if you're after action, speed, and adrenaline, you should probably look away now.
Zoink throws you straight in with very few hints as to what you need to do, other than a few onscreen commands for buttons to press. Fe wanders through the purple and black forest at the start, and we followed a deer-like creature. While there was no-one telling us to do this, we just intuitively knew it was what Fe was supposed to be doing. Before long we made first contact by singing. Yes, singing. Those hoping for explosions and booms, or even dialogue in the traditional sense, will be sadly disappointed. Straight from the off it has a Journey feel to it, in the sense that it's visually stunning, throws you straight in, has no overt story, and is very simple to pick up and play. Here the singing is key to the game, as Fe learns new songs to get help from other animals, and in turn, learns new abilities which open up more of the game world.
There is some beautiful background music, here a bit subtler than the OST in Journey, but the game itself does carry you through without the need of an epic soundtrack, occasionally piping up with some rather beautiful-sounding, Japanese-influenced music that wouldn't have sounded out of place in a Studio Ghibli film. We felt at times as though we were playing in a game that was somewhat inspired by the art of Spirited Away, and populated by large titans that look like they've wandered in from games like Shadow of the Colossus. There are so many parallels to be drawn between Fe and its cultural influences, but it never comes close enough to anything to be compared entirely. Within minutes we had learned a new song and how to glide. Before long we were climbing up trees that were sprouting out of the legs of a huge deer, all to get up to its head so we could learn a new song and therefore ask other deer to help us. The view from the top was breath-taking and well worth it, even if falling off when we had nearly reached the top several times, saw us throw our controller down in frustration on more than one occasion.
Along with the animals and Fe, there are other entities known as the silent ones, who seem to be the bad guys that are trapping all the creatures. If they see you, they will catch you in some sort of goo netting and you'll have to start again. It's your job to save the forest and the wildlife from these monsters, which makes up the main "story". We wrote the word story in quotation marks because the game has no dialogue, and the narrative is explained through things like cave-style drawings and flashbacks when you pick up certain objects (this to get the view of what the Silent Ones are doing). The lack of direct storytelling from the off made us develop our own interpretation of what was going on. Were the silent ones based on us? Are we destroying nature? Are we losing touch with her? We stopped short of going outside to sing to animals, but it did make us wonder what it was all about.
Getting lost in the game is not a bad thing; it gives us the opportunity to explore a picturesque open world and meet new creatures. As you wander through the land, you will see beautiful things and wonderful animals, all while dodging the Silent Ones. The basic premise involves collecting purple gems to learn new abilities and throwing parts of plants at the goo nets to free animals. You sing to plants and weird and wonderful creatures, and the more abilities you learn, the more the world opens up. The idea of the song to break the silence is such a haunting and beautiful device, and every time you do get lost, you can sing out loud and a little bird will come along and show you the way to go. Our main criticism of the game has to be the pacing, though, which at times felt a little slow despite the thoughtful mood Zoink is trying create. The rich environments, however, do keep you highly entertained for the 6-8 hours it'll take to play through.
To sum up, Fe is beautiful, mesmerising, and artistic. While not for everyone, if you enjoyed titles like Journey or Abzû then it's absolutely worth considering. It's weird and wonderful, surreal and frustrating, all at the same time. It made us both thoughtful and confused, with the lack of story allowing us to find our own meaning, pondering our connection with nature while also wondering where the Silent Ones are from and what they're doing. Who should buy this game, then? Well, if you like explosive, action-packed adventures or games that are driven by story, don't go near it. This is a unique experience, unlike anything we've played in quite some time. If you're after something that is on the verge of becoming a piece of electronic art, then it's worth checking out.