Play it again, Sam?
Fe is the second in EA’s quasi-indie EA Originals label, following in the footsteps of the delightful Unravel. Fe also happens to be the name of the game’s protagonist, an adorable fox-like creature who can control the world around him with his angelic singing voice.
Much like Unravel, Fe is developed by a Swedish studio and much of the game is a love letter to Nordic surroundings. Fe is highly stylised, offering a mysterious forest painted in equal parts neon lighting and harsh angles. Our hero’s single, solitary starting action is to sing; doing so enlivens the world around you. Pulling down on the right trigger launches Fe into song and finding the sweet spot – or correct pitch – can do anything from brightening a bush to securing a woodland friend.
As you start Fe, that’s all you know. There’s hardly any hand holding; you’re set loose upon the forest with only a single waypoint on your map. Moreover, you’re heartily encouraged to disable that feature. The at-ease nature of Fe is good and bad; simply wandering around, exploring and singing, can be quite calming and therapeutic. A bunch of gameplay isn’t necessary; while Fe can be a collectathon, you’re only required to pick up a single pink crystal scattered amongst the forest to activate your second power — the ability to climb trees. The other crystals are optional, though they’ll help you get around the forest more efficiently.
Moving around the forest is harder than you’d imagine. While Fe is undoubtedly gorgeous, its style makes it hard to really discern where you are or what you’re to accomplish. Apart from changes to the neon colours lighting the environment, each individual area of the forest looks the same as any other. The in-game map doesn’t show terrain, so you can move through a long stretch of forest only to find yourself at a dead end because you don’t have the power that could bypass an obstacle. This, coupled with a lack of proper direction, means you’ll likely find yourself stumbling along blindly.
My biggest complaint is that I wasn’t sure what I could actually affect with my song. Pulling down on the right trigger lights up the world around you, from mushrooms to bushes to animals. Many a time, I found myself standing around, repeatedly interacting with an object because I thought I was supposed to. I went through the entire vocal spectrum two or three times before I was confident that I actually couldn’t use the object… only to magically trigger it on the fourth roam.
Some interactions are obvious, though you’d never imagine it when trying to describe them — singing to a deer near a flower will imbue it with a magical bounce so you can get to hard-to-reach areas – while others are not. For the life of me, I can’t decide if a type of flower offers up a seed for me to pick up and throw simply when I need one, or if I need to sing to it to unlock it.
Fe’s antagonists come in the form of The Silent Ones, creepy behemoths who look to quiet the forest by imprisoning its wildlife. Your end goal is as much to learn more about these enemies as it is to defeat them. Like additional powers, it’s up to you to decide how much you want to invest in following the story; it’s pretty easy to ignore.
You will get frustrated in Fe. I practically threw my controller when trying to figure out how to get an egg from a bison-like beast, and again when I had to jump from tree to tree on the back of a deer. Some of my frustration comes from the fact I had no one to sing to in the real world – no one to bounce ideas off of when stuck on a puzzle – so I’m sure this won’t be a problem for most players, post-release.
Fe is simple yet complex, stylised and engaging. A six-hour affair, it’s perfect for those who found delight in Journey and, to a lesser degree, Ori and the Blind Forest. For others, it might be too much style over substance.
Fe was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.