October 21, 2021

Xbox One X

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Fe review – uneven indie from EA Originals

2 min read
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“If only we could talk to the monsters,” laments an infamous Edge review from many moons ago. In Fe you don’t just get to talk to the monsters – you get to sing to them, or at least, croak and wail tunefully, like a sheepdog trying to nail the backing vocals to Bohemian Rhapsody. An “EA Original” from Swedish developer Zoink – otherwise known for such comicbook fare as Zombie Vikings: Stab-a-thon – Fe is the story of a nimble fox creature on a mission to save a vivid dreamland from a legion of strange armoured figures, who are capturing and processing the wildlife to unknown end.

It’s a game about healing rifts between lifeforms, about symbiosis and diversity versus entrapment and exploitation, and integral to all that is the singing mechanic. As in a Metroidvania, you’ll need to obtain certain abilities to push deeper into Fe’s persistent, multiple-region map, which extends from glowering lava caves and sherbet yellow swamps to chilly blue mountain-tops. Some of these abilities are bog-standard incremental power-ups, acquired by collecting purple crystals, but the majority take the form of animal calls and chants, used to woo the realm’s critters and flora into doing your bidding.

If you know a creature’s language, you can hold right trigger to sing with it, increasing or reducing pressure to change pitch. Harmonise with the other animal for a few seconds – as indicated by a glowing waveform between mouths, which creates the unnerving impression that you’re tongue-wrestling it into submission – and it will consent to follow you around and help you overcome any obstacles nearby. Birds will illuminate the route to your current objective, their wingtips scribbling golden paths in the air like the scoutflies of Monster Hunter World. Boars will clear away clogs of blue fungus, or carry you up slippery hills of ice. Stags will flatten any hostiles you lure into their territory.

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