When I first booted up Fe, all I knew about the game was that it called itself “a new type of platform adventure where the story is up to you to discover, without handholding, told wordlessly through the discoveries you make during gameplay.” This description alone was all the convincing I needed to get the game, but I remained hesitant about its ability to actually achieve this claim.
The concept behind Fe follows a trend of non-verbal action-adventure games set by the likes of Journey, ABZÚ, and RiME. Each game’s ostensible goal is to make you feel something without telling you what or how, leaving the narrative and its implication up for interpretation. It’s a budding new genre that I’m totally in love with, but one I recognize is still in its infancy. Not all games that try to achieve this level of spirituality succeed, but they due it’s usually because they’ve managed to strike a delicate balance between specificity and obscurity that’s both necessary and difficult to master. Some games (like Journey) absolutely nail it, while others (like RiME) tilt a little too far one way or the other. Fe, much to my own surprise, achieves the former.
Fe’s story, if it can be put into words, revolves around a standard protagonist-versus-antagonist setup. You play as an adorable fox-like creature—the protagonist—who’s navigating the forest and assisting the animals that live there in defending themselves against an invading horde of humanoid/spider/astronaut creatures—the antagonists—which seem hell-bent on capturing anyone who crosses their path and causing a ruckus. This is all conveyed to us through images and cutscenes, never with any words, and gets more and more complicated the more we see and interact with both the animals in the forest and the strange invaders. These encounters are what resonated with me the most about Fe, and their masterful ambiguity is what made the game feel important.
Without giving too much away, my favorite encounter in the entire game is one of the earliest, when we’re tasked with assisting is a sort of giant deer. We know nothing about it besides what we see—it’s huge—and we don’t know why the strange humanoid/spider/astronaut creatures are trying to restrain or capture it, but we do know without even being told that the giant deer is in terrible distress. Whether it be fear, panic, or pain, the giant dear cries endlessly, struggling against the restraints of the humanoid/spider/astronatu creatures, while we rush to destroy the machines that keep it restrained. The urgency of this situation is indescribable, and it’s driven by the helpless struggle we see the giant dear endure. We don’t even have to be persuaded. Anyone who experiences empathy will understand that we’re supposed to—but, really, need to—help this poor creature.
The feelings that this situation instilled in me were so surprising and overwhelming that I had to set the game down with full intent to pick it back up only when I could spare my undivided attention. The rest of the game manages to maintain this same level of emotion, urgency, and spirituality, all the way through to the end. And what makes the whole experience worth while, at least for me, was that when everything was said and done, I still didn’t feel like I fully understood everything I’d just experienced.
For this reason, above all of the many others, I can’t recommend Fe enough.
Fe is available now for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.