The future lies in the past.

I love Skyrim… on PC, at least. While the base game offers a beautiful rendition of Tamriel’s wintry, mountainous north, that’s pretty much all it has going for it. Quests are extremely simple, the main story is a predictable bore, level scaling is handled poorly and the loot and leveling systems are largely underwhelming.  As such, vanilla Skyrim is often (and quite rightly) referred to as an “ocean with the depth of a paddling pool.”

That is until the community steps in, making full use of the PC version’s mod support, adding new locations, quests, enemies, weapons and armour sets, or even employing the use of a script extender, enhancing the base game’s capabilities beyond what was originally intended.

The mod I’m going to talk about today certainly goes beyond what was in the base Skyrim in numerous ways. An amazing story, superb voice acting and a satisfying conclusion to the events that transpired. I’m talking about The Forgotten City, the best Skyrim mod I’ve ever played.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Via courier, you receive a strange letter that promises riches beyond your imagination in an underground Dwarven city. Upon your arrival, through a waterfall near the city of Markarth, you’re greeted by a serving Imperial named Cassia. She informs you her brother dropped down a hole in the ground, to search for said riches, and hasn’t returned.

Thus, Cassia convinces the Dragonborn (or if you use the Skyrim Unbound mod, the potentially non-Dragonborn), adventurous as ever, to dive down the hole and find out just what exactly is down there. It turns out to be the mod’s namesake: a forgotten underground city. There’s just one problem…

the forgotten city

Oh dear…

Everybody’s Dead, Dave

The town lies dark. Dormant. Its streets littered with the charred corpses of its former inhabitants. The whole place is dead, and already we’re treated to an atmosphere Skyrim never had. I felt my hairs stand on end as I walked through the streets and eventually made my way to the Citadel, a towering structure that once again looked like it hadn’t been touched for years. The same suffocating atmosphere followed me into the Citadel as I explored its numerous rooms, some of which rather alarmingly housed large skeevers.

After barely escaping with your life after a ghostly assault and a tumble from a balcony, you’re called by a mysterious voice to the city’s lakehouse, where you’re thrust back in time to save the city from its grisly fate. This is where we find out that The Forgotten City is simply gorgeous; an underground paradise where its people seemingly live happily in each others’ company. That is until you start digging deeper, both figuratively and literally.

the forgotten city

The Forgotten City’s beauty hides a deeply sinister past.

One of the first things you’ll find out is the city is held together by the Dwarves’ Law, which prevents the citizens from stealing or attacking each other. The people live or die by this law, and should you yourself break it, you’re told to head back to the lakehouse to try again. Thankfully, if this happens, you keep all the knowledge you’ve accrued and are free to resume your investigation as if nothing happened. It’s a very forgiving part of the mod that alleviates the frustration of making mistakes, and will allow you to shoot for The Forgotten City’s best ending.

You’re On Your Own, Dragonborn

While you are given some direction in your investigation, The Forgotten City does not hold your hand. It’s down to you to interview the city’s numerous residents, inside and outside the Citadel. The whole mod has a bit of a Doctor Who vibe to it, as you slowly unravel the mystery and catch occasional glimpses of something more sinister afoot.

Needless to say the plot and its delivery are superb. There are several ways to reach the next milestone objective, most of which you’ll stumble across via your own investigating and exploration. It’s quite thrilling, to say the least, and you can really feel yourself getting closer to the truth with every clue you find. In The Forgotten City, each and every sidequest, event and discovery is there for a reason; they all contribute to what ultimately happens to the place and its citizens.

the forgotten city

The mod does a superb job of telling the story using its environments.

Overall, the presentation of The Forgotten City arguably surpasses Bethesda’s own, and this is a free mod. The beautifully eerie environments, the excellent voice acting, incredible story and the surprisingly brilliant original soundtrack transcend The Forgotten City from being just another mod. It really does feel like a Bethesda-developed expansion pack, only The Forgotten City exceeds their work on both Dawnguard and Dragonborn. 

Ultimately, there’s one reason why you should try out The Forgotten City: it’s free. But beyond that, it’s wonderful, captivating and inspiring. I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next as their potential to tell amazing stories in the world of Skyrim is unparalleled.