Games Review: Fe (Xbox One, 2018): Beautiful, but oblique

You ever sit down with a game, settle in with it, familiarise yourself with the controls and prepare for the inevitable hook that will lead you on your quest? My experience with Fe was fine right up until the part where the hook was supposed to arrive. It never did. Forty minutes after booting the game up and settling in, I still didn’t really know what the game actually wanted from me but I had managed to make a bunch of animal friends.

Fe is an action-adventure title developed by Zoink as a part of Electronic Arts’ indie dev umbrella. It’s a pretty, dreamlike little thing that feels at times less like a game and more like someone gently whipping you across the face with a flower petal. The downside of this is that the games goals, both short and longer term, are sometimes just as inscrutable as a person that would try to communicate their desires through the aforementioned flower badgery. This is not to say that the game doesn’t occasionally walk you through a concept — it does, often when you unlock a new move or discover a new way to communicate with another animal. But beyond that it remains curiously silent.

The game centres on a small wolf-like creature called Fe. Fe can do all the things most action adventure heroes can do — run, jump, lift and throw items — but Fe can also sing. This singing is controlled by the right trigger — gently pulling it makes Fe snuffle and growl, applying slightly more pressure produces soft singing, pulling it all the way in lets Fe let out a mournful but noisy howl. There are multiple animals and other forms of life throughout the game world that will respond to Fe’s singing in different ways, and you will need to work the trigger to adjust Fe’s singing to match theirs to form a connection. Once connected, Fe’s new animal friends will help solve puzzles and point you in the right direction if you get lost.

With a focus seemingly on exploration, each environment is beautifully crafted with soft edged, pastel coloured flat planes making up forests, caves, rivers and mountains. Each reveals something new for Fe to try or inspect, and a few unlock moves that will be useful down the like — like the ability to scamper up a tree and leap and from the top to reach higher parts of a level.

While I don’t mind being left to explore each of these sections in relative peace, I spent a lot of time wondering if I was in the right place or if I was doing the right thing. Had I gone too far? Had I missed something important? There wasn’t really any way to know if I should go back or move forward beyond the amount of pink crystals I’d collected, themselves usually used to open up a new area to explore.

Fe is an interesting little experiment but it never quite clicked for me. For those who enjoy experiences that refuse to handhold the player or those that let you get lost in a calm, meditative environment, I’m sure it will be just what the doctor ordered. For others, it will be a very beautiful but rather oblique experience.

Score: 6.0 out of 10
Highlights: Very pretty environments and animations; Solid and inventive use of controls
Lowlights: Struggles with communicating its desires to the player
Developer: Zoink
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Available: Now

Reviewed on Xbox One X with a retail code provided by the publisher.