If you missed Foregone, fix that immediately. Foregone is incredible. Full stop.
At first glance, you might think Foregone—which released last year for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC—is a carbon copy of Dead Cells, Motion Twin’s eternally popular roguelike. For sure, the two share a lot of DNA in terms of art style, animation, tone (so moody), and enemy design. But make no mistake: Foregone isn’t just another Dead Cells.
For one, Foregone is not a roguelike. Yes, you’ll die (a lot), but you’ll always retain your equipment. There’s also a robust checkpoint system. As if Dead Cells would have either ability.
You could make the case that Foregone is just another Metroidvania, but it’s not really that, either. Though you unlock traversal abilities that expand where you can go, you don’t have to spend much time backtracking. (Sorry, Metroid Prime fans!)
You could conceivably draw a line to Hollow Knight. As you defeat enemies, you’ll earn various forms of in-game currency. When you die, you’ll lose it all. If you want your money back, you’ll have to retread to the exact spot you died, just as you would in Hollow Knight. And, sure, both are side-scrolling action-platformers. But those are tepid connections.
No, to measure Foregone against other games clouds what makes this particular action-platformer stand out so much in a crowded field.
In Foregone, you play as a technologically beefed-up supersoldier (an arbiter, to throw a bone to Halo fans). There’s a mysteriously desolate kingdom, Calagan, which is overrun by bad guys you have to kill. You’ve heard it all before. Really, the story is just plot dressing to conveniently wave away the fact that you can die and come back to life over and over again—a foregone conclusion, given the game’s difficulty.
Combat, as with many games of this nature, starts off brutal. You’ll likely get taken out minutes into your first run. But, as you acclimate to the quirks of each weapon and familiarize yourself with each enemy’s tricks, you’ll survive longer without even realizing it. That one room with the maddening teleporting bruisers who flattened you in seconds? Three runs later, it’s a breeze.
You’re given a melee weapon (say, a sword or a spear) and a firearm (a pistol, shotgun, longbow, or the like). Ranged weapons, which automatically target the closest enemy, tend to be more powerful than melee weapons. You won’t find ammo on the corpses of enemies or in derelict crates. Rather, to reload, you have to attack enemies with your melee weapon. Every hit you land puts one more round back into your chamber. Fights are all about shooting from afar, running in close, landing a few hits, falling back, firing a few shots, and repeating until the room is clear—all while dodging projectiles, environmental hazards, and errant murders of murderous crow…pterodactyl...things.
You’re also able to equip two combat abilities—stuff like a powerful dash attack or a screen-spanning laser beam. These aren’t set on a cooldown, as you might expect. Instead, as you land attacks, you’ll build up energy. This is how you heal, by the way. If you assign the healing ability to, say, the right trigger, you can then hold down to burn energy into health. The result is somewhat of a Doom-esque dance, where you’re forced to fight to stay alive.
This is all enhanced by an irresistible loot system. Foregone absolutely showers you with items—swords, spears, gunchucks, armor, pistols, daggers, shotguns, rifles, stat-boosting bracelets, health-boosting pendants, you name it. All of it is color-coded (from lowest to highest: white, blue, purple, gold) and assigned a stat. You can exchange your hard-earned gold to level up that stat, but your stuff will likely get outranked by the next piece of gear you find. You can then burn any of your old stuff for more money, which you can then use to level up your new stuff. So begins an endless cycle. Based on the stats of the equipment you get, Foregone forces you to switch your loadouts up and try out new weapons (unless you’re game to rock lower-powered items).
When you reach a checkpoint, you can teleport back to the hub to do all this work, but you can also just teleport right back to any unlocked checkpoints. (When you die in the wild, you’ll spawn at one the closest to your location.) In Foregone, you’re always moving forward, even if you need to make a pitstop back where you started.
And then you stumble across the boss fights. Combat might be brutal, but it’s a cakewalk compared to the boss fights. Just look at this fucker:
That’s the first boss. You’re just strolling along, and WHAM. A giant bird falls out of the sky like a meteor. It’ll eat you up. Survival is contingent on learning patterns, dying, returning, learning more patterns, dying again, and maybe leveling up your gear a bit in between each bout. Once you finally win, your success, as with all the best boss fights, begets a heady rush.
And man, I just can’t get enough. My only complaint is both unreasonable and has nothing to do with the game itself. It’s all to do with how I got my hands on it (a folly stemming from nothing other than my own idiocy). See, Foregone is available as a game trial on Xbox One. I played through the first section, loved it, distinctly recall thinking, “I wish this were available on Switch,” actively did not take the two seconds to look up the available platforms, and then bought it for Xbox. About an hour later, I learned it was available on Switch. Whoops! Would’ve loved to play this one handheld—either kicked back in bed or, in some distant future, on the subway—but alas.
I’m not really sure why Foregone flew so under the radar. It’s no secret that, before—and around—launch, much of the games-playing public likened it to Dead Cells. Users on forums like ResetEra and Reddit pointed out the unmistakable similarities. Critics drew sharp comparisons. Big Blue Bubble, Foregone’s developer, publicly posts press clips on its website connecting those dots. Maybe Foregone was a case of very-specific genre fatigue. Why play something if you’ve already played it, right?
Here’s the deal. At the end of the day, if you liked Dead Cells, you’ll devour Foregone. Sure, there’s some overlap, but look at the bright side: You’ll just click with it all that much easier.