A game’s marketing cycle is always meant to generate buzz and excitement, but for Square Enix and Luminous Productions’ Forspoken, it seems to have done exactly that, but not in a good way. For the most part, the dialogue in this action role-playing title is a mess, while the general gameplay seems uninspired. Both these alone would see such games get buried, but after spending time with heroine Frey in the dangerous lands of Athia, there is still a glimmer of hope in the magic after all.
As a new IP on the scene, Forspoken definitely has some right ideas. The story follows Frey Holland, who gets plucked from the modern city of New York and drops into the magical world of Athia after attempting to liberate an enchanted cuff. Naturally, the isekai setup sees Frey become the chosen one, destined to save Athia from conflict and the impending doom of The Corruption.
In order to do so, players will have to aid her in bringing down the Tantas, former rulers of Athia who have turned to satisfying their own desires rather than the good of the world. With the magical talking cuff and magical powers of her own, thus begin our journey in Forspoken.
For anyone looking to dive straight into the action and start slinging spells, Forspoken definitely has other ideas. In one of its missteps, the beginning hours of the game are exposition-heavy, burdening the player with way too much information and story development, often with little to no action involved.
It doesn’t help that the dialogue is not exactly top-tier material, considering the amount of banter that gets thrown around. Although Ella Balinska, who plays Frey, does a great job of bringing to life the character, the dialogue is not helping things at all. Instead of relating and rooting for our heroine, it quickly becomes a love-hate affair in Forspoken.
Get through those tough hours, though, and the game definitely gets better. An open world full of opportunities to use your magical parkour to explore is a perfect sandbox in this premise, with each region distinct enough to be memorable, even if they can do with a little more life here and there to spice things up.
While exploration is always good for discovering fresh things, Forspoken truly shines when it comes to action. Movement is always swift and energetic, helped by some innovative mechanics that demonstrate just how powerful the magical abilities at Frey’s disposal are. Ziplining across huge distances, jumping up high, or darting around, there are only a few games that can make fast travel an afterthought instead of the default travelling method, and this is one of them.
And it is also during these travels that players oftentimes find trouble, and where the magical combat comes into focus. Armed with an array of different spells of varying elemental types, think of Forspoken more like a shooter with melee thrown in for good measure. Enemies offer different levels of resistance, requiring you to figure out the best way to take them down.
Exploiting elemental weaknesses is always the best way to go, but it is also vital that damage is mitigated by quick dodges or defensive spells. Combining the magical parkour with the spells is something truly magical, ensuring that players are always putting their skills to the test. This constant to-and-fro, complete with stunning effects and a nice level of challenge, makes for entertaining fights most of the time.
Coming out unscathed and making your enemies pay is not just a good way to show your understanding of the mechanics in the game, but also perfect for gaining the most experience points and loot. Think Devil May Cry and its style meter, and you get the gist.
Other forms of progression in Forspoken also add to the fun, as Mana points accrued can then be used to upgrade certain spells, as do the constant Spellcraft Challenges, rewarding proficiency with enhanced power. The world of Athia is also full of Detours, side quests awaiting players to partake in when story missions are not the focus.
Another interesting area is how the game handles Frey’s equipment, with only cloaks, necklaces, and nail polish designs for players to fuss over. While the cloaks and necklaces bring benefits like increasing your stats in areas like health or magic, the nail designs are most geared towards more unique perks that can change how you approach combat.
With a crafting system that is straightforward, with resources exchanged for upgrades, players have the flexibility and capacity to choose how they want to play or change things up just to see how it all shakes out. It may not go beyond just numbers getting higher, but it is still a good thing to see in Forspoken.
Yet, there remains a niggling feeling that Forspoken could have, and should have been, so much more. The open world could have gotten more love in terms of design; enemies could have been more diverse in terms of threats and design, while sidequests can become a tad too repetitive the deeper you go into the game. As for its writing, more time should have been spent on building out the world and relationships through player agency, rather than depending on constant sarcastic quips that just become annoying.
Forspoken is not charting new territory, so to speak, with what it brings to the table, but at least its magical slant delivers fun exploration and combat in a relatively short RPG of 15 hours or so. The checklist style of design might not be for everyone, but there is a rough diamond in here, and perhaps with some more work, it won’t become a new IP that gets forsaken.
Forspoken is now available on the PSN Store for $98.82.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Flashy combat and parkour exploration are what prop Forspoken up, but it is ultimately let down by its writing and storytelling that loses the magic quickly.
Gameplay - 7/10
Story - 5/10
Presentation - 7.5/10
Value - 5/10