Initial release date: January 24, 2023
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows
Developer: Luminous Productions
Engine: Luminous Engine
Composers: Bear McCreary, Garry Schyman
Genres: Action role-playing game, Shooter game, Action-adventure game, Fighting game, Platform game, Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
"Review Copy Provided By Square-Enix"
When I first saw the trailer for Forspoken a year and a half ago, I was amazed at the story and setting and the gameplay as it looked pretty incredible and I’m always for a new game from the creative minds at Square-Enix. The game ended up getting delayed several times as it was initially supposed to release towards the beginning of 2022 and has been given a set release date of January 24th, 2023 and at the Game Awards 2022 we got a new trailer and the first public playable demo for the game. After spending some hours with the demo and playing through it 100%, I was left not interested in the game as it felt like it was a mismash of different ideas that do not work, however, the demo was updated correcting a lot of the criticism it was given and now here we are with the final retail release of the game. In this review I plan to cover if Forspoken is worth playing despite the massive negative reception that the game has gotten and If you should spend your time and money on the game.
In Forspoken, players take on the role of Frey Holland, a New Yorker with an orphaned background. Suddenly, she is transported to the mystical world of Athia, where the land is under the tyrannical rule of a group of sorcerers known as the Tantas. Once beloved leaders, they are now feared for their immense power due to the toxic miasma known as the Break, which corrupts humans and mutates animals into dangerous beasts, devastating the land. As Athia struggles with its polluted air, its ruler, Tanta Prav, makes harsh judgments on its citizens. Meanwhile, back in New York, Frey discovers a paranormal halo that leads her to an apartment where she finds a golden bracelet on a workbench. Upon touching the bracelet, she is mysteriously transported to Athia against her will through a portal that the bracelet had opened.
Upon arriving in Athia, Frey is immediately confronted by the "Cuff" she stole, which reveals itself to be an apparition. Together, they are confronted by a dragon that is causing destruction in the medieval-like valley. After evading the dragon for a brief moment, the Cuff teaches Frey the various abilities she now possesses while carrying it. They are then attacked by a mutated bear-like creature, which they fend off using the Cuff's close-range attack magic. The Cuff explains the dire situation Athia is facing with the miasma spreading rapidly throughout the world, but not affecting Frey, who comes from New York. After exploring a deserted villa, the dragon from earlier discovers the duo and initiates battle. The dragon takes flight after a lengthy battle, with Frey in its grasp. As it soars through the mountains, it disappears, leaving Frey and the Cuff hanging on a cliffside.
The opening moments of the game give players insight into Frey's capabilities, and after a few more story events such as an arrest, jailbreak and change of attire, players are finally free to start exploring. The outer ruins of Cipal are home to more miasma-affected creatures that are hostile. Markers in the game will detail campaign objectives and optional side-quests. Given the massive size of Athia, it has its own underground sanctuary, although the Locked Labyrinths were designed for the Tantas and are now overrun by enemies. Each encounter will detail how your arcane attacks impact the deformed demon-like creatures, highlighting their vulnerabilities and delivering a damage score. A letter grade for each group encounter is given depending on how players execute combination chains, along with style and flair. This will in turn award players with EXP after each battle, allowing them to level up Frey and unlock more abilities in her skill tree using Mana awarded after each level up.
The game's protagonist, Frey, is for me a relatable character, and her journey is interesting and well-written. This is interesting for me to say now given how I hated her character in the demo which was a terrible representation of not only her biut the game as a whole. The voice acting and character animations are also well done, making Frey a believable and engaging protagonist. The game's open-world sandbox gameplay is also a high point, with a deep and satisfying traversal system that makes exploring the game's lush and varied environments a joy.
Forspoken offers players a beautiful open-world to explore with a variety of landscapes and biomes. Exploration is made more fun by the ability to "Flow" and parkour around the world, and players are rewarded with stat boosts, crafting materials, and lore entries. Combat in Forspoken is also enjoyable, as players can use magic to take down enemies and upgrade their abilities over time. The game starts with rock- and plant-based magic, but progresses to fire-, water-, and energy-based magic. The combat is visually spectacular and players must juggle different types of magic effectively to succeed. However, the controls can feel cumbersome at first and it takes some time to get used to them.
In terms of combat, Forspoken offers a unique blend of action-platforming and RPG elements. Players can perform combination chain and parkour through attacks, and execute special abilities in a fashionable and visually impressive manner. The combat is fast-paced and fluid, and players will need to rely on both their parkour skills and combat abilities to defeat enemies. Players can chain together combos and use special abilities to take down enemies in stylish and satisfying ways. The game also features a dynamic difficulty system that adjusts to the player's performance, making sure that the battles are always challenging but not impossible. Forspoken is a game that has its ups and downs, but its strengths in exploration and combat make it worth playing. The open-world of Athia is beautiful and fun to explore, and the battle system is fast-paced and satisfying. While the narrative segments of the game could use some improvement, the exploration and combat more than make up for it. The game is a unique mix of action-platforming and RPG elements that sets it apart from other games in the genre.
Performance wise, Forspoken on PS5 runs well no matter if you play it in Quality or Performance modes. On PC, the game runs fine if you have a 20-series RTX card and run it at 1080p, however higher settings will require a minimum of a 30-series RTX card of which even Square-Enix have published a recommend settings guide. On Steam Deck, the game can run with the default settings, although I personally prefer to run it with the graphics preset being at low across the board and performance mode selected. This will make the game look ROUGH, as if you’ve smeared Vaseline over it, but it will allow you to run the game at a higher refresh rate. I got on average about an hour and a half of battery life with my settings on Deck.
In summary, Forspoken is an action-RPG that focuses on deep and gratifying traversal gameplay. The game features a protagonist named Frey who is able to move at high speeds, vault objects, and perform combination chain attacks. The story is written by a team of experienced writers, including Amy Hennig, and features relatable dialogue and characters. The voice acting is also praised, with Ella Balinska and Jonathan Cake as the lead roles. Despite some narrative structure issues, the overall presentation and unique mix of action-platforming and sandbox open world make Forspoken a highly recommended game for fantasy RPG enthusiasts. Overall, Forspoken is a game that's full of potential but ultimately falls short in delivering a cohesive and satisfying experience. It's a game that's definitely worth playing for its unique traversal gameplay and isn’t anywhere near as bad as people will try and make you think that it is.