You'll love it if:
- You are searching for exciting combat with flashy moves.
- You want a satisfying parkour system for a unique exploration experience.
Not for you if:
- You were expecting enemy variety.
- Cohesion in gameplay mechanics is a must.
- Poorly executed story and dialogue ruin the game for you.
Forspoken is a challenging game to sell as it has many positive aspects, but each of these is accompanied by a negative one. It fits into the category of open-world games, which are often criticised for being overloaded with excessive and unimportant tasks.
The game feels disappointing since it does not attempt to be unique or innovative. In many ways, it follows the same formula that has been seen in countless open-world RPGs over the last 15 years, with elements such as supernatural abilities, mythical creatures, and a looming threat to the world.
Forspoken is a highly typical RPG, characterised by its dull story and unengaging open world. However, its dynamic combat and flashy parkour system keep the short campaign entertaining. The routine and monotonous side missions, however, do not offer much excitement beyond the simple pursuit of trophy hunting.
The game’s concept is basic and lacks excitement. The plot twists and turns are easily foreseeable. Game stories do not necessarily need to be as intricate as Bioshock, but Forspoken often lacks creativity with its premise. Nevertheless, Forspoken is for sure not the worst game, and I advise to ignore online criticism that takes elements of the story out of context to gain attention, with the latter half of the story being somewhat enjoyable.
Apart from all this though, Forspoken is a game that will leave you disappointed to some extent because of the missed chance to be truly extraordinary.
Story – A story of missed opportunities
In the latest action RPG from Square Enix, you play as Frey Holland, a New Yorker with a tough background and a tendency to be wary. She is unexpectedly transported from her home in New York to a magical world, having formed an accidental bond with a talking armband that she named Cuff. Together, they explore the world of Athia and its four realms, which are facing a dire crisis.
The Break, a potent force of corruption, has spread throughout the land and caused all living creatures to turn into violent beasts. The once-respected protectors of the land, the Tantas, have now become oppressive rulers, forcing the people into the last remaining city of Cipal. As the only person immune to the Break’s effects and with the ability to use magic, Frey is reluctantly cast as the savior of the people, even though she is not eager to fulfill this role.
Ella Balinska delivers a phenomenal performance as Frey, truly capturing her emotional journey as she is stranded in a new world where she is either fighting off monsters or facing class discrimination. Her reactions to the events in the game are relatable and real, making her character stand out and deserving of recognition.
Balinska’s performance stands out as Frey goes through a range of emotions from being ecstatic about her newfound earth-bending abilities to feeling horrified after being forced to kill to survive in Athia’s dangerous wilderness. Sadly, this and other noteworthy performances, including Jonathan Cake as Frey’s talkative jewelry partner, are overshadowed by a poorly paced story.
The storytelling in Forspoken struggles throughout much of its campaign, which can be finished in around 12-15 hours. It only starts to improve in the final stretch and eventually finds its footing. The ending is a fantastic and satisfying moment, but the journey to reach that point feels forced and awkward.
Gameplay – Flashy and Fun, but with Flaws
The gameplay in Forspoken is a mix of enjoyable and problematic elements. The magical parkour is exhilarating, making players feel fast and nimble as if they are part of the Flash’s Speed Force as they explore, run, and dash across Athia. The core combat is also rather enjoyable, with a combination of spells and stunning acrobatics.
However, the problem lies in switching between spells and elements, which is not as smooth as it should be. The radial menu used in the game doesn’t seem to fit well with the fast-paced action.
Throughout the game, Frey acquires four different forms of elemental magic, each of which functions as a unique weapon that can be swapped. Each of these weapons has its own alternate firing modes and support skills that can be unlocked, and they can all be modestly improved as you play.
Her initial magic is an earth-based gun that can be fired rapidly or charged for a blast that affects a wider area. She doesn’t have a melee attack until she unlocks the fire-based sword option, which becomes available about a third of the way through the campaign. This limitation was initially frustrating.
Once you unlock more of Frey’s abilities, the combat in Forspoken, filled with particle effects, becomes quite enjoyable. Although the enemy variety is not particularly impressive, the elemental resistances and unique characteristics of each enemy prompted me to switch weapons and tactics frequently during battles, which I really enjoyed.
Forspoken’s combat system feels outdated in its spell-switching mechanism. However, if you focus on using a single type of elemental attack and adjust the accessibility options for smoother use of support abilities, the combat can be thrilling as you switch between battling different enemies and using your magical skills, such as dropping a flaming sword into their midsection.
As you get familiar with Forspoken’s gameplay, the combat system begins to make more sense and becomes increasingly enjoyable. You can mix and match different spells to deal maximum damage and look stylish while doing so. You can acquire new abilities through points you earn from leveling up or by finding them in the world of Athia.
In addition to the main storyline, Forspoken also offers plenty of side activities, such as completing tasks for non-playable characters, battling through dungeons, and searching for collectibles. The success of an open-world game is determined by the player’s perception that everything on the map has a meaningful purpose. Games like The Witcher 3 and GTA V are excellent examples of this, but if the game fails in this aspect, it can feel like a tedious task, similar to games like AC Valhalla. Unfortunately, Forspoken falls into this category.
The most enjoyable aspect of Forspoken was exploring Athia instead of focusing on the main story. The movement in the game is superb, allowing Frey to move around the world quickly with parkour moves and use various elemental spells to attack enemies. Moving across the map and performing acrobatics feels great, but in close quarters, the controls can become frustrating as Frey frequently misses walls and short platforms.
In Forspoken, there is a well-designed gear system for players to invest in. Frey can acquire cloaks, necklaces, and fingernail designs that can be customised for various statistical improvements and passive bonuses. On multiple occasions I found myself going out of my way to acquire new gear designs, as each category offers new perks that can be applied to older items. This adds a subtle layer of customisation to the game that enhances the player experience.
It’s recommended to enable the automatic pickup option for loot, so you don’t have to stop Frey’s movement to collect it manually by repeatedly pressing the X button.
Visuals – Aesthetically Stunning but Technically Lacking
The landscape and structures in Forspoken are intricate and impressive, however, they don’t always have a unique and captivating design. Although the different areas have different colors and look distinct, they lack the wow factor and can start to feel repetitive. This can be attributed to the lack of creativity in the game, resulting in zones that are diverse in appearance but similar in experience.
Then again, the special effects during battles are fantastic in Forspoken, with an abundance of particles flying around in every direction. The latter powers only add to the visual spectacle, with showers of sparks, flames, and other flashy effects. I highly recommend switching from 30 FPS quality mode to 60 FPS performance mode, as this extra smoothness enhances the fast-paced nature of Forspoken’s combat and significantly improves the overall gameplay experience.
Unfortunately, the animations in Forspoken do not live up to the expectations of what is considered the “current generation” for the PlayStation 5. While some cut-scenes look acceptable, the movements of human characters appear stiff and rigid, which is disappointing given the promising demonstrations of animation shown during the announcement and launch of the PlayStation 5.
It’s disappointing that Forspoken, which was marketed as a flagship game for the PlayStation 5’s launch, doesn’t live up to expectations visually. Despite aiming for high-quality graphics, the game is poorly optimized, resulting in frequent loading times, even when no significant changes have occurred on the screen.
However, Forspoken utilizes the PS5 hardware effectively in a different way. Even after two years since the release of the console, playing the game on it highlighted the benefits of its SSD. While many games have reduced loading times thanks to the hardware, Forspoken sets a higher bar with its near-instant fast travel and quick transition from the PS5 UI to in-game action in under 10 seconds.
Despite the technical advancements, it is still difficult to fully engage in Forspoken. Whenever I felt motivated to defeat corrupted demigods and explore the intriguing and striking world, I was disappointed by technical and storytelling moments that elicited a sigh of frustration due to the missed opportunities.
Conclusions – A Missed Opportunity
I had a mixed experience while playing Forspoken. It was enjoyable to explore the world and move around freely, but the story often got in the way. Despite some good-looking magic effects and detailed landscapes, the overall appearance of the game was still a bit lackluster.
Forspoken seems to have all the elements to be a good action RPG, with a protagonist out of their comfort zone and a vast open world to explore, along with a range of skills and upgrades available. Unfortunately, Forspoken falls short of delivering an engaging experience. There’s nothing particularly compelling about the story or dialogue that motivates the player to keep playing or to learn more.
It lacks consistency in various aspects of the game, including the magic system and character movement, which may have arisen due to changes in the game’s development direction. Given that it was featured at the launch of the PlayStation 5, the outcome is somewhat disappointing.
The combat in Forspoken is visually impressive and entertaining, with fights that encourage you to change up your power use, despite a lack of variety among the enemies. The parkour system is enjoyable, even though the scenery is not particularly stunning.
All images in this article are screenshots taken from Forspoken on the PS5.
Many thanks to CD Media for providing the review unit key!