I really, really like Forspoken, but it’s one of those games you have to stick with to see the best of it. Not because it’s long and not because it’s boring or repetitive, but rather because it doesn’t really show just how good it can be until later on in the game. Athia is a wonderful world to explore and Frey is an exciting protagonist that has some awesome capabilities, but it can take a good few hours of play before the game really starts to shine.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Forspoken puts players in the role of Frey, a tough but troubled girl from the mean streets of New York who finds herself mixed up in the wrong crowd. After an attempt to get away from the baddies goes south, Frey finds herself mysteriously transported to the world of Athia. As you can imagine, this is met with disbelief and a desperation to make her way home, but her new-found magical abilities as well as a grander sense of danger within this fantasy setting leave her playing the hero (albeit begrudgingly).
Listen, at this point you might have seen some of the criticism aimed towards Forspoken’s dialogue and storytelling across social media, and *some* of it is justified. However, it’s also packed to the brim with tension, emotion, and plenty of comedic moments, especially in the back half of the game when Frey begins to accept her heroic duties. She becomes an endearing hero, whilst seeing how both she and the inhabitants of Athia slowly embrace one another always makes for some interesting sequences. The storytelling isn’t perfect, but between the genuinely engaging twists and the likable characters, Forspoken’s narrative will keep players entertained.
At its core, Forspoken is a third-person open-world adventure that sees players traversing an expansive landscape, completing missions, and delving into a wealth of side activities. The latter are of the typical variety you’d expect from the genre, with different items to find, enemies to beat up, and side quests to complete, whilst the world itself holds plenty of wonderful sights and varied biomes to scavenge through. If you’ve played an open-world game before, you’ll know exactly what to expect here, with Forspoken not doing much to change up the formula. Fortunately, the world design itself more than makes up for it with Athia proving a mesmerising locale to explore (the environmental design is top-notch), whilst the shorter runtime (you can beat the game and the majority of its more interesting side activities in around twenty hours) means it never feels like it outstays its welcome.
“The further you progress, the more powerful the abilities you unlock become, making Frey feel like an unstoppable magic-blasting machine that’s super fun to play as.”
The combat of Forspoken is a bit of a mixed bag. It can be brilliant, but the opening half of the game sees your capabilities limited and Frey’s move set a little restricted. It’s efficient enough to defeat foes and the mixture of magical abilities give players plenty of ways to approach each showdown, but nothing ever has that pizzazz to make encounters feel particularly exciting. Fortunately, the further you progress, the more powerful the abilities you unlock become, making Frey feel like an unstoppable magic-blasting machine that’s super fun to play as. The game REALLY has some special moments in combat in the second half of the game when you become really powerful, whilst stringing together combos of extravagant magical abilities whilst stylishly leaping across the environment feels mighty satisfying.
It should be noted that the game could feel a little bit easy, though. Whilst you’ll have hordes of enemies coming your way on occasions, they typically felt like fodder and went down with minimal fuss. Bosses provide a sterner test (and feel like more epic encounters), but again, they rarely forced me to deviate from the simple formula of blasting out as many attacks as I could and avoiding any incoming ones. Combat scenarios never felt boring, especially when you have your full skillset available, but it was rare that they strayed from the simple formula of mashing attacks non-stop and keeping out of the way of danger. It’s not a bad thing, but a bit more diversity might have been nice.
One thing that I’ll give PLENTY of praise to is Frey’s traversal options. I’m a fan of open-world games, especially when they make it feel good to traverse them, and believe me, Forspoken nails this. Not only is Frey quick and agile, but she has plenty of tricks up her sleeve when it comes to hitting those hard-to-reach areas. You’ll stride quickly with the likes of your Flow and Rush abilities, use your momentum to leap forwards with Shimmy, hit magnificent heights with your Scale ability, and even blast between grappling points with Zip, with Frey constantly unlocking new skills to ensure travelling across Athia is breeze. It all feels SO good to perform, with the swiftness of these abilities making it a pleasure to go on a tour of the world – so much so that I rarely found myself using fast-travel. You can even tie these abilities into combat, giving Frey an extra degree of attacking mobility that doesn’t only make it easier to take down her opponents, but also a bit more stylish too.
Check out some screenshots down below:
There are elements of crafting to embrace as you progress through the game, whilst various skill trees allow you to improve your abilities and different gear give your stats a boost. It’s not the deepest of experiences when it comes to these systems, but it gives players plenty to tinker around with to fine-tune Frey’s skillset to their playstyle. There always feels like there’s a worthwhile reward for your actions, and whilst some side quests are more interesting than others, getting a new piece of gear or an upgrade opportunity means you won’t want to miss any.
I’ve had a really fun time with Forspoken, with the world proving luscious, the combat exciting, and the traversal some of the best I’ve seen in an open-world game. It just feels like a game of two halves, with the first ten hours dragging their feet a little and not allowing Frey to reach her full potential, whilst the second half is filled with excitement and action-fuelled sequences as you finally unleash your magical capabilities. Heck, even the later side quests and story beats are more interesting, with Forspoken having a bit of a slow burn to its best moments. The first half of the game isn’t bad at all, but you’ve got to stick through some unexciting moments to really see what it has to offer.
Forspoken has a slick blend of exciting combat and awesome traversal, but it does take a bit longer than it should to get the ball rolling. Whilst the early hours are still entertaining, the game doesn’t reach its full potential until the later hours when your magical abilities are pumped up to the max and you can soar through the beautiful landscape with ease. And believe me, those moments are great – even the story develops into something more epic by then, with the later twists adding more excitement to the experience.
It’s never a bad game at all and I think some of the disdain towards the storytelling and writing seen on social media is unjust, but there’s no denying that it is very much a game of two halves. My score reflects how I felt about the game by the end because I really did love those later hours, but expect to have to go through a few tepid moments before Forspoken really hits its stride.
Developer: Luminous Productions
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PC