Forspoken Review: A Spellbinding Adventure You Can’t Miss

Forspoken seems like it would appeal to me on paper. It was developed by Luminous Productions and Square Enix, two companies to which I have remained unwaveringly faithful despite their recent underperformance. This book includes several of my favorite things: nail art, kitties, parkour, and fierce matriarchal rulers.

The biggest problem with Forspoken, though, is that it fails to achieve anything truly original. It’s really similar to the countless other games released over the past 15 years. The open-world role-playing game includes superpowers, magical creatures, and a potentially catastrophic end-of-the-world plot.

The protagonist, Frey Holland, is taken from her New York home and dropped into a fantasy world, a premise common in Isekai. She travels around Athia with her talking bracelet friend Cuff, avoiding the Break that threatens to swallow up the entire world.

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Frey’d up to progress

It’s a dull premise that never develops into something fascinating. The plot twists are all too familiar. Unfortunately, Forspoken fails too often to have fun with its premise, despite the fact that not every game story needs to feature creative plot twists on par with Bioshock or Nier: Automata. Having said that, I did appreciate the story’s climax and denouement.

Some questionable plot points plague the game’s beginning, such as Frey’s status as a petty criminal who dwells in an abandoned apartment and has troublesome run-ins with the local gang. The story improves dramatically as it shifts its focus from New York Frey to Athia Frey.

In spite of the movie’s cringeworthy trailer featuring some cringeworthy lines of speech, Forspoken didn’t actually have that many embarrassing scenes. The most offensive part of the film is undoubtedly the line from an early scene that was included in the now-infamous trailer.

Otherwise, it was the pretty usual fare, though it could just be because I’ve become desensitized to the trademark Square Enix speech of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy games.

Having a character like Frey in it only enhances it for me. I found her to be really relevant, especially as a woman who shares some of her foul language and angst-ridden experiences trying to find her place in the world at a young age. Of course, she uses the word fuck far too frequently, but so do I.

She’s one of the more approachable protagonists I’ve encountered in recent games, and I wish she’d gotten better treatment. I also really liked the chemistry she had with Cuff, even though they did argue a lot. Thankfully, the settings allow for fine-tuning or complete deactivation.

Not following the tale and instead venturing out into Athia was where I had the most fun in Forspoken. The strongest parts of the game are the combat and the freedom of mobility it affords Frey, who may parkour at rapid speed around the globe and cast spells of varying types at the monsters she encounters.

It’s a lot of fun to race over the map, flip up cliffs, and zoom in about. But as things get cramped, it gets picky, with Frey frequently ricocheting off walls and low platforms. Sometimes I have to sit and wait for her to cool off before I can continue working, and it can be really disruptive to my flow.

The default placement of left Ctrl for the Parkour ability, which is used for both movement and dodging attacks, is incredibly cumbersome. At about the 15-hour mark, my wrist gave out from all the twisting, and I had to rebind it.

Support and damaging spells based on the four elements of earth, fire, water, and air are at Frey’s disposal in Forspoken. It was a lot of fun to dodge my foes’ attacks, flip over them, blast a giant rock with spikes into their backs, or hoist them into a bubble that, when shot, unleashed a devastating area assault on all of their comrades.

I wish there had been more interactivity between the various components, but the biggest letdown was that you couldn’t access the entire arsenal of tools until the very end of the game.

Now, I can hardly criticize a game for failing to come into its own until the very end; after all, I am a frequent supporter of Final Fantasy 14’s slow start, and I have played quite a few JRPGs in my time. But Forspoken could have been fantastic if it had given you the content you get to at the 25-hour mark instead of the 15-hour mark.

It seems like a major flaw because you don’t obtain your full set of spells until right before the final monster. The way your actions are presented to you fits the story, but it does a terrible job of keeping you interested throughout the game.

Forspoken Review
Forspoken Review

True to form

The antagonists add a welcome layer of complexity, with some being vulnerable to specific forms of magic or status diseases. Not only are objective-based checkpoints strewn over the world map like a Ubisoft game, but players will also find them tucked away in boring, repetitive dungeons and castles.

At least Frey may use the cloaks, necklaces, and nail art from these to improve her health, magic, and defenses. However, the dungeons lack variety and rarely present a significant challenge. Enter a confined space, make a break for it along a corridor, and swarm the occupants of an enemy-occupied chamber.

This process should be repeated until no more changes are needed. In many ways, fortresses are similar, albeit taking place in the overworld. Fights with the huge, super-strong animals known as mutants were my favorites in Forspoken.

They are the hardest enemies I encountered, but they were also the best practice for me to memorize patterns and time my evasions. Assuming, of course, that I understood what was being said in the pauses.

Combat in Forspoken was a frustrating experience because of the substantial frame drops I experienced on my PC. My only real disadvantage in comparison to the game’s wacky system requirements is a shortage of RAM, but otherwise, my setup is perfectly adequate.

By default, it set the graphics to Standard, but even at that option, I rarely saw frame rates of more than 12 in the game’s hub city or during combat.

A good chunk of the first 32 hours of my playing was eaten up by endlessly adjusting various options. The PC port of Forspoken has terrible optimization, and I couldn’t seem to fix it no matter what I tried. There are significant texture rendering issues, which become magnified when I attempt to play in my preferred 1440p.

Doors distorted themselves behind the characters as they spoke, and stones vanished as quickly as they appeared. Sub-20fps and nauseating stutters plagued my early playthrough. That wasted a lot of my time at the beginning of the game, especially because it had such a major impact on the battle.

Eventually, I had to stop caring about how Forspoken looked and focus just on how well it played. That’s why my screenshots here look so bad.

Superior in a feline way

So much more potential existed in Forspoken. What I really want is for Luminous Productions to take a page out of their other game, Final Fantasy 15, and give me fewer, more challenging dungeons to explore. Instead, a large portion of the action is merely a rote scavenger hunt for objectives.

Between Act I and Act II, I often found myself sidetracked by the pursuit of new equipment, a stat boost at a monument, or the exploration of a derelict building, where I would quickly dispatch the building’s adversaries and collect a new piece of information for my library.

If I went out of my way, I was occasionally able to unlock a small number of spells that were hidden behind various objective markers. The cat monuments were the only optional goal I actively sought out.

They serve no use in the game other than to be kind faces that Frey sees whenever she visits a safe haven to rest, heal, and level up. However, I am a bit of a cat woman, and my own kitty buddy, Luna, is sitting next to me as I type this post.

I really liked how each of the furry babies had its own fantasy quality. Particularly endearing to me was a black cat decked up in gold bangles and horns. The only moving element of Forspoken’s narrative is similarly focused on a cat so that addition is appreciated.

My time at Forspoken was marred by the fact that I wasted so much of it on exploratory work. If you do decide to play it and I think it is worth picking up at discount and possibly on a console, depending on your rig get through the tale as quickly as possible. When you’re in the post-game and have access to Frey’s entire arsenal, that’s when things become really fun.

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I was disappointed by how simplistic its battle was after spending several hours throwing around my two spells. I feel like my time with Forspoken would have been more satisfying if I had been given more elements sooner, or if I had just neglected side tasks in favor of acquiring access to those.

Fun occurs most frequently when you’re not strictly adhering to the game’s rules. Not having to halt in the middle of a conversation that might easily have been initiated while moving because of a sudden fade-to-black sequence.

After the constraints of Forspoken’s weak story were removed, I was able to enjoy the game it was meant to be. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that a lack of structure will make up for boring goals. However, it is useful anyway. To feel like you’re just getting started in a game, it shouldn’t have to finish. It turns out that way, unfortunately for Forspoken.

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Frequently asked questions

Who is the girl in Forspoken?

Background and actors

Alfre "Frey" Holland (Ella Balinska), the heroine, is a young lady who finds herself in the fictional realm of Athia instead of New York City. To return home, she must travel through it, and she does so by employing her magical abilities.

What type of game is Forspoken?

Forspoken was created by Luminous Productions and published by Square Enix as an open world action role-playing game. On January 24, 2023, it was launched for the PS5 and PC around the world (Steam, Epic Games Store, and Windows Store).