Forspoken has finally launched, and I was fairly excited to dive into some magically-infused parkour. This third-person open-world title really hit me in the beginning with a surprisingly dark story. The protagonist, Frey, gets pushed into a world that she doesn’t understand and has to make the best of her situation. Alongside a sentient bracelet, whom she affectionately calls “Cuff,” she explores a broken, miserable world.
I'm hesitant to call Frey a “hero” in Forspoken as she makes it quite clear that she just wants to get back home to New York. Nevertheless, she's still the protagonist and star of the game. While I can see some people not liking Frey because of her coarse language, I was a huge fan. When she’s frustrated, she swears, much like a real person does.
In fact, her foul-mouthed nature felt very familiar in how I tend to speak, which is why I understood and appreciated it. Forspoken is genuinely an interesting game, and I cannot help but wonder if there’s going to be more of Athia in the future.
Forspoken brings players to the new, vast world of Athia
I cannot go too deep into the details of Forspoken as there are some pretty serious twists and turns that occur in the main storyline of this action RPG. Frey’s goal is to get back home. Being a girl that's abandoned by the world, she’s slow to trust and quick to perform a rash action. Because of the circumstances of this story, she winds up in a land that she doesn’t know, where she’s treated similarly to how she was in New York.
However, she will eventually get to break out and explore this new world. To get home, she’s going to have to engage in some serious exploration and knowledge-seeking. Unfortunately, the world of Athia is broken. The Tantas, once the leaders and bastions of Athia, have changed. Various things have been corrupted and wasted away in the Break's presence, a phenomenon that has consumed the world.
Although Frey seems insufferable for a fair amount of the game, I do understand what motivates the character to act the way that she does. In fact, it all made sense to me at the end of the game.
Watch: Frey first learns about her powers.
However, it doesn’t seem to affect Frey, for reasons unknown. The character, alongside Cuff, has to explore the devastated landscape of Athia and uncover some fascinating secrets along the way. I felt that the gameplay was fairly slow and frustrating in the beginning, with the parkour elements taking some time to get used to.
Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait for some time before you gain access to all of the cool movement mechanics in Forspoken. For instance, you can’t immediately scale the high walls of the early areas that you explore. Essentially, you have a set height that you can climb with parkour jumping unless you can reset it by landing on a surface.
Nevertheless, the parkour system is fun, and it slowly builds up, giving you many more tools to traverse the land. I wish it happened a little faster though, because the world of Athia is gigantic. Most of the zones that you explore are massive and take a significant amount of time to explore, especially if you want to complete everything.
Watch: Frey attacks some break zombies.
Forspoken’s world certainly has a wealth of activities and situations for you to see and participate in as well.
Exploration is a massive part of Forspoken
Sure, you could just run from the town of Cipal, your home base, to whatever your current objective is, but I don’t recommend it. Exploration is incredibly important to growing in power in Forspoken. Thankfully, you can see almost everything you have access to on the map.
If you pull open Frey’s map, you will see icons dotting the map, which includes Treasures, Locked Labyrinths, Monuments, and challenge areas. Treasures are either wooden chests that are easy to unlock or locked chests, which require a puzzle to be completed. You can either perform the sliding puzzle or use a few points of mana (one to five mana) to unlock these.
Watch: Marking/finding a treasure chest.
Wooden Chests often have useful crafting materials in them, and Locked Chests have Old Coins in them. These can be used to buy items for the cats that you can find or enchantments for your Cloaks/Necklaces.
In comparison, Locked Labyrinths are mostly linear affairs and generally reward you with new Cloaks for Frey. Honestly, these dungeons are pretty easy to complete, ending with a huge boss that you must defeat. Each one has a strategy for it, but they aren’t especially challenging. It’s an approximately ten-minute-long fun affair where you comb through a dungeon and obtain a reward at the end.
Challenge areas can vary, usually requiring you to go to a ruined town and defeat groups of enemies. Similarly, the rewards vary wildly as well. Monuments give you a permanent stat bonus, but some also feature a challenge for you to overcome as well! It’s definitely worth it to do all of this as they increase your strength in Forspoken.
Fighting gives you EXP and mana. When you hit certain EXP thresholds, you level up, granting you more mana, besides the white, glowy mana points you find on the ground.
This mana can be used to unlock new spells or easily open up locked chests. Initially, mana is scarce, so you have to be careful about what you unlock. Eventually, it’s going to be scattered everywhere, making things much easier.
Exploration is an important facet of the game as it helps you increase your power by finding new gear (necklaces and cloaks), new enchantment materials for them, and leveling up, all of which increases your overall power. It’s a good thing that you can make five waypoints on the map, which can be numbered, and appear in the world while you explore. This makes it easy to see what your current destinations are, and that’s definitely a great feature.
Interestingly, Forspoken is not just about the power of parkour.
How does magical parkour combat play in Forspoken?
Honestly, this was my favorite part of the game. Forspoken’s elemental parkour magic felt amazing. Once again, it’s fairly restrictive at the beginning, but you get to unlock more spells and powers as you progress through the storyline. Each magical type that you unlock plays differently, but the core system remains the same.
Besides a support slot (L2) and attack slot (R2), you can use L1/R1 to cycle through the spells for each that you’ve unlocked. This means that you can swap your skills on the fly. It should be noted that your support skills will have cooldowns, so you have to use them wisely.
Watch: Parkour in combat
Your R2 button does a baseline attack, depending on what magic you’ve unlocked, and when you hold the button down, you charge up the attack spell that you’ve chosen. When it comes to combat, it’s a pretty fast-paced game as you fight your way through the undead and animals. When the meter is charged, you can also hold L2+R2 to use powerful area-of-effect magical abilities.
You’ll quickly learn that there are purple attacks (can be parkoured around) and red ones (avoid at all costs). One of the key elements that I love about the game's combat mechanics is that you can parkour while in combat. For example, one boss battle is filled with fireball waves that are fired at you. You can repeatedly parkour above them and land counterstrikes.
Unfortunately, you can’t infinitely parkour like that as the system's based on Stamina, as far as I can tell. But the ability to flip over an enemy with parkour magic and then blast them from behind? It’s extremely satisfying. All of the boss battles were incredibly fun, but the game felt wildly easy, to be honest. In fact, I died just once in my entire 30+ hours of Forspoken on “Normal” difficulty.
Watch: Awesome fire magic!
If you explore enough of Forspoken, you’ll have plenty of Healing Draughts, with the crafting of replacements being an incredibly cheap affair. You use nuggets that you find in chests to increase the amount you have, which can be done at Refuges or while you're in town. Combat is fast, it’s fun, and it’s exciting to swap magical styles mid-battle to set up awesome combos and deal some serious damage.
In general, combat started off very frustrating and slow, as did parkour. It takes some time to get used to, but then it was like second nature.
Crafting is easy and satisfying as well
As you unlock more cloaks and necklaces in Forspoken, you’ll get whatever enchantments they had on them to place on other gear. That was one of my favorite things about the game. This means that I can use the most powerful enchantments on gear that I require later on in the game. It was fairly easy to find cloaks/necklaces as well, since you can easily see what provides them as rewards on the map.
Watch: Finding Wild Musk.
However, enchanting will be very slow unless you explore. Wild Musk is required for gear enchantments, and this can only be found in treasure chests. This is exactly why you must take the time to go out and find them whenever you can. Since many of the cloaks and necklaces of Forspoken focus on specific magic types, it’s worth having several offerings for a variety of situations.
How was the visual and audio presentation of Forspoken?
Visually, I really enjoyed Forspoken. Early in the game, I did notice something strange. Frey’s face occasionally looked much younger than she was in the game itself. In brief moments, she would just look incredibly childish. However, that was my only problem with the visual presentation. I loved the bleak world of Athia, and all of its nations.
Watch: Fighting break alligators.
The voice acting was fantastic, and each character truly sounded like they were putting emotion behind their words. The back-and-forth between Frey and Cuff was fantastic and entertaining. The more I think about some of the lines delivered, the more the end of the game makes sense.
Bear McCreary of God of War Ragnarok fame certainly delivered in Forspoken’s musical composition. He worked alongside Garry Schyman to create some genuinely inspiring pieces of music. In general, this music was excellent at setting up scenes and creating tension whenever required.
Unfortunately, I have no idea how this game was optimized for PC, but it ran perfectly on my PlayStation 5. I played through the entire game for over 30 hours worth of gameplay, and I'm presently in the post-game content at the time of writing this article. I saw no real dips in framerate or slowdown unless the game was supposed to, such as while swapping magic mid-battle.
Additionally, the writing team delivered as much emotion as the composers did. Amy Hennig (Uncharted)’s work is familiar to me, which is why I was very excited to see this story play out. The characters felt very real and believable to me, especially Frey. Forspoken is an emotional experience, and although it does have some flaws, I don’t think they overshadow the enjoyable time that I had playing this game.
I worry that the game world is perhaps too big because after about 20 or 25 hours, I began to explore less. I wanted to see what happened next, and not take the time out to hit 30 or so various side objectives. Nevertheless, I adored the ending. Forspoken did something that I haven’t seen in a video game in ages, in the important choice it gives you later in the game.
I cannot go into detail, but it was incredible. Forspoken was a genuinely enjoyable experience, and everything from the gameplay to the soundtrack definitely delivered.
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5 (code provided by Square Enix)
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PC
Developer: Luminous Productions
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: January 24, 2023