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Overall – 75%

75%

My time with Forspoken was strange. Game elements are fantastic with interesting story and beautiful world. However, everything just seems segmented, like nothing wants to work together. Forspoken is a good game and I would recommend it to most open world fans, but it feels so close to greatness that I can’t help but be disappointed.


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With a world of fantasy, magic and a sentient wristband named Cuff, Luminous Productions has teamed up with Square Enix for their new title Forspoken. The studio’s first title, should players be looking for a way back?

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Forspoken’s story begins with the introduction of protagonist Alfre “Frey” Holland, a young woman from Hell’s Kitchen in New York who is struggling to make a fortune and appears before a judge for her third criminal strike. Orphaned at an early age and found in the Holland Tunnel as a baby, Frey’s past is littered with charges of theft and running away from the law. When she saves enough money to escape New York with her cat Homer, a group of thugs take all her savings and burn down her apartment.

Frey soon finds a strange bracelet in an abandoned shop and is magically transported to the fantasy world of Athia. This post-apocalyptic setting where the last pockets of humanity are simultaneously fighting the tyrannical rule of the Tanta, a group of magical women who once served as Athia’s protectors. There is also a strange phenomenon that Frey calls “The Break”, like a mist that covers the lands and disrupts everything it touches.

It’s a fairly short main story for an open-world game, clocking in at maybe 15-20 hours in total, but full of heart and redemption. The world of Athia and its people is a fascinating journey to observe, but the real star of the show for the story is Frey’s personal story. The story of a woman who struggles with her past while doing her best to control her future, learns to control strange magical powers, and fights to save people from Athia as a flawed hero. Some plot points were predictable early on, but the delivery and climax have a lasting impact.

If the story is worth the adventure, it’s not without its problems. The facial animations can be almost disturbingly weird, and the transition between an animated face and a resting face is almost comical in places. The pacing may also bother some. Athia is literally a ruined world with pockets of people spread out over a vast landscape, with the vast majority of the story taking place between long excursions into a city of survivors, The Break. The way the world is built is crucial to the progression of the story, but it often means you’ll spend a lot of time looking at cutscenes and dialogue that don’t follow anything for long periods of time. Shocking to say the least.

Athia, while beautiful on the surface, lacks the depth and character of other open-world games, many of which even feature procedurally generated talent. The scenery is there – and it even looks amazing – but it just lacks purpose. Much of this is repeated in the open world segments of the game. Every icon on the map I explored was pretty much the same, all combat based, and the only type of puzzle I found. Found was an “Instant Solve Button” that killed any point trying to solve. I don’t know when practitioners fell in love with exploration, but Forspoken is another open-world game where the developers seem too afraid to let players actually explore.

Everything is marked on the map, with icons describing the type of challenge you’ll face and information about the rewards you’ll receive. This is a very subjective approach and I’m sure many would welcome a clear approach to exploration. But if I know where I’m going, what’s there, and what I’m going to get, I don’t research; I’m walking. This isn’t an issue unique to Forspoken, but it’s a widespread problem due to the lack of almost everything in the open world.

If there’s one area where Forspoken really stands out from other open-world games, it’s the transition. Using a variety of magical abilities, Frey can glide, jump, leap and run across wide open areas in seconds, effortlessly combining impressive parkour maneuvers and acrobatics that make getting from point A to point B a thrilling and truly exhilarating visual feast. Parkour skills struggle in small areas where precision and timing are more important, but in terms of open world travel it’s fantastic. I’ve never been disappointed by the lack of a more traditional mount or mode of transportation.

Unfortunately, the lack of variety of activities and events in the open world puts almost all of the stress on the combat system. While the combat is a lot of fun, its true potential is never realized due to the clunky controls and progression system. For the first half of the game, I only had one set of spells, the one Frey got by binding with the Cuff, the name he gave to the strange bracelet he found in New York.

It’s a core group of several ranged spells that work well, but quickly become boring and repetitive. Based on that experience alone, it was hard to keep up – but then I fought my first Tanta. I expected new spells and abilities as the game progressed, but the spell tree doesn’t really grow until you start defeating world bosses. Depending on how you approach the open world, the game can be early or a few days.

Ignoring the story and a lot of side content, the game really came into its own. The new spells you unlock bring more to the battle, but by the time I unlocked the entire arsenal of abilities it was almost game over. But this is where the real combat issues come into play.

You get a large list of different support and damage spells spread across four unique spell trees, but the main challenge here is remembering and quickly switching between different trees to combine different abilities. The most skilled and experienced players will likely combine these unique powers, but the average player is more likely to stick to one or two trees and rarely explore beyond that. It’s a combat system that truly rewards dedication and skill in a game that’s over before it really starts.

For those with the patience and dedication to really master the combat system, the nearly endless battle objectives and challenges will provide plenty of replay value. Most of the spells I use can be upgraded by doing unique Spellcraft tasks that require you to complete specific objectives to upgrade the spell. These add an interesting edge to combat, trying to survive while focusing on Spellcraft’s objectives, but none of them are really necessary – just like its crafting and equipment systems.

About an hour before the final battle, although I didn’t know it was the final battle at the time, I wanted to spend some time looking for new gear and buying upgrades. Frey can equip unique headpieces, necklaces, and nails to modify and upgrade her abilities.

Honestly, it’s all meaningless. You can make it to the end on normal difficulty using the basic gear you get at the beginning of the game with no real danger. I used the crappy PlayStation branded pre-order DLC with some minor upgrades, but I never looked twice at the crafting system after that.

My time with Forspoken was strange. Game elements are fantastic with interesting story and beautiful world. However, everything just seems segmented, like nothing wants to work together. Forspoken is a good game and I would recommend it to most open world fans, but it feels so close to greatness that I can’t help but be disappointed.

This Forspoken review was done on PlayStation 5. The game was purchased digitally. Our review policy states that reviewers should do their best to complete the game before writing a review. Unfortunately, this PlayStation 5 editor crashed before you could complete the final boss battle.

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