What is Forspoken?
Forspoken is a open world game with magical powers, and a story set in a never-before-seen world who variate from pure realness to fantasy. Not so long ago, this kind of description was enough to make me drool with the desire to play such a game. Today it’s the complete opposite for me. The once exciting concept of an open world is becoming more and more diluted with each new game, forcing players to cry out for more linear and focused experiences. From early previews, Forspoken hinted that it would not rise above the standard, tired mold, and the demo version of the game only further confirmed that. With a few exceptions, Forspoken is the embodiment of everything that makes many people wave their hands at the very mention of open world games.
Forspoken: Game Story
When it comes to the game’s story – there are no miracles here. Forspoken puts you in the role of Frey Holland, a young girl from New York who was abandoned as a child and has been effectively homeless ever since, barely making ends meet. The game spends a good hour or two with Frey in New York, at times leaving the player in control to walk the streets or explore the abandoned apartment in which she has settled. After some time, Frey finds a magic bracelet that transports her through a portal to a fantastic world called Athia, where the rest of the game takes place.
Athia herself has seen better days and is in the midst of a cataclysmic phenomenon called the Break” that is destroying everything in its path, with only a few safe havens for its inhabitants. Matters are made worse by the fact that Break has corrupted the once benevolent magical rulers of Athia with the title of Tanta. Of course, Frey is completely immune to Break for some reason, and along the way she discovers that she also has magical powers which she will then use to solve Athia’s problems.
Without going into too much detail, Forspoken is most interesting at the very beginning and very end, which is ironic because those are the times when you have the least control over the game. The beginning of the game sells well the sense of hopelessness of Freya’s poor life situation, while only the end provides predictable but somewhat interesting revelations about the characters and the game world itself. Everything in between is uninteresting, unsatisfying and frustrating.
Let’s start with Frey. As a homeless person on the verge of suicide, Frey goes to another world where she has superpowers and eventually everyone treats her as a savior. What does she want? Logically, to return to absolutely nothing in New York. If we ignore that, Frey is a terribly annoying and simple protagonist with a very predictable character journey that touches all the supporting characters by turning them into one-dimensional cardboard boxes.
From the beginning, it is clear to you how her journey will be that of a reluctant participant to an active savior of Athia, and the game does it in the cheapest way possible. How to give Frey the motivation to save a world she doesn’t care about? So introduce her to a random kid who will be sacrificed five minutes later. The game is loaded with such simplistic narrative instruments where it is immediately clear in which direction it all goes.
Gameplay of Forspoken
If you only pursue the story, it is possible to finish the game in about 15 hours. The problem is that the story and gameplay here are two completely separate entities and the game doesn’t find any way to connect them. NPC characters can only be found in the main hub, where it can take several hours before you talk to anyone or the game treats you to a cutscene that will push the story forward. In addition, the game suffers from a syndrome where it tells you a lot and doesn’t really show anything. A bunch of interesting events are delegated to texts that can be found scattered throughout the game world, which makes it seem even more empty in its current state than it really is.
The open world, its exploration, combat and progression system are the other side of the coin and the only thing that makes Forspoken somewhat worth playing. The open world is divided into several regions, each of which has its own specifics in terms of the environment. They are mostly large open fields, mixed with mountains, rivers and the like. Visually, things can look good at times, and the most fun aspect of the world is moving through it using magical parkour. Things start out simple here where Frey will run fast and automatically jump over obstacles, but later in the game he gains access to magic hooks, water surfing, and some other surprises that I won’t reveal here. The system is easy to use, fluid, and accompanied by interesting animations and effects that make the simple journey from point A to point B a fun experience.
However, aside from a few nice vistas, Athia is a painfully generic world, with 90% of the map being empty wastelands where nothing happens and not a single friendly character. I think that Square Enix takes from Ubisoft the title of the map with the most icons, that is, useless things to do. Since there are no friendly characters outside of the capital, all activities are mostly reduced to fighting enemies, after which either a cosmetic item is earned or Frey’s stats are increased, which quickly becomes repetitive. There are also dungeons that are embarrassing to say the least and consist of three identical corridors and three identical rooms where you have to defeat enemies and mini-bosses. The most profitable activity is collecting mana as a resource to unlock new spells which are the main focus of the gameplay.
I have mixed opinions about the combat system. On the one hand, the combat is mechanically very satisfying and fun – especially when you unlock all four types of magic. They know how to be quite imaginative and the hunt for new spells is definitely the main motivator that made me play Forspoken to the very end. There’s everything here: from all kinds of fire swords and spears, summoning soldiers, electric homing missiles, earth shields and something else. Of course, the combat system is not without its problems.
I won’t lie, the first preview of Forspoken created high expectations for me and a part of me really wanted the game to be good. Unfortunately, in the end, instead of a high-budget next-gen title, we got a barely B-category game that is not even up to the knees of PlayStation 4 titles. It’s a shame, because Forspoken is bursting with potential at times, and systems such as magical parkour and magical combat in the context of a better game they would be a hit.
This way the game is as wide as the ocean and as shallow as a puddle. I am of the sincere opinion that the game would benefit significantly if it were smaller in scope, more compact and more detailed. In the state we found it in, Forspoken puts an extra blemish on open-world games that have mostly reeked of staleness and predictability for some time now. It’s almost insulting to ask 80 euros for a game like this, and I can only recommend it at a deep discount and only for die-hard fans of action games with such a fantastic theme. And even then it is on the verge of recommendation.