Forspoken is better than it’s given credit for. Luminous Productions’ debut effort is a bit rough around the edges, and gets off to a plodding start. However, when it begins to click, there’s little in the way of stopping this PS5 and PC game from being exceptionally fun to play.
The game has you in the role of Frey Holland. She’s not having the best day. From narrowly avoiding jail time, having her apartment burned down, and forced to give away her cat, she finds herself transported to Athia — a dying land ruled by deranged godly beings and filled with monstrous creatures aplenty — along with a talking bracelet called Cuff.
While the above paragraph may suggest a punchy premise, Forspoken’s opening is anything but that. Although the exposition and player handholding is necessary, it feels more drawn out than it should be. The game comes into its own when you’re left to your own devices and have unlocked certain skills such as speeding through the rolling countryside and conjuring up swords of fire to lay waste to the beasts and undead that make up most of Athia’s populace.
Speaking of skills, you’ll unlock them at a steady clip. From laying enchanted landmines to raining lightning on your foes, you’re never far from finding ways to augment your expanding repertoire. Forspoken’s plot has you on a quest to murder Athia’s Tantas — rulers of the land. Doing so nets you new magical powers and Athia itself is littered with ways to unlock different abilites.
Soon enough, you’ll find challenges, optional dungeons, and side-quests to partake in too, all of which help make Frey stronger or flesh out the world better. Granted these are par for the course in many an open-world game, but Forspoken’s traversal and combat systems are a treat to behold.
You’ll find yourself swapping between different spell types to exploit the weaknesses of the enemies you encounter, and the very act of simply casting a spell, dodging attacks, or just running through Athia are extremely enjoyable. The moment to moment gameplay in Forspoken is ridiculously polished, full of spectacle, and it doesn’t get old.
It helps that Forspoken’s enemy designs are varied enough. There are your run of the mill shambling zombies, near invisible bosses, and giant corrupted beasts, all of which have their own attack patterns, vulnerabilities, and resistances that make combat a treat. This is no Devil May Cry 5 or Bayonetta, but there’s more than enough to keep things fresh.
Throw in near invisible load times and you have a game that, once it gets going, is frictionless to get into. This extends to fast travel as well, which should be called instant travel in Forspoken. It really is that fast on the PS5. The DualSense implementation deserves a special mention too. Be it parkouring through Athia or summoning arrows forged from water, Forspoken’s use of the adaptive triggers and haptics is stunning and is enough of a reason to play it on the PS5 or at the very least, use a DualSense controller wired on PC.
That said, it isn’t technically perfect. Forspoken’s frame rate isn’t as consistent as it should be, even after a patch with dips the moment there are too many enemies on screen. With six settings to choose from, it turns out settling for performance ray-tracing resulted in the best experience. Furthermore, the visuals such as Frey’s hair and grass tend to get blurry.
While none of these issues are deal breakers, they’re worth mentioning all the same. It seems like Forspoken could have done with a bit more development time. Though after two delays — the game was initially supposed to be out on May 24, 2022 and then October 11, 2022 — we could have got something tremendously worse. Nonetheless, with the cost of games skyrocketing so do our expectations of a proper, polished day one product and this is where Forspoken falls short. More so when you consider Square Enix’s other AAA efforts like Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade.
And as for the game’s much meme-d dialogue? I found it to be sharp and full of the banter you’d expect from most AAA games. Even with Cuff’s dialogue maxed out in the settings (which can be turned off) Forspoken’s dialogues are nowhere close to being as corny as the Internet would have you believe. Outside the aforementioned dull opening, the story itself is intriguing through its approximately 15-hour main questline. There are ample twists and turns to keep you going until its post-credits scene. Coupled with a suitably epic musical score that I wish there was more of, and there’s little to complain about.
All in all, Forspoken is a solid game. Sure, some parts of it are rougher than they should be, but there’s a sense of character and soul, something that’s absent in most AAA games these days.