Forspoken is the first major release of 2023, a wacky open-world game set in a fantasy world that you traverse through tight parkour mechanics. With an array of magical powers, it’s up to you as protagonist Frey Holland to traverse the deadly world of Athia. Whether it’s a magical adventure, find out in our Forspoken review.
When the PlayStation 5 was unveiled in 2020, plenty of great titles came along. One of them was Project Athia, the game later renamed Forspoken. It featured a magical world that looks stunning, made possible in part by the impressive Luminous Engine.
That Forspoken is a beautiful game is noticeable from the very first moment. With photorealistic environments, developer Luminous Productions (known for Final Fantasy XV) manages to bring the imaginative world of Athia to life in a neat way. It’s almost a shame that you’re constantly running through the world so fast with Frey, because when you stop to admire the world, it’s easy to notice that the details look stunning.
What is only a shame is that despite its graphic splendor, the world of Athia is particularly empty and monotonous. It’s clever, because the map of this open-world game, once the tutorial is over, is filled with side missions, points of interest and fast travel locations to unlock. Unfortunately, these mostly feel like cut-and-paste.
This is especially noticeable with the so-called Refuge points. They are constantly the same houses with identical furnishings where you can briefly pick up some health potions and do some crafting if you have found enough materials in the world. It looks lazy and makes exploring the world more of a community service than something you look forward to.
What doesn’t help is that there are no other characters running around in most of Athia. In fact, the fantasy world where protagonist Frey accidentally ends up suffers greatly. Almost the entire world is uninhabitable due to the mysterious plague that has wiped out much of the population.
Through a quick and simple introduction, the situation in Athia is immediately made clear and you are drawn well into the story. The arrival of Frey does not make the situation any better. Her arrival causes one of the last safe places in the world to incur the wrath of Tanta Sila.
Sila is one of the four sorceresses affected by the plague and turned against the people. When it becomes clear that Frey can face the plague, it is up to the native New Yorker to save Athia. The only question is whether she herself will, because Frey does not belong in this world.
Consequently, there is no moment in the story where you as a player actually believe that Frey feels like saving the world. At least, it’s not particularly believable. This constantly swearing teenager seems to have Tourette’s syndrome with the tic that she has to swear every which way.
The heroine is assisted by a talking bracelet she conveniently calls “Cuff,” something the bracelet itself cannot appreciate at all. What follows is a story that you will have rushed right through after twelve hours. This is remarkable, since director Takeshi Terada said back in September that the story should keep players sweet for about 30 to 40 hours.
Frankly, we’re glad the director was wrong, because the constantly nagging heroine and her talking bracelet get on your nerves from minute one. It’s bizarre that Luminous Productions thought it was a good idea to dish up a duo that whines so much and often with dialogue we won’t write home about. Perhaps the biggest plus, then, is that you can minimize the conversations between Frey and Cuff through the menu.
In this respect, Forspoken is a game where it’s best to put on a podcast so you’re still listening to something fun, although it must be said that the music by Bear McCreary and Garry Schyman is very good. Indeed, Forspoken is at its best when you are engaged in parkour to roam the world.
The giant magical playground is delightful to traverse at high speed. However, this also makes it clear that Luminous Productions could have used some more time to achieve a stable 60 fps. There isn’t any.
On the other hand, the extra powers you unlock along the way do come in handy when you want to deal with the side missions and interesting points of the map. Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said about the fighting.
Frey’s magical powers initially consist of one type of magic spread across numerous spells that you can unlock by leveling up. By using these properly and completing specific tasks, you can make them stronger as well, giving the fighting some nice depth. Unfortunately, you don’t need these at all in execution.
After all, enemies always have a weakness, so it’s only up to you to switch to an effective spell. Then you can hold down the relevant button (R2 on PlayStation 5) until enemies go to the ground. With the other drawke, you can use supporting spells to give yourself additional advantage.
Even when attacked, there’s just no reason to worry. After all, Frey has a magical way of dodging, so that just pressing a button and moving the poker is enough to dodge attacks. In our time with the game, we can mention only one exception, but we’ll leave that secret in connection with spoilers.