Square Enix's latest action RPG, Forspoken, is heavy on parkour and magic but a little too light on an engaging story, my full review.
Forspoken is Square Enix's latest foray into the action-RPG genre that introduces a new IP.
Since the game was announced under the code-name Project Athia it grabbed my attention with its speed and style. It looked to be a graphical showcase for a lot of what the PlayStation 5 could do. In terms of visuals, it delivers in some regards, especially when it comes to the particle effects around combat.
"In terms of visuals, it delivers in some regards, especially when it comes to the particle effects around combat."
Combining great graphics, thrilling parkour movement and an expansive magic system, the game is sure to check some boxes for action-RPG fans. But while it's great in certain aspects, its story feels somewhat thin in comparison. In this review, I will take an in-depth look at Forspoken's features and discuss where it succeeds and falls short. Read on for my full thoughts on the latest from Luminous Productions and Square Enix.
Platform(s): PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows
Developer(s): Luminous Productions
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Genre: Action RPG
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Forspoken's story, a well-worn plotline
Forspoken follows a classic "good versus evil" storyline, that starts in a unique manner, but falls into many stagnant tropes as things progress. You play as Alfre "Frey" Holland, an orphaned New Yorker seriously down on her luck. She has trouble with the law, gangs and now otherworldly dimensions are opening up and whisking her away. Your story begins in modern-day New York as Frey navigates her daily struggles and is mysteriously transported to the magical world of Athia. In this fantasy world, she is paired with a sentient bracelet named, Cuff, who grants her all sorts of powers from time manipulation to and casting of powerful spells.
As you explore Athia, Frey must use her newfound abilities to unravel the secrets of the magical world she finds herself in. With the help of her guardian spirit and newfound friends, she reluctantly rises to the occasion and becomes the hero that Athia needs her to be. You'll explore the fantastical (albeit barren) world and discover the truth behind why she was chosen by fate to save Athia.
"As you explore Athia, Frey must use her newfound abilities to unravel the secrets of the magical world she finds herself in."
Parkour and magic: Ingredients for fun gameplay
The gameplay in Forspoken focuses heavily on parkour-like movement through a vast open world, allowing players to climb up walls and move quickly around obstacles. The flexibility in movement, melee and magic are undoubtedly the highlights of the experience. You can traverse your surroundings with agility and grace thanks to Frey's skillset, allowing you to climb almost any surface from walls to rooftops. Additionally, Cuff grants you access to powerful magic spells which can be used both offensively and defensively against enemies or environmental traps.
"Additionally, Cuff grants you access to powerful magic spells which can be used both offensively and defensively against enemies or environmental traps."
The magic system allows players to cast powerful spells from their unique elemental affinity. You'll be granted four styles of elemental magic as you progress through the game. For example, you have access to a rock-firing projectile gun at the start of the game, and later a fire-based melee sword is unlocked. As you battle and explore these abilities increase with new spells unlocking as you level up your character. The combat is fast-paced and frenetic with an emphasis on strategic combos and positioning yourself for the best attack opportunities. The encounters mix things up, some enemies will be resistant to certain elements, making it fun to experiment with your powers and find the best solutions for different scenarios.
"The encounters mix things up, some enemies will be resistant to certain elements, making it fun to experiment with your powers and find the best solutions for different scenarios."
PS5 DualSense controller integration
The DualSense controller allows players to experience the magic of Athia and specifically, Frey’s powers in immersive ways. The adaptive triggers and haptic feedback work together to bring the game to life as you cast spells or zip through the environment. With each element having its distinct feel, you'll be able to differentiate between earth, wind, light and fire with ease.
"he adaptive triggers and haptic feedback work together to bring the game to life as you cast spells or zip through the environment."
The trigger resistance will increase as you charge up a spell, making it feel like you're channelling your power into an explosive attack. Additionally, the haptic feedback will guide your movements as you vault over obstacles or land after a long fall. The DualSense also glows with various colours as you cast your elemental spells, making the experience all the more engaging and enjoyable.
Forspoken looks great, this is especially true when it comes to magic-based combat. As you continue to add an enhance your bag of magic tricks, they are a feast for the eyes. The bloom of particle-based magic attacks flexes the PlayStation 5's graphical capabilities and looks incredible. Frey's character model is also very detailed with realistic facial expressions and lifelike animations.
Certain areas of Athia are very detailed with sprawling cities, and characters, but the open-world environment is very drab and empty. This highlights the theme of loneliness and, while this design decision works narratively, it can be underwhelming in terms of visuals.
Audio and Sound Design
Forspoken's soundtrack is quite impressive, with a stirring score that elevates the game's intense action and story moments. The sound effects really punch, especially when it comes to combat and the environment. Both have their own set of unique cues such as wind rustling leaves or birds chirping in the distance, it helps add new life to fairly empty, open-world spaces.
"The sound effects really punch, especially when it comes to combat and the environment."
The other auditory areas that leave a lot to be desired are some aspects of voice acting and audio mixing. I enjoyed many of the performances and I feel critiques have been unfairly levelled at Forspoken as a whole. Instead of the acting being the core issue, the biggest culprit is the audio mixing. I often found crowd noise or ambient sounds so loud that they often get in the way of line delivery from characters. There are also oddly long pauses between lines of dialogue that create an awkwardness that pulls you out of the moment. To sum up, Forspoken's core strengths lie in its diverse and tight combat system and combat visuals. Despite these issues, Forspoken is still an entertaining action-RPG experience that will keep you engaged for hours on end.
The Final Verdict on Forspoken
Overall, Forspoken is a fun action RPG that combines parkour and powerful spells. Visually the game looks great but its narrative structure is very hit-or-miss. Ultimately, Forspoken is a good game that could have been great with a bit more polish and attention to detail. If you are looking for an action-packed adventure with plenty of combat and customization options then this game will certainly provide hours of entertainment. However, those who are expecting a deep and engrossing story may find themselves disappointed by the experience. Forspoken checks the boxes of combat and graphics but falls short of delivering a fully engrossing package.
+ Great graphics
+ The movement is fast and free-flowing
+ Tight combat system
- Weak narrative structure
- Issues with audio mixing
- Open-world areas seem empty and lifeless.
Overall Rating: 28/40 (70%)
A copy of the game was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review.
About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina
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