Hey, what’s up, guys? Welcome to my review of Forspoken, a third-person action RPG by Square Enix. I played the game on a PS5, and there will be no spoilers in this article. Let’s jump straight into the review: “Is Forspoken worth buying in 2023.“
In Forspoken, players control a reluctant hero named Frey on a quest to save the people of Athia. Athia is a mysterious magical world in another dimension. The game begins with Frey living a terrible life in New York City, barely scraping by. She is a social outcast who is always getting into trouble and has no family, so her life is terrible. When Frey discovers a magical bracelet named Cuff, she falls through a portal into Athia, where the game proper begins.
Upon arriving, Frey discovers that Athia is on the verge of destruction. A plague called the Break has spread through the realm, covering all in darkness and monsters. The survivors have fled to the last city of Saipal, and Frey finds herself immune to the Break, thus is the only one who can venture out from Saipal and Sabathia to save it from the calamity.
On paper, the story of Forspoken is fairly interesting, but I wouldn’t say this is Square’s best work here. The story could be more compelling and feels epic and grand than other Square Enix titles. The characters could be likable, and the world-building could be more detailed. Overall, the story is decent, but not something that will leave a lasting impression.
My Impression on Story
The story in Forspoken is broken up into a dozen chapters. I finished them in 15 hours with mild exploration and side quests. The story’s middle and end are the strongest, with a particularly awful start. The introduction could be better because the presentation in Forspoken feels extremely dated.
Forspoken is a game in which you play for 15 seconds before it stops you, fades to black, and then presents awkward, unnecessary cutscenes. You run to the next icon in the game world, repeat, and this goes on for hours. The game refuses to let you play for more than a few seconds before it stops you. The problem is that nothing is integrated into play. The game feels extremely scripted. The game pauses for people to speak when the game shouldn’t pause.
Forspoken holds play hostage constantly, stopping all actions and holding your hand like a small child while pointing everything out. It happened so much that I groaned, “Please, God No,” every time the game ripped control away from me. Frankly, it is hours before the game opens up to you and lets you play it, and I mean that in a very bad way.
There is so little environmental storytelling or dynamic character interactions in this game that’s shocking. Everything is either a scripted event or a pre-rendered cut scene, making the game feel stale for the most part because nothing can happen while you play. This is an extremely out-dated way to make a game. It’s a surprise to me that this is from Square Enix, to be honest.
The game is also outdated in how characters and NPCs function. The generic AI in Saipal, a very uninspired, super boring White Castle Vanilla Sky City where NPCs act like little more than robots. Seven years ago, we got the bustling and vibrant city of Novograd, yet in 2023 Saipal is utterly lifeless. Yeah, the presentation in Forspoken could be better.
As the main lead, Frey differs from what I would have wanted. She is occasionally likable, and as the game goes on, her thread opens up, and I was interested to see where it was going to take her. But the writing paints her in a pretty off-putting color. Frey’s schtick is that she wants to go back home to New York. But she can’t because the people of Athia need her to save them. So, for the most part, that makes her the selfish, reluctant anti-hero. She’s pretty whiny, and for the most part, she acts mostly like an annoying kid.
The entire game sees her interacting with Cuff, her companion. But I wouldn’t say I liked how they played off each other. Cuff is the haughty, know-it-all companion, and Frey doesn’t seem to give a damn. They bicker and squabble. It’s generally not something I enjoy, nor is it what I describe as likable and inviting. The material for it overall is bad in writing across the board.
It puts her in a state of stubbornness which leads her into the role of whiny Aaron Runner. She’s constantly asked to save Athia even though she doesn’t want to. You, as the player, are smack dab in the middle of it, like some foster parent trying to mediate an argument. And as such, the general vibe of the game, with its juvenile writing, cheap one-liners, and awkward Cuff partnership, was, for the most part, not appetizing.
My Opinion on Characters
Thankfully, it gets better throughout the game, but honestly, only by a little. The worst part is that Frey needs help carrying the story as Forspoken lacks any interesting side characters. This is one of the game’s fatal flaws. You’ll find zero in this game if you’re used to terrific RPG characters like Jackie from Cyberpunk.
Only some characters in Forspoken are extremely generic. Run-of-the-mill archetypes like overly welcoming female townswoman, all-knowing old wise men, tyrannical villains, and NPC girl whom you can consider to like because she’s cute and has flowers in her hair.
This game’s characters lack any personality, depth, or interest. They are simple background characters only necessary to keep the plot moving forward but do nothing to add anything special to the adventure.
This is one of the biggest downsides of Forspoken. The writing, the character cast, and their development beyond Frey are nonexistent beyond the bare minimum. If I’m playing an RPG, I require compelling characters, and this game does not have them.
The pacing is good despite the lackluster characters and poor presentation. The game moves forward steadily and keeps you engaged enough to continue playing, but the lack of interesting characters and poor writing make it hard for you to invest in the game truly.
Overall, Forspoken needs more depth and complexity than you’d expect from an RPG and falls short in terms of characters and story, which is a shame.
However, Forspoken does not play like the typical open-world game you might expect. It limits the open world until you finish it, meaning you can only explore certain areas depending on where you are in the story. You are mostly confined to one area where you have your main objective. But you can venture anywhere in the zone and do all the available side quests and the immediate area.
These include skirmishes for gear and treasure and the occasional side mission called a detour. You can also collect items, upgrade your gear, and craft at fast-travel homes. But the only time you can visit another area is if you finish the main quest of this area. Thus, it’s a limited open world.
My Thought on Gameplay
This is a good thing, and it’s for the best. The story allows you to keep pace with your play, and your options are limited in each zone. Open-world games often give you way too many options all at once, which can create a lot of distractions leading to early burnout and gameplay fatigue.
For me, there’s nothing worse than feeling like a game is one exhausting laundry list of to-do. In Forspoken, each zone provides sufficient freedom without it being too much. You’ve got your map icons for picking up new spells, mini-quests, and a few treasure-hunting or fast-travel locations. But these activities feel spaced out enough that they are manageable.
They’re only sometimes terribly interesting as the game doesn’t have the most creative gameplay encounters or environmental design. But Forspoken’s map never falls victim to the trappings of typical barf open worlds, making it more or less a joy to zip around and see what the game had to offer without experiencing that dreaded feeling of FOMO.
This is especially important in this game because the core gameplay of forespoken is Frey’s traversal mechanics. So she needs a lot of space to move around without getting too distracted.
Something worth Mentioning
So it was a smart choice to leave the map with only a few icons, as you’d never get that sense of freedom and speed, which is a gameplay feature if you stopped every 15 seconds to do the next thing, such as more natural exploration results than your typical open-world game. Not on the level of Elden, not even close, but the game is far from the typical Ubisoft to map icon Farming Simulator.
I appreciated how this made the story feel pressing as it moved at a good pace, never stagnating too long at any point. You are typically close to interacting with the main story, which is a good thing. You might like more freedom, which could be a bad thing. Regardless, Forspoken’s map is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, finding your way around the map screen an absolute chore. Is Forspoken worth buying in 2023? You will know shortly.
The best part about Forspoken is its traversal system and the parkour mechanics. Long story short, it’s a lot of fun, and here’s how it works. In Forspoken, Frey can run or dash; if you hold down the circle button, you’ll continue running at full speed until your stamina reaches zero. During this time, Frey will parkour past any obstacle automatically, so long as it’s not something like a mountain.
The goal is essentially to keep your momentum and interact with the various objects of the world, and you do this with phrase mechanics such as her being able to shimmy by hitting X. This will cause Frey to do a long jump, and she can continue to hit X each time she lands to keep the shimmy going. Essentially, it’s a bunny hop, and yes, it’s very fun. This will drain no stamina, so Frey can shimmy across the entire map if she wants to. But if you miss time for your next shimmy, you’ll come to a halt and have to start the sequence as a mechanic.
My Impression on Core Mechanics
This is very fun as there’s an element of timing involved, and I enjoyed bouncing all over the place. It just feels good. Frey also has the option to burn, which is to run at warp speed by tapping the circle button. As Frey flashes red, this will also consume no stamina, and she doesn’t need to hold down the circle button in this state, opening up other actions such as grappling on objects easier.
Again, this is very fun because there’s an element of interactive timing to it. Keeping up your momentum is the main gameplay loop here, and you could easily see Forspoken as a magical version of Sonic the Hedgehog. I’m not overselling this.
The traversal mechanics in Forspoken are fun and engaging, and it’s one of the game’s standout features. The parkour mechanics are well-designed and intuitive, making navigating the game world easy while feeling like you’re in full control of Frey’s movement. The burn and shimmy mechanics add depth to the gameplay, making it more dynamic and engaging. Overall, the traversal system in Forspoken is a highlight of the game.
Core Mechanics Rating:
There are no vehicles to use, mounts, or any other form of transport beyond fast travel, so get ready to run. And if you have everything right, you can haul ass in this game, and it’s awesome. The traversal elements transformed Forspoken into a racing game, as the distance to objectives is often very far.
Crystals used to buy spells are sprinkled everywhere, often carving out special pathways you can work through, like jumping on floating islands in the sky. This adds an extra layer of fun and excitement to the game as you’re completing objectives and trying to collect all the crystals and reach certain places as fast as possible. What do you think, is Forspoken worth buying to you?
The parkour in this game is so central that you’ll be doing it more than combat. Experience points for killing enemies are quite low. You’re encouraged in some ways to run past enemies if you don’t feel like fighting.
I ran through many sections of this game without doing any combats. The game is generous with collectibles and, overall, is quite easy on normal difficulty, so there’s no need to grind enemies. This game is about flying around the map with your traversal options, as it is about killing bad guys with your superpowers.
Frey must learn to fight to survive until she can find her way home, but the game’s combat system shies away from mundane weapons. Instead, players must master magical combat to get through Athia’s dangers.
Types of Magic Spells
Spells in Forspoken are broken up into three categories: attack magic, support magic, and one we’ll discuss later. Attack magic contains more standardized spells such as shot, slice, and bolt that act as your main forms of combatting the enemy. Support magic contains spells such as bind, prime, and charge that leave enemies frozen in their tracks, do massive AOE damage, and more.
For spoken’s entirely spell-based combat system is represented in the UI as a triangle on the lower right side of the screen. The left and right points at the triangle’s base hold support and attack magic, respectively, and at the pinnacle sits your most intense spells. These intense spells can be called down on dangerous break zombies or fierce minibosses, but once exhausted, they can’t be used again anytime soon. So players must choose their moment wisely.
The world design in Forspoken feels rather generic despite the bright colors of Athia. Athia feels like a tech demo of the latest Unreal Engine build. Giant sprawling mountains and valleys encompass most of the world, and overall, there’s just a lot of Squarespace that feels oddly similar.
The game is procedurally generated without landmarks or anything special to the areas. They end up feeling very video gaming. The performance is also horrendous, with major frame rate issues running at anywhere between 25 and 60 frames per second. On performance mode that was intended to be a solid 60 frames per second experience.
World Design Rating:
Is Forspoken worth buying?
Is Forspoken worth buying? After reading all the sections above, I would love to know your answer. But for those who still want to know more, here’s a summary. We will come to the same conclusion after you read the information below.
Lack of Storytelling
In Forspoken, there are no NPCs or characters outside the game’s one city, no friendly animals, and no other cities. Athia is mostly terrain, shiny things, and bad guys. This limits the dynamic storytelling the game can offer through normal play, which is why the game has none essentially.
Players will only run into a friendly person, quest with anyone, or see life anywhere if it has a red health bar over its head. There are no dynamic quests anywhere, and nothing happens to the world due to your actions.
Gameplay is Decent
The gameplay in Forspoken is good. It’s a third-person action spellcaster with real-time combat. Frey has access to magical spells and Four Element types, which come in the form of primary spells with the use of your R2 button and support spells with L2. Each element has a skill tree that Frey can use to learn new spells. Typically, each spell class can have up to 15 or more spells that Frey can use. The spells are fun, and the gameplay is deeper than you might think.
The spell swapping in Forspoken is not entirely comfortable, and players might never get used to spelling swapping because it happens in real-time, and players can’t move while doing it. The spells are fun, though, and the gameplay is deeper than you might think. The flow of gameplay is based on combining spells with her parkour. Frey has a traditional Dodge and a Parry with a triangle button, but players can also dodge attacks by sprinting through them with her flow parkour ability.
In conclusion, while the gameplay in Forspoken is good, the world design and lack of storytelling make the game feel uninspired and worse. The performance is horrendous, with major frame rate issues.
The spell swapping is only partially comfortable and can be overwhelming initially. Players might never get used to spelling swapping because it happens in real-time, and players can only move while doing it.
The spells are fun, though, and the gameplay is deeper than you might think. Now, the question is, “Is Forspoken Worth Buying in 2023?” My answer is, No, it’s not worth buying. After reading all the information above, I know you have come to the same conclusion as I am.
Don’t worry, we got something that you should consider buying, it’s The Division 2.