Forspoken preview – Square Enix’s new action role-player

GameCentral gets a behind the scenes look at the new game from the creators of Final Fantasy 15 but what is Forspoken all about?

If there’s one great failing of the outgoing generation of consoles, it’s how few new game franchises were introduced. It’s obvious why this happened – the more expensive it becomes to make new games the greater the financial risk of creating something new – which in turn means there’s little hope that things will be much different in the new generation. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all though and Forspoken is not just an all-new IP but the work of a brand new studio.

Originally announced as Project Athia, Forspoken is a PlayStation 5 console exclusive (for two years), specifically designed to take advantage of the console’s graphical abilities. Which is slightly odd as while competent the game’s open world graphics aren’t especially impressive, and more reminiscent of Dragon’s Dogma than the recent Elden Ring demo.

Luminous Productions was spun out from the development team of Final Fantasy 15, with the very specific remit of creating new franchises using Square Enix’s own Luminous Engine. The qualities of this first release are hard to judge though, as we haven’t played it and the new footage we’ve seen isn’t that different from what was shown at The Game Awards last week.

Game previews during the pandemic have frequently been unenlightening experiences, no matter the publisher, but we were still able to get the gist of the game from the raw footage we saw and an explanation of the story from the game’s two main writers. The writing team also includes Star Wars: Rogue One writer Gary Whitta and Uncharted creator Amy Hennig, although neither was part of the preview and their roles appear to be less hands-on than Allison Rymer and Todd Stashwick.

Although there doesn’t seem to be any amnesia involved, the plot does involve the Japanese role-playing mainstay of a magical miasma. The details weren’t clear but apparently it’s full of monsters and anyone that enters it is killed or transformed into a creature themselves. Player character Frey Holland is unaffected by it though, which immediately has her arrested on suspicion of being a demon – especially as her excuse is that she’s from New York City and not Athia (even though actress Ella Balinska is actually British).

Apart from turning up in jeans and a T-shirt, Frey’s origins are primarily hammered home by her constant swearing, which gets wearying just from the preview footage, but otherwise it’s hard to form much of a conclusion about the plot or storytelling at this stage.

In terms of gameplay, the most distinctive element is what is referred to as ‘magical parkour’ which involves a rather ugly distortion effect that trails behind Frey and can be solidified so she seems to have a magic skateboard. Ignoring what it looks like though the ability to go anywhere whenever you want is definitely appreciated and the open world appears to be very large, with multiple different biomes not unreminiscent of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild.

On first glance the combat doesn’t seem terribly exciting but there appears to be a huge range of different spells and abilities, with nested menus that imply there’s actually plenty of depth to what’s going on. There are a lot of enemies on-screen at once as well, so since Frey appears to always be on her own crowd control is clearly vital.

The sheer number of enemies is a particular problem when a magical storm blows in at a random, which spawns especially dangerous monsters which, naturally, tend to leave behind the most desirable loot. It was implied that these storms could be largely avoided if you want but offer a neat risk/reward mechanic where greed could literally be your downfall.

We were also shown a glimpse of a complex skill tree and the idea that wearing different clothes and jewellery can be used to add additional powers and buffs. In short, standard action role-playing fare, that at the moment lacks any clear selling point other than Frey’s non-fantasy origins.

Forspoken looks like it may have potential but it’s not something that’s easy to get excited about at this stage. The graphics are good without being amazing, the combat looks deep without seemingly particularly thrilling, and the plot has a good starting point that quickly seems to get lost in typical fantasy gaming mumbo-jumbo.

However, it could easily be the case that, especially given the limits of the pandemic, it’s not an easy game to preview and there’s actually a lot more to it than first appears. We hope so, because going to such effort to create a new IP is something to be encouraged, but at the moment Forspoken is good only in theory.

Formats: PlayStation 5 and PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Luminous Productions
Release Date: 24th May 2021

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