Published on February 1st, 2023 | by Abdul Saad
Forspoken PS5 Review
Summary: While Forspoken has its fair share of glaring issues, I have to admit that I still enjoyed my time with its warts and all, as it managed to entertain and engage me with its combat system alone.
Forspoken is the highly anticipated fantasy action RPG from Luminous and Square Enix that’s made quite a wave and an impression on the gaming community since its announcement and release. For people like me, the game manages to scratch that itch left behind by the lack of Infamous titles by offering players a bold, beautiful entry into the superpower/ fantasy genre with a snarky but lovable main lead to boot. However, while the game gives players an endearing cast and engaging combat, it fails to truly stick the landing due to an inconsistent narrative and oddly executed gameplay elements.
The game’s story begins in modern-day New York, where our protagonist Frey Holland is arrested on multiple counts of theft and grand larceny on the eve of her 21st birthday. Thankfully, the judge is cool and lets her off with community service instead of jail time. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop the local gang from harassing and threatening Frey into doing more dastardly deeds and, when she refuses, destroy her home, making her lose the money she saved up in the process. With nothing else going for her, Frey eventually finds a golden cuff and is whisked away from the glum streets of New York to the vibrant, sunny plains of Athia along with her new magical accessory partner Cuff, where her high-octane, fantastical adventures begin.
Like with several isekai plots, Forspoken’s narrative, especially its prologue, is incredibly straightforward but is filled with several details and events. Players will play through the first chapter learning about Frey’s background and unfortunate situation before her time in Athia. Meanwhile, the succeeding chapters focus on her adventures in Athia and her relationships and interactions with several characters, including her new British Cuff and her foreboding adversaries, the four Tantas. What I especially like about the story is that, unlike many other media that take a character from one world to another, Forspoken manages to highlight Frey’s life before her adventures. It explains why she’s so pessimistic, snarky, rude, and very fond of profanity, as her abrasive nature is a result of her abrasive surroundings and upbringing.
However, after only an hour of doing this, the game unfortunately speeds through to quickly get to the meat and potatoes of the story, which is unfortunate. What’s worse is that while players are quickly brought up to speed about the nature of Athia, its biomes, and their four leading Tantas, several details in the story are left ambiguous intentionally until near the game’s ending, where the it gives players a massive exposition dump making the entire experience end up feeling very jarring. Call me a cynic, but I believe this was done in order to sell more copies of the upcoming prequel DLC, but only time will tell. Other than that, dialogue between characters, including our main lead and her partner Cuff, can feel and sound very campy, and while there is even a toggle to reduce how vocal Cuff is, I have to admit I didn’t mind the dialogue, campy though it may be as I’ll always prefer more dialogue than less in any narrative-driven game.
Forspoken’s gameplay and combat is almost objectively one of the game’s highlights. Players will start off with standard magic attacks, which come in several forms, such as charge and burst shots and shield attacks, as well as support magic, which include slowdowns and freezing. As players progress, however, their magic skill will expand significantly alongside their skill trees which feature a slew of melee attacks, ranged attacks, and environmental attacks, all of which can be swapped in and out on the fly. The game also sports four distinct types of elemental magic: earth, fire, water, and air. They’re all upgradable and have different variations allowing players to choose which type of magic best fits their play style. I love fire magic, so I enjoyed using the cool fire sword attacks that come with the element. However, it’s unfortunate that the enemies in the game didn’t get the same treatment, as I found that there isn’t a lot of variety between them.
Overall, combat feels highly satisfying as attacking enemies feels effortless. Frey’s realistic movements using magic are also quite impressive and allow for easy evasion. This brings me to the game’s steller parkour system, which I loved. Dashing from platform to platform, gliding through the air, and leaping over objects feels as incredibly satisfying and gratifying as in the Infamous games and is by far one of my favorite parts of gameplay in general. It’s a shame that players won’t fully enjoy the parkour system to the fullest until near the end of the game when all the upgrades can be unlocked.
When not playing through the main quest, players can also partake in the game’s several sub-quests provided by the citizens of Athia, scale the radio tower-like belfries, challenge labyrinths, collect cosmetic capes for Frey, and enjoy the photo mode. Outside of these events, there really isn’t much else to do, not unlike in many other open-world adventure games. Visually, Forspoken sports awe-inspiring visuals via detailed models and a cool-looking UI. While I found the art direction to be a bit lacking, the lush fields of Athia are still quite impressive. Lastly, i’m glad to report that I ran into no gameplay issues as the game ran smoothly on the PS5, especially on performance mode, which admittedly drops the graphical fidelity
Overall, while Forspoken has its fair share of glaring issues, I have to admit that I still enjoyed my time with its warts and all, as it managed to entertain and engage me with its combat system alone. However, with that said, I also can’t, in good faith, recommend the game at its current asking price of $70 as its poorly executed story and other underwhelming elements prevent it from being more than an average gameplay experience to the average player.