Forspoken Review – Exceptional gameplay with a rocky start

Forspoken Review on PS5

Few games could hope to make a worse first impression than Forspoken. Replete with hackneyed dialogue and hosted a number of lines that made the internet meme circuit prior to its release, the game was infamous long before people even had a chance to get their hands on it. After the demo was released, few were dissuaded from their minds, with dialogue still being the defining feature of the title.

Still, I went into the game with an open mind and I’m glad I did. While I can’t say it’s fully redeeming itself, Forspoken was a solid attempt at establishing a new IP and shouldn’t be counted for stumbling on the starting line.

Which is saying something as it definitely stumbles. Following an isekai-like storyline, Frey Holland is transported from New York to the land of Athia after attempting to steal an enchanted cuff. She is then drawn into a conflict that is tearing the land apart, with an otherworldly force called “The Corruption” turning the people, animals, and terrain of the land into nightmarish, broken versions of herself.

This is somehow related to the former rulers of the country called tantas. Everyone harbors otherworldly magical powers, and although they once used them for the good of the world, they now use them to gratify their own desires.

Luckily, Frey is able to stop them. With her own magical powers, she has the tools necessary to stop these corrupt rulers, save this world, and discover why she was put there in the first place.

Forspoken Review - Exceptional gameplay with a rocky start
Image via Luminous Productions and Square Enix

This setup isn’t bad in and of itself. While a little bit after the book, it presents a fantasy premise that takes players from point A to point B and offers enough new twists to keep things interesting. There’s also more than enough additional lore found throughout the game, adding to the sense of immersion in the narrative and setting, and establishing it as one of the better new IPs based on the AAA framework in recent memory.

Where things fall apart is how it goes up and down and introduces the player to all of their wide shots. Almost the entire exhibition of the game is preloaded in the first few hours. It would be hard not to get exhausted by all the new terms and story beats all at once, and the lack of real gameplay throughout this stretch is palpable.

Added to this is the admittedly hurtful dialogue. While it’s no worse than a Sony game in terms of its sarcasm and constant banter – and the voice performances are just as well done, particularly by Frey’s voice actor Ella Balinska – the sheer volume of Whedon-isms and snarky banter is a bit much , and only makes the crawling of the opening section that much harder to get through.

It’s about as rough as an opening can be. Luckily, Forspoken is redeeming itself and then some once this intro is over and players can rest assured of their full experience.

While the game’s open world isn’t as bustling with life as some might have hoped, it’s still a sizeable sandbox for players to get lost in. There are a variety of biomes and regions that vary from one another, and a healthy amount of side content for players to get distracted by.

This is certainly reinforced by the game’s excellent graphics. While the Forspoken’s specs are certainly demanding, there’s no denying that the graphical fidelity enhances almost every visual element in the game. The realistic character models coupled with the breathtaking fantasy vistas of domed rock formations, towering ruins and landmarks contorted by corruption truly convey the feeling that this is a modern-gen gaming experience.

The music and sound design enhance the overall experience of the title as well. Ranging from softer, catchier beats to pounding orchestral arrangements mixed with singing choirs, the soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment to the snarls of depraved beasts and humans.

Forspoken Review - Exceptional gameplay with a rocky start
Image via Luminous Productions and Square Enix

And then there’s the gameplay. To say that this is Forspoken’s main selling point would be a massive understatement as it offers some of the best open world gameplay mechanics one could ask for.

The traversal mechanics in particular are among the most entertaining features the game has to offer. These abilities allow you to zoom and zoom across large chunks of terrain in a matter of seconds, making moving from one point on the map feel less like a chore and more like an opportunity to have fun and see the wide world from new perspectives see.

There have been many times I’ve decided against fast travel just so I could use the parkour skills to sprint across the map and dash around at lightning fast speeds. The fact that I was in full control of these abilities made things even funnier: if I decided I was bored of sprinting and hopping around on abandoned buildings, I could just as easily fire off a magic rope and send myself flying through the air let, halved the travel time, like I did.

Speaking of magic, Forspoken’s magic-centric combat is just as fun. The game combines simple shooting mechanics with melee attacks and defensive spells, giving players a wide range of tools to take on enemies. It also makes it incredibly easy to allocate and reallocate mana points earned through leveling up to enhance the spells of one’s choice, helping to encourage experimentation with different magical charges.

These elements are paired with a strong focus on dodging and repositioning in combat. Although Frey can deal some damage, she almost always has to dodge enemy attacks to avoid an untimely end. This combines the wide variety of traversal options with combat in a novel way, adding a level of speed to the battles that keeps them fresh even in the final stretches of the game.

To make things even better, the title’s approach is to encourage a better understanding of combat. When players participate in battles, they are assigned a grade based on their performance. The best parallel is that of a character action game like Devil May Cry: like those titles, players must maintain combos and avoid taking damage to keep their grade as high as possible. The higher the level they maintain, the more experience and items will be attuned to them after the Skirmish ends.

All of these elements come together to make the gameplay feel like it’s leagues above other titles in the genre. Even with its early issues, it’s clear that the title is worth playing just for a chance to experience what makes it a real game.

Despite its unfortunate first impression, I would hardly recommend Forspoken. Its exceptional gameplay is more than enough to make it worth playing and is all the more remarkable considering this is a fresh new IP. Last but not least, it lays the groundwork for a new series that has a lot to build on and could be remembered for far more than just a vague dialogue.

Twinfinite Editors Choice Award

Forspoken Critic Review

Reviewer: Keenan McCall | Forgive: The Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by the publisher.