I had little expectations for Forspoken, mainly seeing it as just another action RPG–but with the possibility for potential since it was backed by gaming giant Square Enix. However, this is sadly not this case. Just about every element of this game has an underlying issue, or simply isn’t enjoyable to deal with. I struggled to find redeemable qualities during the time I spent on the game, finding only minimal entertainment.
The issues immediately began with the start of the story. Frey, our protagonist, is in trouble with the law for stealing a vehicle. This is her last chance before the judge throws the book at Frey and she’s not in good standing with the gang she’s been stealing the cars for, because she keeps getting caught.
Frey just wants to leave New York and start a new life with her cat Homer. Unfortunately, the gang finds out where she lives and burns her apartment–and all the money she was saving–to ashes. This leads Frey to thinking of jumping off of her hotel building–when she suddenly has light surround her. She then sees something shining in the window of an abandoned store and goes to investigate. It’s a cuff, or vambrace, and it attaches itself to Frey. She wakes up in another world, seeing New York through a portal she can not access.
The portal disappears, and Frey starts to panic. This is when the cuff begins to speak to her (it’s sentient, of course), telling her she’s in Athia and that they’re now permanently attached until she finds her way home.
I’m struggling to even describe these events properly simply because they were just so hard to watch. It was brutal to hear the dialogue between Frey and anyone. She’s snarky, condescending, and downright irritating to listen too. Comments she makes are full of attitude–where it’s unwarranted at times–making her character extremely unlikeable.
Take out the “Frey Factor” and the story itself is alright, but the dialogue and how it is presented..it’s just awful. Odd placements of 20-second gameplay that leads to another cutscene, lingering on the faces of characters at the end of scenes, and weird conversational choices that can only be had with certain characters.
Another major issue I faced was the graphics. The quality is subpar to say the least, even with three different options for the PS5. Character’s movements and speech are giving me the impression that none of them were motion-captured. Not even Frey. It makes the awkward exchanges Frey has that much more difficult to sit through. NPC’s also perform a lot of the same looping actions while speaking to Frey, examples including hands moving up and down, heading bobbing, and frantic looking back and forth.
Performance mode makes it look like early PS4 games–but loses little frames while Frey is bounding around. Quality-focused drops the game to 30 FPS or less, but bumps the graphics up a tad. Just a tad. Ray-tracing mode makes Forspoken unplayable on the PS5, making it a useless option that eats up resources.
Besides the general problems with the graphics, Forspoken’s setting is just uninteresting. The lands are covered in what’s called the “Break,” destroying everything it comes into contact with. Grass, shrubs, trees–most foliage, in fact–is a dry-brown/desert green color, littered across vast open hills, rocky overhangs, and cliffs. It is a sea of brown and gray, with splashes of inland waterways and lakes to break up the monotony. Most buildings are plain, with nothing architecturally interesting about them.
The environment doesn’t just lack visual aspects, it’s also quite empty. Places to explore are far and few between, with the rest of the empty space being filled with enemies or random items. Plus, there is only a perceived open-world, because Frey is blocked off by massive walls or rock formations. Sometimes zones have stronger Break, keeping Frey back until she’s strong enough to handles the enemies within.
Speaking of enemies, the combat is the most frustrating I’ve had to deal with in awhile. No matter what settings I adjust, combat still feels clunky and uneven. The concept is amazing, but how it was applied is the issue. Frey dashes across the ground at lighting speed, being able to avoid damage with little effort. The downside being she makes whatever parkour move she wants during these dashes. If you want to flip over an enemy, well, that’s up to Frey. Another major negative is using her magic in unison with the speed boost and parkour.
Her spells are not quick to release, deal little damage at times (depending on the enemy’s weakness), and it is easy for the lock-on function to lose its focus or switch to another enemy when trying to reorient Frey after several mid-air dashes. As an added side note, combat elements were being introduced at odd times. For example, my first combat encounter didn’t teach me how to dodge attacks, just the basics of attacking an enemy.
Forspoken has some interesting components, like nail designs that boosts Frey’s powers, and an easy-to-use crafting/upgrade system. The Cuff is a far better character than Frey herself, and comes with plenty of useful tools. He can scan a large area to show Frey what’s around her (enemies, chests, boss fights), pinpoint enemy weaknesses, and can even block certain attacks. There are also some cute additions, like a cats that lead you to materials and familiars that show up at any safe houses unlocked. Certain chests need be unlocked by solving a puzzle, far more interesting than the usual locks seen in RPGs. However, these little details can not make up for the three major components of this game that just don’t work.
With a big name like Square Enix backing Forspoken, and the development team being one that has made a triple AAA title before, I’m extremely disappointed. While the frame loss issues I suffered are likely due to me playing it on the PS5, it still doesn’t justify the problem. As harsh as this may sound, this game just seems like a title Square Enix pushed out to say they did something in-between making Final Fantasy. It looks incomplete, feels incomplete, and brought a small amount of entertainment for the absorbent price tag it holds.