As the first game from Luminous Productions, a company under Square Enix's umbrella, Forspoken has a lot to live up to.
Players will dive into the world as Frey, a New Yorker who finds herself transported to the fictional world of Athia with a smart-mouthed bracelet (aptly dubbed "Cuff") as her most trusted companion. Frey grapples with her sudden magical powers and mission to find her way home, while also becoming a savior to a world she has never lived in.
Forspoken follows the traditional fish-out-of-water fantasy storyline classic to memorable childhood stories, leaning heavily on the themes from Frey's favorite tale, Alice in Wonderland. A girl looking to escape her current life circumstances finds herself suddenly transported to another world, where only she can take on the corruption caused by the queen (or, in this case, the Tantas).
While not an entirely original tale, Forspoken shakes things up just enough to make it feel fresh.
A game with a beautiful story despite the cumbersome combat.
Developer: Luminous Productions
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS5 and PC
Release date: Jan. 24, 2022
Though Frey's sass and 'tude earned some cringe reactions from players before the game's release, her dialogue and quips are often well-suited to her circumstances. I often found myself chuckling at Frey and Cuff's snarky conversations as I glided around the landscape, watching their bond grow the further through Athia they ventured together.
The thing that's meant to make Forspoken unique from other fantasy action RPGs is the magic parkour, letting Frey zip around the land at lightning speeds and conduct impossible combat combos — and though the parkour is fun in theory, the learning curve is steep.
It took more than 12 hours of gameplay before I felt as though I had some semblance of familiarity with the magic parkour, but when attempting to combine it with Frey's spells in combat, I often found myself frantically pushing buttons and hoping for the best. While being able to zip away from an enemy is a handy defense in a pinch (and one I utilized often), the speed at which Frey moves with a small press of the circle button makes adapting to your foes' moves cumbersome.
Trying to position myself behind shielded enemies was hard to nail, and even with the auto-lock function aiding me when trying to single out opponents, it was still incredibly easy to get overwhelmed in combat and fire aimlessly.
Those who love the challenge of mastering difficult combat techniques might love spending the time to acclimate to its touchy and quick reactions, but it isn't for the impatient.
All that said, when coupled with the beautiful landscapes, heart-touching (and heart-breaking) characters, and a story that makes you feel nostalgic without being yet another retelling, there's no shortage of feel-good content in Forspoken.
The world of Athia is, quite simply, beautiful. Players can easily spend tens of hours venturing through the lands to scout for treasure and detours without making much progress through the storyline — but don't forget to take pictures along the way to bring back to the kids in Cipal. Even the visibly-corrupted enemies littering the land won't detract from all the world has to offer and all that players have to explore.
Forspoken releases on PS5 and PC on Jan. 24.