January has come and gone and with it, brought one of the most hyped AAA titles of early 2023, Forspoken. By now you have likely seen plenty of reviews and read multiple articles about the game. They may have told you “stay away from this game,” “don’t buy it,” or even said “WTF?” You’ve probably been wondering, “Is it true?,” “Can it really be that bad?,” “What does WTF mean?” Let me help you with the definitive Forspoken review!
Illuminating the path
First, let’s set the stage by talking about how we got here. At E3 2006, two months after the release of the highly-rated Final Fantasy XII, Square Enix put the world on notice as they released a trailer for a brand new Final Fantasy spin-off, Final Fantasy XIII Versus. We all watched in awe as the dark-haired protagonist was able to manipulate weapons, use magical powers, and do some super dope acrobatics. As the years passed, the title slowly disappeared from the spotlight. Final Fantasy XIII and XIV get released in 2009 and 2010, respectively, but nothing on the much-hyped XIII Versus.
At E3 2012, Square Enix revealed a tech demo called Agni’s Philosophy to showcase their brand new Luminous Engine game production environment for the eighth-gen consoles. 2016’s Final Fantasy 15 would be the first game to use this engine, and in 2018, Luminous Productions became a subsidiary of Square Enix. In 2020, Luminous Productions announced its first AAA IP’s working title, Project Athia. In 2021, the game was officially titled Forspoken.
Aches of Athia
I will give you the bad news first. The story in Forspoken is really poor. Throughout the first 2 to 3 hours of the game, I felt less and less interested for many reasons. I didn’t care about Frey due to her angst and apathy towards her own journey, and the “witty” banter between Frey and Cuff is anything but. I didn’t care about the Tauntas/ Rulers/ Protectors because they never did anything to endear me to them.
It was hard to care about the people of Athia, even during the “emotional” moments because of the Chuck E Cheese animatronic animations and painful dialogue between them. Not to mention that you’re locked in one place during conversations and for an awkward 10 seconds after the conversation is finished. The world and character development are a 3 out of 10 as a whole. And for the love of God, I wish they would have stopped with the fade-to-black scene changes after everything.
On to more positive experiences. The world is massive and the draw distance is extremely impressive. As someone who enjoys GTA, Ghost of Tsushima, Horizon Zero Dawn, and other open-world games, I did appreciate the wide-open world that Forspoken offers. There are tons of enemies, treasures, and key points to travel to. Plus, the unique Hermes-style of traversing the land called Flow, is quite fun. Parkour is nothing new to the gaming world, with Assassin’s Creed setting the standard many years ago. Forspoken’s parkour allows players to move incredibly fast, and it’s awesome, especially when you hit the water going at high speeds.
There are some beautiful areas within the game, however, those same beautiful areas tend to have a weird filter effect as if the white balance is off, making most scenes feel flat. The cities are oddly large and feel empty, lonely, and a pain to walk through since they will not allow you to use Flow inside of them. Another problem with the cities is the obvious reuse of textures and colors, making it all blend together.
The character designs are pretty lackluster, even the large-scale enemies aren’t that impressive. The humanoid monsters tend to be a hodge-podge of similar character models with different texture maps on top. Some tend to have similar powers as well. Most creatures follow that same model.
The core gameplay mechanics in Forspoken are pretty solid. Similar to Final Fantasy XV, it’s a fast-paced action RPG. The Flow mechanic is imperative in every battle and they make it very apparent. They still haven’t fixed the camera problems from Final Fantasy XV which meant I kept losing myself in battles. There is a lock-on system but it tended to disappear mid-fight, leaving me frantically trying to run to a safe spot to re-lock on my opponent.
The journey home
Forspoken is a simple pickup-and-play magic-based action RPG. You’re essentially an elemental mage in a world similar to Final Fantasy XV, but without any of the charm and color of Final Fantasy XV. Many complained that they didn’t begin with a melee weapon, or that they only had one element to start. I initially agreed with this sentiment but by the 3rd hour of the game, I already felt like an overpowered character blowing everything up.
Is Forspoken a bad game worthy of the mediocre 66% it currently holds on Metacritic? In my humble opinion, no. The core battle mechanics are actually fun, especially for casual gamers. There is definitely some bad but overall it feels like a Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 76 situation; two games that were greatly improved with post-launch updates. While the story won’t change, you can take away the multiple fade-to-black cutscenes. You can do a texture pack to fix the cityscapes, enemies, and even some of the magic. If you are able to push through the horrible story, this could become a great “pass the time” game for anyone. For the completionists out there, it’s roughly 40-50 hours long.
I won’t tell you how to spend your money, but I will say that for me, I can’t justify paying full price.
This review is based on a digital code provided by Square Enix. Forspoken is available now on PS5.