Forspoken is a Magical Ride to Nothing( Review)

Forspoken Has Lots of Flare But Most of it Doesn’t Stick
Frey on her Adventures
Frey on her Adventures(Andrew Hamilton)
Published: Jan. 28, 2023 at 3:17 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) -

Reviewed for PS5

Code Provided by Publisher

Want to know what the hardest thing in gaming to make fun is? Movement. Get your character from point A to point B in an entertaining way . The 3D Mario games have probably the best handle on it but for my money Infamous Second Son, released in 2014 for the PS4, featured some of the most dynamic and varied movement ever featured in an open world game. It took the mundane task of traversal and turned it into a trick filled, super-powered fiesta where you’d shoot around as a beam of light then transform into smoke rising up a pipe and shooting out high into the sky. The variety and uniquely suited travel style really elevated the super-hero fantasy, because most games give you a car or a glitchy horse to move around in massive worlds. Which is not bad at all, but is undeniably lame when compared to doing gainers off the side of buildings then neon sprinting to your next destination. Now take that and put it on a more chaotic field, set in a ruined fantasy world and you get this glorious combination of magic and parkour. Developer Luminous Games’ debut game Forspoken -their first full fledge title since working on Final Fantasy XV- released January 23rd for PlayStation 5 and PC offers some of the most marvelous movement systems, an awesomely magnificent open-world and combat that makes massive fights into a ballet of magical strikes emphasized by beautiful particles that dazzle as you strike down monstrous chimera like creatures. It’s star-studded development team alongside some solid world building helps create a fantasy world that feels both incredibly unique and yet somewhat too familiar. With a generic but mostly fine story whose main twists are a little too telegraphed, the star of the show is naturally the incredible Luminous engine and of course the awe-inspiring magic that our protagonist must learn. Unfortunately, much of the open-world falls victim to the worst of the gameplay tropes like repetitive missions, random collectibles and a real lack of meaty sub-quests. So was this endearing newcomer able to overcome some of it’s shortcomings or is this another open-world game like any other?


There are some beautiful locations
There are some beautiful locations(Andrew Hamilton)

Forspoken sees Frey Holland an orphan teen, growing up on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Down on her luck and running out of goodwill, Frey discovers a magical vambrace that Tron’s her straight into another world. Athia is a beautiful realm, marked with dense foliage, gorgeous vistas and uh friendly wildlife. I loved the way the world still felt mostly untamed, little to no man-made structures, a strong juxtaposition to the busy and sky scraping tall structures of New York. Every part of this world is jaw-dropping to look at, especially as you use magic-parkour to jump elegantly across the fields. But gorgeous views aren’t the only thing waiting for Frey. Due to unknown reasons the previously super-powered Planeteer-esq matriarchs have gone completely off the rails. The Tantas –as they are known, used to be defenders but now thanks to the corruption of the break they’ve gone away and become tyrants. Which sucks because Frey could use more friendly faces. The early story does a lot of lore dumping as it tries to build out the world in a meaningful way. Endearing you to the locals while introducing the first big bad. The voice acting was consistent and solid throughout but at times the actions of those on screen were not at all convincing. But before I dig into the story heres a list of stale game mechanics that I wish had not been present in this game.

-NPC movement speed is slower than your NORMAL WALK

-Stopping the gameplay every time someone wants to chat

-forced stealth sections

-pointless crafting mechanics I barely used

To say Frey is a reluctant hero is an understatement. Her depiction as a girl, abandoned and thrown away by life was expertly delivered by Ella Balinska, who captured her trust issue, take care of numero uno approach to life with sass and conviction. I loved Frey’s character as she learned to soften up and do more for people even if it doesn’t benefit her. Sadly, that’s about where Frey’s charm stays, I honestly felt like much of the narrative did nothing with this unique protagonist that we hadn’t seen replicated time and time again before. Likewise, the Tanta’s all deliver enchanting performances, showing minds corrupted and on the brink of destruction. All that said, dude, Cuff...shut the hell up. Frey’s talking bracelet nicknamed Cuff, sarcastically snarks at Frey throughout the game, offering little back and forth that quickly overstay their welcome. Luckily you can turn him down to only story lines in the accessibility options. The writing seemed to assume I’d care more about these characters after little to no interactions. This made every character’s dynamics just wholly bland and robbed most of the narrative kind of overly intense for what felt like no reason. Not to mention some characters have a ton of expression when talking but many, MANY barely move when addressing Frey.

Frey in the Canyon
Frey in the Canyon(Square-Enix)

OH OH BUT ALSO BEFORE WE CAN EVEN GET INTO THAT! THIS FREAKING GAME HAS SO. MANY. TRANSITIONS. Fade to black, dip to black, oop hold on...we have to pause all gameplay for this conversation with your enchanted piece of jewelry. I mean, I get it you want me to pay attention but JESUS stop taking the control away from me constantly. This stutter and stop dialogue and storytelling really made it hard to get momentum going from a narrative standpoint. Despite its stellar writers, the story has so much of its world building buried in endless text documents, which is a staple of open-world games. However, I can’t help feeling stretching these stories out into side quests or interesting encounters out in the open world would have built out this fantasy epic a bit more. It really does help to show not just tell.


Where Forspoken really shines is its wonderous use of arcane stepping parkour. Like stepping out on imaginary flying skates that propel you through the air, the magic parkour system makes navigating the open world a joy, especially once you’ve unlocked all of the movement abilities. There is just so much to love about how Frey steps build into leaps which then fire whip to a ledge only to backflip off and shoot up into the air. This fluid momentum is extra great when in the performance graphics mode at a flawless 60 fps. No matter how much was going on, no matter how many enemies were currently exploding while Frey hit a REAL backflip, I never once had a slowdown in gameplay or framerate. I love it and the world is clearly designed with this in mind...mostly. On more than one occasion I ran into a situation where I was heading toward a waypoint and tried to take my own unique approach to getting there. Only the game had decided already that there is a correct way to access that point, so I couldn’t string together a clever combination of moves to slingshot my way there. This really sucked some of the life out of the traversal in the end because inherently the movements feel free and wonderful but hard guidelines and ridge walls quickly set in the reality of it. In the hub city of Cipal you can’t even impress the locals with some sick tricks, you have to REGULAR run everywhere. All this is only made more maddening when you feel how truly amazing the magic assisted Ezio gameplay is in combination with your Avatar power set during combat. Frey effortlessly changes between her 4 elemental power sets delivering color coded strikes, counters and dashing dodges with all the finesse and grace of a Russian ballet dancer. Quick change moves that allow you to swap between styles of magic only add to the repertoire of absolute styling you can do on your enemies. This game lives by the Rock Lee motto: “Do em dirty in front of they squad!” The only problem I really had with the combat is the lock on had difficulty staying consistent and the camera really struggled with the angles Frey can take in battle while still trying to keep your foe in sight. This is especially noticeable in boss fights. It’s unfortunate this mechanic doesn’t maintain its luster through every aspect of the game when doing wizard kicks in Jordans is the best thing since the invention of the heelies.

Let’s circle back to the open world for a sec. Like I said before, it’s beautiful but rigid and full of enemies to beat up. It’s also chalk full of everything that makes an open world feel unfulfilling. Repetitive missions, disappointing rewards, no real sense of discovery and a lack of meaningful side activities really let the fantastic world Luminous created down. Take for instance the locked labyrinths, an activity you run into every so often that usually grants you a piece of gear, One of three items you can customize. These dungeon crawls feature nearly identical layouts every. Single. Time. Dive into gazebo portal. Fight through 3 to 4 rooms full of varying degrees of enemies, find the final room and defeat the Steven Universe bad guy at the end. Open a weird egg and bam. New gear. It’s not that this isn’t fun, because the combat is fantastic throughout, but these missions never really evolve. No new mechanics, no incentive to take alternate routes or potential of discovering something truly unique. Maybe games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War Ragnarök have spoiled me but side content like this Ubisoft style, “do a thing so there is something to do” just isn’t doing it for me. If I didn’t like running around and barbequing everything in the game so much, I wouldn’t have sought out any of this stuff.



A Game that is Mildly Enjoyable but does not exceed expectations
A Game that is Mildly Enjoyable but does not exceed expectations(Andrew Hamilton)

Forspoken is a kind of weird game for new studio like Luminous Games, full of unique creature designs, a world with so much potential to be a new fantasy staple and movement and combat that stand out from other fantasy RPGs. The particle filled gameplay has all the shine of a AAA game without any of the follow through. Like watching a beautiful swan dive off the high dive board straight into a belly flop. It’s combat and movement are fun but in the world they exist in I don’t think its enough. Ultimately, Forspoken is a decent game that had the potential to be something extraordinary, sadly a generic chosen-one story, repetitive missions and bloated bland open-world stick Forspoken as a game not likely to satisfy many adventurers cravings. Forspoken gets a 6 for being just good. If you enjoyed this review check out a few of our others and for more on gaming news and reviews subscribe to Hardwired. Till next time, I’m Andrew Hamilton