Perhaps Cringe is simply part of the Reformation
Forspoken brought a lot of tempers to a boil with the latest demo: There are voices that are euphorically looking forward to the magical parkour, the unusual combat system and the exciting design, but there are also people who are not at all enthusiastic about the previous presentation. The fights are too confusing, the missions are monotonous, the world is something you’ve seen hundreds of times before.
We wanted to take a closer look at the game and so I went to Hamburg, where Square Enix gave me three chapters from the game. This preview made completely different impressions on me than the demo and of course also gave much more detailed insights into the history behind Frey, Reif and the mysterious kingdom of Athia. You can already see many of these scenes in the video above!
An awkward moment rarely comes alone
Forspoken has a big problem with the audio as it tries to be cooler than it is. This often leads to embarrassing moments. The protagonist Frey Holland comes from the New York district of “Hell’s Kitchen” and belongs to a gang there. Through a magical portal, she ends up in Athia: A conflict that many already know under the media concept “Fish Out Of Water”. But because Frey struggles to maintain her tough shell in this completely foreign world, this must be reflected in her inner monologue. Unfortunately, too often a mixture of swear words and outdated proverbs is used here. It often looks like someone very old has tried to imitate a teenager – and we all know how awkward that can be.
But maybe you just can’t replicate the NY attitude into German. While this issue is altered throughout the story as Frey’s character changes, we have a similar issue with the Magic Bracelet: Circlet. Here we experience a constant exchange of blows – whether during serious cutscenes or incidentally in combat. That’s hard to bear because it never seems coherent. Even the game knows it, because it offers you the possibility to reduce their spells to the minimum in the menu. Unfortunately, the open world also seems to me similarly exaggerated, because just as Forspoken did not invent the concept of the “fish out of water”, it has not revolutionized the open world, although it sometimes wants to give the impression.
So Frey pulls out her cell phone to capture beautiful landscapes that are similar to many other games. As Alex had already described, in contrast to other worlds, in Forspoken there is not only the horizontal, in which one can let off steam, but also the vertical. Although the magical parkour is one of my favorite elements in the game, I have to admit that it is basically a classic working off of interesting-looking points on the minimap.
This processing is particularly annoying when the camera does not play along. Because with monster herds in the vicinity, the camera likes to whirl along and Frey arbitrarily loses focus on fixed opponents. Despite the nerve-wracking flaws, I had a lot of fun with Forspoken, because
Sometimes “newly homemade” is better than well copied
When I think of releases like Valkyrie Elysium, Star Ocean: The Divine Force, Live A Live or the Crisis Core Remaster, Square Enix has salvaged a lot of old brands this year. Therefore, I am pleased to see a completely new IP that not only dares to establish a new name, but generally overturns some tried and tested concepts.
The team behind Forspoken is Luminous Productions, which is made up of half members of Final Fantasy XV, according to head of studio and game director Takeshi Aramaki. The developers have not only made it their task to create a magical world that is in no way inferior to representatives of the genre, they have also established their own engine. This is called the Luminous Engine and was essential for the world editor, the VFX for the magic spells and the loading times of the magic pack, according to Aramaki. This implies that other engines are not up to the task, but as described above and as can be seen in the video, the Luminous Engine is not flawless either.
Regardless of whether the in-house tech is a revolution for the current gen, Frospoken reflects well the approach that Luminous wants to combine art and technology. Be it through the costume design, through the pictorial representation of the story in paintings on the walls of the virtual houses or through a combat system, which is enriched with accessories such as fingernails or capes. Forspoken makes an effort to combine the visual with pragmatics, thereby creating utility for the combat system.
Where Luminous fails to offer a fresh perspective on an open world and instead reproduces one of dozens, they smooth things over with the combat system. While there’s a sort of “rock-paper-scissors” system where attacks are stronger against one enemy type and grant resistance to another, it still feels new here. So you have to rely on the long and medium range in combat to get the most out of Frey’s magic. In addition, the magical parkour increases the fun of fighting and encourages you to actively use the environment in battle. This dynamic is unusual and fresh at the same time.
It is the same with history. Here you work with a mainly female cast and a matriarchal structure. As a result, you have to take new perspectives and follow the events from a side that you are not otherwise used to. For example, family structures are reversed: women are the providers, men have an exclusively advisory and supportive role. It’s exciting to follow this angle and see what Luminous makes of it as the game progresses.
But even without gender roles, it’s much more important how characters are characterized and I can’t complain about that either. In addition to the often criticized dynamic between Frey and Reif or Frey’s peculiar way of speaking, I found the remaining characters all understandable. Already in the first chapters there was a dramatic and emotional turn that took me extremely far and will logically shape Frey. Above all, the motivations of the opponents called Tantas should be exciting. Hopefully they have more motivation than Marvel’s villains. Unfortunately, we haven’t had that much insight into their machinations, but they seem to be essential for the political system behind Athia.
Overall, I’m very excited for the full version, the first chapters were a lot of fun. This applies to both the combat system and the perspective on the story. I’m a little disappointed with the focus on the demo, which gave me a very different impression of the game than I had in the preview. Above all, I’m looking forward to the boss fights and fights in the open world with a particularly large number of parkour options.
Hi, its Martin, I am a gamer and a writer. I love exploring games of varied genres and writing blogs about them.