After years of anticipation, Square Enix has finally released its highly publicized “first next-gen IP” to the world. The creators made bold promises and Sony fueled the hype, but ultimately, Forspoken failed to live up to the colossal expectations it set. As Sony’s first “console exclusive” of 2023, is it worth your time and investment? Dive into our comprehensive review to find out.
A Trip Down Memory Lane: Project Athia’s Transformation into Forspoken
Do you recall the buzz surrounding Project Athia? It was back in June 2020 (prior to the PS5’s release) that Square Enix first introduced the game, proudly proclaiming it as “the first next-gen IP.” Over the following three years, fans were treated to a steady stream of promotional materials that showcased the strong partnership between the game’s development and the PlayStation 5 platform. Developers eagerly praised Sony’s hardware, while the corporation behind PlayStation ensured the title was featured in every possible avenue. Eventually, the story evolved into Forspoken, and after spending more than a dozen hours immersed in its game world, one thing is clear: Square Enix missed out on a golden opportunity.
The collaboration between Square Enix and Sony in developing Forspoken created high expectations for fans and gamers alike. Despite the immense hype and attention, the final product failed to deliver on its grand promises. What could have been a groundbreaking game for the next generation of consoles turned out to be a missed opportunity for both companies.
Forspoken: Delving into the World of Frey Holland, the “Tough Woman” Protagonist
Forspoken introduces players to Frey Holland, a New Yorker who finds herself caught up in a life-changing turn of events. On what was meant to be a birthday celebration, Frey loses everything and uncovers a shiny, talking Cuff bracelet. This enigmatic artifact transports her to the captivating kingdom of Athia. However, Frey quickly realizes that Athia is under attack from a devastating plague called “Break,” and she appears to be the only one immune. Naturally, Frey embarks on a quest to save this endangered world.
Forspoken’s storyline is undermined by its clichéd nature, which struggles to hold players’ interest from the outset. Only towards the end of the 14-hour adventure do unexpected plot twists begin to emerge, but many players may have already lost patience by then. The narrative seems to be an ill-conceived combination of several basic fantasy adventures, with little effort put into thoughtful storytelling.
Frey Holland: An Unlikable Protagonist
A major problem with Forspoken is its protagonist, Frey Holland. Frey is one of the most irritating characters encountered in recent gaming history. Her reluctance to help others and her abrasive demeanor make the story increasingly unenjoyable. The developers’ attempt to create a genuinely “tough lady” has resulted in a character that is difficult to like or empathize with.
The decision to make Frey frequently swear, presumably to emphasize her “difficult” background, feels forced and out of place within the game world. The relationship between Frey and Cuff, the talking bracelet, is equally problematic. Their interactions often seem contrived and unnatural, leaving a sour impression on the player.
Inappropriate Dialogues and Unremarkable NPCs
The dialogues in Forspoken are ill-suited to the game’s setting. Instead of allowing players to assume the role of an engaging character who encourages exploration of Athia, the narrative makes participation in the story unappealing and disengaging.
Throughout her journey, Frey encounters numerous NPCs. Unfortunately, none of them leave a lasting impression on the player. Square Enix fails to provide engaging side stories that could help immerse players in the world. Rather, every conversation boils down to completing tasks that fail to elicit any emotional investment or connection to the game world.
Lackluster Cutscenes and Graphics: A Lost Opportunity
Forspoken’s cutscenes are a mixed bag, with some that are well-executed and others that appear dated, reminiscent of early previous-generation graphics. NPC facial expressions, in particular, are notably lackluster and unconvincing.
The developers’ decision to artificially dim scenes for effect falls flat and often leads to abrupt breaks in the form of a completely black screen. This graphical inconsistency seems to be emblematic of the entire production, as the visuals in Square Enix’s title are disappointingly uneven.
Gameplay Mechanics: A Glimmer of Hope?
Despite the shortcomings in storytelling and graphics, Forspoken does offer some redeeming qualities in terms of gameplay mechanics. Players can explore Athia’s vast open-world, complete with lush landscapes and diverse environments. Additionally, the game’s combat system provides a range of magical abilities and powers that can make for exhilarating encounters with enemies.
However, these positive elements are often overshadowed by the game’s narrative and character issues. Forspoken would have greatly benefited from a more cohesive and engaging story, as well as a protagonist that players could connect with on a deeper level.
- Also Read: Oxide Room 104 Review – The Sinister Motel
The Impact of Forspoken’s Shortcomings on the Gaming Experience
The issues that plague Forspoken, from its clichéd narrative and unlikable protagonist to the uneven graphics and lackluster cutscenes, all contribute to a less-than-satisfactory gaming experience. Although the gameplay mechanics and combat system offer some enjoyment, they are insufficient to counterbalance the game’s weaknesses.
As a result, Forspoken’s potential as a next-gen IP is left unfulfilled, and players are left with a game that falls short of the lofty expectations set by Square Enix and Sony. The ambition to create a new and engaging IP was commendable, but the execution ultimately missed the mark.
The Importance of a Compelling Story and Characters
Forspoken’s shortcomings highlight the significance of a captivating storyline and well-developed characters in the gaming experience. A truly immersive and enjoyable game requires not only innovative gameplay mechanics and graphics but also a narrative and cast of characters that resonate with players on an emotional level.
As the gaming industry continues to evolve, developers must prioritize the creation of rich and engaging stories, alongside technical advancements, to deliver memorable and satisfying experiences for players. Forspoken serves as a cautionary tale, demonstrating that a strong storyline and well-developed characters should never be an afterthought in the game development process.
The Future of Forspoken and Lessons Learned
Despite the disappointment surrounding Forspoken, there remains potential for improvement in future installments or updates to the game. By addressing the issues with the narrative, characters, and graphics, Square Enix has the opportunity to redeem the Forspoken IP and deliver a more fulfilling gaming experience.
It is crucial for game developers to learn from the shortcomings of titles like Forspoken and to focus on creating compelling stories and memorable characters that resonate with players. As the gaming industry advances, it is vital to remember that a truly successful game is one that combines innovative gameplay and technology with a captivating narrative and well-developed characters, providing a truly immersive and enjoyable experience for players.
Forspoken Fails to Fully Leverage the PS5’s Capabilities
Forspoken’s technical sphere is an intriguing subject. Although the game presents a vast world that could potentially captivate players with its scope, it is evident that the developers have not harnessed the full potential of the PlayStation 5. During more intense gameplay, the dynamic resolution suffers considerably, resulting in a visually poor experience with foggy graphics that detract from the overall immersion.
Unimpressive Visuals and Lighting in the World of Athia
Athia, Forspoken’s setting, does not offer many awe-inspiring views. Frequently, it seems that the developers struggled with the lighting, failing to properly highlight certain areas or the protagonist. The Luminous Engine, a proprietary engine used by the Japanese developers, does not take full advantage of the PS5’s capabilities. Regardless of the mode chosen, players may experience occasional drops in animation quality.
Despite these technical shortcomings, the game’s soundtrack is fairly enjoyable. While it may not be memorable enough to listen to outside of gameplay for weeks on end, the orchestral pieces provide a fitting ambience for the game’s setting.
Exploring an Empty Athia
In many areas, Athia feels empty and devoid of life. The developers aimed to encourage exploration by giving the protagonist, Frey, an engaging exploration system that only truly unfolds after several hours of gameplay. As the protagonist develops her abilities, she traverses the environment more smoothly, and her animations are impressively fluid. The “magic parkour” featured in the marketing campaign is well-executed, but it may initially feel a bit chaotic.
Fighting Mechanics: A Gradually Improving Experience
The combat system in Forspoken did not initially impress but grew more engaging as the game progressed. Frey wields elemental powers, requiring players to switch between abilities strategically. As her skills develop, the gameplay begins to resemble a third-person shooter, with Frey using various abilities in place of firearms. Although not all abilities are effective, when combined with swift running, jumping, and dodging, the combat experience in this Square Enix title is enjoyable. The progression system, though not groundbreaking, effectively supports the development of combat and exploration skills.
A Slow-Burning Title with a Rewarding Payoff
Forspoken is a game that becomes more enjoyable the longer it is played. Whether it’s due to acclimating to the subpar dialogue or the gameplay improvements in the latter half of the game, the overall experience becomes increasingly engaging. While it may not reach the high standards expected of a Square Enix title, it is a significant improvement from its initial launch. The story, too, sees gradual enhancements, with the most compelling narrative elements appearing toward the end of the game.
A Dynamic Game World with Opportunities for Expansion
Forspoken is a game that strongly encourages combat and exploration, especially in the latter half. Unfortunately, the variety of regular enemy types is somewhat limited, which might leave players wishing for more diversity in their encounters. Despite this, the game features several unique and fascinating battles against formidable foes and intriguing beasts, which keeps the gameplay fresh and engaging.
Moreover, although the world of Athia may initially appear empty, the story provides an explanation for this desolation. The game offers a plethora of side activities, ensuring that players who immerse themselves in the gameplay can easily spend around 50 hours in this enchanting world. Square Enix has crafted a vast, expansive universe that, when approached with curiosity and enthusiasm, can deliver countless hours of enjoyment.
An Intriguing World Hindered by Flawed Storytelling
Upon starting Forspoken, it’s evident that Square Enix had the potential to create a truly immersive experience. The captivating world of Athia features a fascinating backdrop for events, yet the overall storytelling falls short. The tale is overshadowed by a weak script and an overabundance of unnecessary dialogue, making it difficult to fully appreciate the intriguing land that lies beneath the surface.
Athia is a world filled with secrets, and the plot surrounding its rulers is initially quite engaging. Regrettably, the execution of the story leaves much to be desired, dampening the overall impact of the game’s immersive elements.
The Limitations of Updates and Patches
It is important to acknowledge that many of Forspoken’s issues may not be resolved with a simple update or patch. While developers can certainly enhance aspects such as lighting, facial expressions, and optimizing the game for PlayStation 5, these improvements are unlikely to address the core issues with the characters’ dialogue or the game’s main storyline.
Ultimately, Forspoken offers players an expansive and intriguing world filled with combat and exploration opportunities. While the game does have its shortcomings in terms of enemy variety and storytelling, the vast universe of Athia still has the potential to captivate players and provide a deeply engaging gaming experience.
Forspoken: Is it Worth Your Time?
Sony secured a two-year console exclusivity deal for Forspoken, a decision that now seems questionable. Microsoft enthusiasts might argue that the developers needed those two years to create a well-conceived game that truly utilizes the potential of the console.
Square Enix did present an appealing world, but the subpar narrative, lackluster main plot, and insufficient time spent on polishing the game leave a lot to be desired. It remains uncertain if the Japanese developers will attempt to salvage this highly-promoted IP, but fans can only hope that the studio’s upcoming projects this year will be executed with greater care and creativity.
Forspoken had the potential to be a groundbreaking game for the next generation of consoles, but unfortunately, it fails to live up to the hype and expectations set by Square Enix and Sony. Hindered by a clichéd narrative, an unlikable protagonist, and inconsistent graphics, Forspoken falls short of delivering a truly immersive and enjoyable experience for players. While the game offers some redeeming qualities in terms of combat and exploration, these positive elements are overshadowed by its numerous shortcomings. Ultimately, Forspoken serves as a cautionary tale for the importance of strong storytelling and well-developed characters in creating a successful gaming experience. As it stands, Forspoken is a hard sell for those looking for a next-gen adventure, and players may want to consider waiting for future updates or installments before investing their time and money.
- Rewarding combat, despite its occasionally chaotic nature
- Engaging exploration with "magic parkour" providing a fun element
- An intriguing world that sparks curiosity
- Disappointing main storyline that fails to capitalize on the IP's potential
- Poor dialogue exacerbates the plot's shortcomings
- Inconsistent graphics and numerous technical issues
- The protagonist, Frey, is difficult to empathize with, and her actions negatively impact the overall experience
- Frequent animation drops in every mode