I’ve been excited about Forspoken since it was revealed as Project Athia in 2020. The water fishing game set in a medieval fantasy world was developed by Luminous Productions – an internal team. of Square Enix helped develop Final Fantasy XV, a game I quite enjoyed despite its problems. It also features the talent of Uncharted series creator Amy Hennig and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story writer Gary Whitta on the narrative side, which makes me enjoy playing through protagonist Frey Holland’s journey.
In theory, that’s exactly the kind of role-playing game I enjoy spending time playing. After a few hours of practice and talking to some of the team about the decisions behind Forspoken’s design, I’m even more excited for January, even if I still have some apprehensions about the IP at first. first of this studio.
This preview focuses solely on the story, with the team encouraging me to worry less about discovering Athia and more about finding out what happens on the main road of the second, third, and fifth chapters. by Forspoken. In Chapter Two, Frey has just arrived at Athia, still not knowing how or why she got there – questions that remain unanswered across the chapters I play. Frey is a woman from New York City with a history of getting in and out of foster homes. As a result, she struggles to trust anyone.
In fact, she struggles to trust anything, including the talking vampire on her arm she calls Cuff. For me, the dynamic between Frey and Cuff stands out, namely how much fun it can be.
There was a moment when Cuff pissed Frey off, and she told him to shut up, adding, “You’re stupid,” and I laughed. Frey’s out-of-the-ordinary personality is largely due to the book, but her initial indifference in this alien fantasy world is amusing at times. Over the few chapters I play, she becomes attached to Athia and its plight against corruption, or Break as Frey calls it, turning what was once a peaceful and protected enclave into a place full of dangerous and heartless monsters. But her apprehension about getting involved when she first arrived was understandable.
One of the biggest surprises for me was the dialogue, with almost no shotgun blasts, the much-criticized Joss Whedon-style lines in the 30-second trailer released in August. A few lines here and there still retain that tone, but unlike that trailer, Luminous Productions spreads them out enough in Forspoken for it to feel organic. And get to know Frey as a character, these types of lines make sense, love it or hate it.
I asked creative producer Raio Mitsuno about this trailer and the backlash that followed.
“I’m really glad you mentioned it,” Mitsuno told me at the preview. “It was a social media post that took a bunch of dialogue we used in previous trailers and put it together into a new video. We know that once people get a chance to actually play the game and get introduced to Frey and see what she’s going through. [and] interactions… her personality came out as a natural representation of the character we wanted to create. To be honest, it was quite difficult to portray this complex dynamic character in our ad campaign because we had limited time. We also don’t want to reveal everything about the story, so we’re trying to keep everything a secret, but we want to pique curiosity and interest in the character.”
Mitsuno said the team believes in Frey, loves her personality and what she stands for, and that people will understand her as they play the game. But the team is also aware of how a lack of context might portray her. Ultimately, Mitsuno says that moment was a learning experience.
After playing through the tutorial to learn how Forspoken’s magic-based combat works, I make my way to Cipal, the central capital of Athia and the kingdom’s last safe bastion, still untouched. affected by Break. I fought a few mob enemies before encountering the dragon boss, and the fight is pretty tough right now. Getting used to a battle system that uses only magic is strange at first and takes a while to click on. But it really clicked as the spells at my disposal unfolded, and I realized that while every combat move is magic, each of these spells translates into a mechanism I’m familiar with. in other games. One of my spells was a string of mid-range rocks that shot out of my hand, like a machine gun. Another was a rock explosion – a grenade. I also have a shield spell, which can blow enemies backwards when detonated.
And later, when I unlock new fire based spells, I have access to a flaming sword that gives me the short range attacks I feel I need and a flaming spear that gives excellent long range coverage. The battle felt unnatural at first, but over time it worked out and I could see the dozens of spells Frey used transform into an interesting and strategic system that offers a variety of gameplay styles. together. That’s also what the team expected.
“Especially, since we have an open world on our hands and we have 100 spells at our disposal, it really opens up a lot of different gameplay as mentioned earlier,” said co-director Takefumi Terada. with me through an interpreter. “Strengthening and enhancing a [spell] could unfold and lead to other people, so if there are 100 different people, he really hopes that eventually there will be 100 different builds that players enjoy.”
Mitsuno adds that while “build” can be used to describe what a player can make out of their Frey, team doesn’t mean “build” in the traditional sense, like the others. what you can find in Destiny 2 or MMO. What’s more important is that you can choose which spells to cast at any given time. If you like earth based spells, you can invest in it, and the same goes for fire spells. But know that you can switch at any time to focus on a different magic tactic.
Shortly after defeating the dragon and arriving at Cipal, Frey is dubbed the heretic of hell, likely the one behind the corruption, and sent to a cell. But Auden Keen, a local whose father was researching the phenomenon of bringing Frey to Athia, helped me get out of prison. Auden tasked me with finding more of her father’s diary.
After leaving to do that, I returned to Athia and discovered that Tanta Sila, a former protector of the kingdom now seemingly evil, was threatening to kill Auden to free me. This ends with a boss battle against a valkyrie-type creature that resembles a typical arena-style fight against a lowly boss. It was quick and easy, and right after that, I was on my way to Sila’s castle to fight the real goal.
Along the way, I gain new parkour abilities that unfortunately don’t add interest to this movement system in me. Parkour looks cool and flashy, but it feels secluded. Basically, you hold the round button while moving and Frey climbs small cliffs, jumps off hills, avoids enemies, etc. It might get more realistic, but parkour struggles to spark excitement in me apart from its bright light when moving.
At first, I worried that parking through Athia’s vast expanse would cause me to miss key points of interest on the map. While there’s not much point to spotting this early in the game, Mitsuno did say that the team took great care to make sure the world remained engaging when walking through it using Forspoken’s parkour system.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone could fully enjoy the magical parkour action, so the open world was built around that concept,” says Terada. “First, we started by examining the feel of magical parkour and its control and playability, and the differences in speed and altitude, and the ability to jump between them. different terrains and elevations, etc.” The team made sure to focus on that early on in development and then built the world specifically to take advantage of the mobility abilities they created for Frey. .
“When we initially created this game experience as we were trying to steer people towards the main storyline, we ran into challenges and issues where players could miss out on certain things in the map. world, so as you mentioned it’s a pretty big deal. difficult aspect,” said Terada. “However, we have conducted numerous user tests and gameplay analyzes from those tests and made sure that additional work, balancing, and tweaking has been done to achieve where it is now. we.”
I parked my car on the way to Sila, fighting numerous enemies along the way. I also picked up a new set of Nails to equip Frey. You can equip different markings on her nails inspired by Tantas’ powers and Athia’s spells, and each set provides a variety of supporting effects. For example, I have Blue Flash Nails on Frey’s right hand, which does 5% increased damage to all and allows faster attack spells. On the left hand, I equip Slay Nails, which increases magic damage by 5% and makes assist spells deal more damage under certain conditions. Other upgrades for Frey include an expanded skill tree, different types of gear like wearable capes, etc.
I also tried some extra stuff on the way to Sila, like a race. During the race, I parked on the terrain, defeating some enemies at checkpoints along the way before time ran out. It’s fun, and the various experience and item rewards seem to be worth the four-minute excursion. I also encountered a boss that was too strong to fight, but now I am interested in the tough battles scattered around Athia. I continued climbing the cliff to finally reach Sila’s castle. I learn a little more about the four Tanta and their roles in Athia before entering Sila’s throne room.
My fight with Sila was fun, but like the dragon and valkyrie boss in front of her, of course. Combat is nothing new, but Frey’s parkour abilities and various magic spells are a fun addition to this typical arena-style boss fight. Visually, it’s great – Frey’s purple earth-based spell pairs well with Sila’s fiery orange spell, and I’m excited to see what other magic combinations will come from fighting with three other potentially corrupted Tanta Guardians.
However, I wish the rest of Forspoken’s images would excite me as well. Athia, or at least the starting area I’ve been playing around with, is nothing short of exciting, like something generic. The characters also look strange, more like mannequins than real people. There’s still less than two months left before the release of Forspoken, so I hope the final product looks better than this preview. At the very least, if the visuals are having a hard time releasing, there’s fun with Forspoken’s characters and combat.