It feels like Forspoken is already fighting an uphill battle when it comes to public sentiment, even though the game is still months away from launch. There’s plenty of factors that have contributed to that- Square Enix itself certainly hasn’t helped matters. The game’s marketing campaign has been poorly thought out, to say the very least, with its writing and dialogue in particular having drawn heavy criticism from all corners. Of course, those aren’t things that one can fully judge until we’ve actually played the game, but it doesn’t bode well that in all that we’ve seen of Forspoken so far, there have been more than a few instances of forced banter and one liners to make you cringe right out of your skin.
Maybe that’s because it’s a game made by Japanese developers that’s trying to align itself with mass market western tastes, maybe it’s because Square Enix has done a spectacularly bad job of somehow highlighting moments from the game that show it in the most unflattering light possible, from a writing perspective- either way, Forspoken’s dialogue, characterization, and character interactions have been on the receiving end of widespread criticism and even mockery. Then there’s the fact that early hands-on impressions of the game weren’t the most glowing, with criticism being reserved for an empty and barren open world. And of course, the fact that the game’s been delayed multiple times hasn’t helped matters.
That kind of pre-launch bad press isn’t good for any game, but that stands doubly true when the game in question is a new IP. But while the skepticism surrounding Forspoken hasn’t been unwarranted based on what we’ve seen of the game so far, it may have overshadowed other aspects of the game that, on deeper inspection, are looking quite promising. Luminous Productions and Square Enix’s upcoming open world action RPG sure seems to have its rough edges- but there’s no denying that parts of the game are looking very, very appealing indeed.
Chief among them has to be the combat, of course. Since the moment it was first unveiled, Forspoken has leaned heavily on its magic-infused combat, which looks to have the potential to be a very unique and layered combat system. Set in the fantasy world of Athia, Forspoken gives its protagonist, Frey, a bevy of flashy, bombastic magical abilities, from tying down enemies with vines to blasting out elemental projectiles to buzzing foes with electricity to much, much more. Visually, it’s quite a treat- it looks busy, it looks vibrant, and it looks explosive.
And if the most recent round of hands-on previews for the game is anything to go by, the combat in Forspoken is going to play as well as it looks. The game will apparently feature over a hundred magical spells in total for players to use, which is a staggering number. What really sets the tongue wagging, however, is the fact that the game seems to be emphasizing actual variety in those abilities rather than simply looking to add minor variations to drive up the total. Combat certainly seems to be the star of the show here, and comboing spells, switching between movesets, targeting enemy weaknesses, and zipping around the battlefield while blasting out magical attacks can form the backbone of a very intense and enjoyable loop, if properly executed.
What’s also exciting about Forspoken’s combat is that it seems to be emphasizing skill and experimentation massively. The game rewards you grades for your performances in combat, which is something that’s bound to pique the curiosity of anyone who has enjoyed character action games over the years, while juggling different abilities and attacks against a variety of enemies in hectic battlefields holds the potential of an impressive level of flexibility. Of course, how true that ends up being will depend greatly on how Forspoken structures and paces its progression mechanics- but if it sticks the landing in that area, that can only mean good things for the combat.
On top of combat and build variety, it seems like parkour is going to be another one of Forspoken’s main focuses. Just like the combat, this is something that the game has been shining a spotlight on ever since it was first revealed, and we can’t help but look on with growing curiosity and enthusiasm everytime we see the game’s traversal mechanics in action. Sprints, jumps, boosts, and what have you seem to be coming together in what’s looking like a fast and flashy traversal system, while these movement abilities are also seemingly going to be a crucial part of the combat itself. Square Enix and developer Luminous Productions are definitely playing up the power fantasy element here, and if the parkour mechanics can strike the right balance between being fun and easy to use and actually demanding some level of skill and precision from the player, Forspoken may very well end up making the simple act of moving around its open world a blast in and of itself.
Beyond the gameplay, it has to be said that, on paper, Forspoken’s world and story have shown plenty of glimpses of potential. Yes, the writing and dialogue haven’t made the best impression so far, but the narrative premise of an ordinary girl from the real world being transported into a fantastical land full of monstrous beasts and larger-than-life enemies is an intriguing one, to say the very least. With the right world building and storytelling, Forspoken’s narrative may very well end up surprising people.
Admittedly, there are a lot of caveats to this. A lot of Forspoken’s prospective strengths rely on the right implementation of gameplay mechanics, and there are obviously no guarantees of that with any game. Meanwhile, its rough edges can also potentially drag the experience down in significant ways- and we’re not just talking about the annoying banter that seems like it’s going to try too hard to be sharp and witty. Even from a gameplay perspective, criticisms surrounding Forspoken’s world being a bit too empty and barren haven’t inspired a lot of confidence, not least because there’s been a truckload of examples of poorly designed open worlds over the years. What can we expect from Athia’s environmental variety? How reactive and dynamic will it be? How varied will its side activities and side quests be? How engaging will the actual exploration be? These are all unanswered questions, and it goes without saying that, for an open world game, getting those elements right is crucial.
It’s worth considering, of course, that with Forspoken’s significant delays, developer Luminous Productions has given itself nearly an added year of development time, which it may be utilizing to sand out a lot of the experience’s rough edges. We’re not expecting a night and day difference, of course – at it’s core, it’s doubtful the game will have changed in many meaningful ways – but we’re still hopeful that the developers will be able to at least minimize the issues to the extent where the game’s strengths are able to shine brighter.
Yes, we’re still a little skeptical – it’s hard not to be, given the tumultuous marketing and hype cycle Forspoken has endured – but as we’ve learned and seen more and more of the game, some of our initial excitement from when it was announced has started to return. Here’s hoping we won’t be left disappointed when the game finally launches in January next year- unless, you know, it ends up getting delayed again.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.
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