With 2021 rapidly coming to a close, Square Enix looks to have a full lineup ready to roll for 2022. One of its most ambitious efforts looks to be an original title called Forspoken, which mixes the publisher's penchant for magic and fantasy with a modern day protagonist. Players have seen bits and pieces of lead character Frey over the past year, but they may be wondering what else there is to her adventure. Square Enix recently revealed some of those answers to the press and Shacknews was among those there to take a look.
When players meet Frey Holland, she's a Black woman in New York who's down on her luck. She has nowhere to go and has nobody to rely on, other than her cat, Homer. When she finds a bracelet and puts it on, she's magically transported to a fantasy land called Athia. Athia is a world in danger, no longer protected by its matriarchs known as the Tantas. The land has been infected by a force called the Break, which has corrupted all it touches, including turning humans and wildlife into savage monsters. Worse yet, the Break appears to have been unleashed by those same Tantas who once protected the land, who now rule with iron fists.
Frey's arrival is not well received by everybody, as evidenced by the trailer that premiered during The Game Awards. Anybody familiar with Mark Twain's classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court should know that strangers from another time will sometimes be greeted as demons. However, there are enough people who recognize the power of the bracelet she's wearing, so they see Frey as the hero they need. This leads to Frey embarking on a journey across the corrupted Athia, where she must battle the monsters that stand before her and confront the Tantas.
Square Enix and newly-created developer house Luminous Productions has put an ample amount of resources into crafting Forspoken's story. Both Gary Whitta and Amy Hennig helped craft the narrative, dating back to the pre-production phase, with Whitta helping design the open world concept and Hennig crafting the narrative around it. The narrative has proven so engaging to the game's creators that DLC already appears to be in the works. A prequel story called In Tanta We Trust is expected to release at some point after Forspoken's launch with Square promising additional details in the future.
Forspoken has one central idea that sets it apart from many of Square Enix's other action RPGs. This game has no weapon-based combat whatsoever. Frey battles solely with her bracelet, Cuff, which grants her magical power. This power extends both on and off the battlefield, leading to the game's magic parkour system. Magic parkour allows players to dash across landscapes, scale walls quickly, and launch themselves across great heights, all of which looks to make traversal more engaging than the standard RPG. It also encourages players to go off the usual path and search for potential secrets that may be sitting out in the world.
Magic parkour will also contribute greatly to combat as players explore Forspoken's open world. While Frey's bracelet can unleash great power on her enemies, she can also use it to launch herself skyward or quickly reposition herself. Her skills will increase over time, as players begin to unlock more abilities through the game's skill tree and then bind them to the shoulder buttons on the DualSense or the keys on the PC keyboard. For example, Frey can learn a Burst Shot ability that fires off explosive rocks at foes and adds area-of-effect damage, while the Prime ability plants a magical trap that explodes when stepped on. The most interesting aspect of these attacks is that when they're binded to a triangle interface on the bottom corner of the screen, players will see that both buttons can be pressed simultaneously in order to combine these abilities. This creates interesting new possibilities and offers a lot of potential for experimentation.
Square is promising an array of skills that complement various play styles, as well as different gear that will help forge those styles further. On top of that, Forspoken will utilize a Nail system, which adds arcane buffs and stat boosts by painting colors and symbols on Frey's fingernails. Look for more information about combat, the Nail system, and Forspoken's skill trees in the weeks and months ahead.
While Square Enix and Luminous Productions have been outspoken about its upcoming action RPG over the past few months, there's still a lot about Forspoken that's unknown. Trailers have explored the human refuge of Cipal, but Athia extends far beyond that and the dangers that await are shrouded in mystery. Likewise, the game will feature various side quests, which Square and Luminous will likely dive into at a later time. One of the bigger questions to keep in mind for the future is how well Forspoken will run from a technical standpoint. Square is promising 60fps at 2K resolution, 30fps at 4K resolution, and ray tracing modes at launch, but it should also be interesting to see how the PC and PS5 versions compare, given that they're both being developed simultaneously.
Forspoken stands to be one of the most anticipated games of 2022 and it's definitely a game we'll continue to monitor here at Shacknews. Look for it to release on PC and PlayStation 5 on May 24.