For decades, Square Enix has taken players into fantasy realms and worlds ruled by magic. Forspoken will mark one of the first times that the publisher has taken a step back and wondered what would happen if a contemporary human from the real world is suddenly thrust into one of these worlds. The debut effort from the Luminous Productions label is less than two months away from exploring a new world, but first, Shacknews had a chance to try it out.
Over the weekend, Square Enix announced at The Game Awards that a playable demo was being released on PS5. We got to check out a few different sections of the upcoming third-person action RPG. For one thing, we became more familiar with the game's overall story. To start, lead character Frey has somehow found herself in the magical world of Athia through a strange portal. However, she's not alone. A magical being taking the shape of a cuff on her arm has also found itself stranded on Athia. The being only called "Cuff" (mostly called that because Frey won't be bothered to call it anything else) isn't from Athia, which becomes one of the more intriguing (and underexplored, from my time with the game) plot points. Exactly what is Cuff? How did he get here? How did he come to be what he is? Those questions aren't answered and it's unknown whether any are coming, but Cuff can help Frey survive this dangerous world out of a mutual desire for self-preservation. A phenomenon called the Break is rapidly destroying the world and Frey quickly comes to discover that the surviving inhabitants of the world are blaming her for it.
A big part of the Forspoken experience is in seeing how Frey adjusts to being in Athia and also in seeing how quickly her missions turns from "finding a way home" to "helping this world survive." Players will meet and get to know different villagers and see how the Break has affected their way of life. Players will learn about the Tantas, who are Athia's guardians, and how the Break has even come to affect them. It's soon clear why Frey becomes the hero that nobody expected.
A major part of why Frey becomes Athia's only potential savior is because of the power that Cuff grants her. At the start of the game, she'll learn rudimentary burst magic, allowing her to defend herself against feral wolves, dangerous creatures mutated by the Break, and massive dragons. Over time, she'll learn more powerful spells that can be unleashed with the DualSense's shoulder triggers. She'll also increase her stamina, which will allow her longer access to the game's key feature: magical parkour.
Magical parkour, the Flow skill in particular, allows Frey to glide along the ground and automatically avoid most incoming enemy fire. Both in and out of battle, it can be used to scale walls and surfaces, which allows access to higher areas. It's helpful when it comes to exploring the open world, but it's critical when taking on some of Forspoken's badder bosses. Even the dragon in Chapter 2 can practically cover the field in fire, but Frey's magical parkour grants her a window that lets her avoid damage.
As one might imagine, Frey's magic can be upgraded over time. She can learn new abilities, such as a Tendril that can attack foes and heal Frey for any damage inflicted or a Disperse spell that raises flowers to chuck rocks at nearby targets. Builds can be enhanced by nail enchantments. The art of painting symbols onto fingernails is a Tanta ritual, one that grants Frey certain buffs and abilities. Likewise, Frey's cloak and necklace can be upgraded to boost some of her stats. The materials needed for all of this can be found over the course of the game, mostly through enemy drops.
We got to try out three different chapters in our time with Forspoken and they all contained different amounts of exposition and gameplay. Exposition-heavy chapters will start off with somewhere between five and ten minutes of cutscenes, especially towards the start of the game as characters are introduced. They would lead to open world exploration, short stealth sections, or a boss encounter.
As the game goes on, Forspoken does offer some novel ideas. Towards the end of my time with the game, it was time to storm the castle of one of the Tantas. At that point, players were presented with three different approaches. They could go straight to the throne room from the outside, take the direct approach and go in from the castle gates, or they could go off the beaten path and take a hidden entrance to try and catch everyone by surprise. Each route would have its own enemies to deal with and while it didn't appear that any one path offered any kind of advantage, the decision was ultimately up to the player.
Forspoken's story is an interesting one and its core systems are something I'm curiouis to see develop over time. Where the story with the Break goes and whether Frey achieves overwhelming power remains to be seen, but Luminous Productions at least has my attention, if nothing else. It won't be long before players can experience Frey's story, as Forspoken comes to PC and PlayStation on January 24.
These impressions are based on a PC demo from a press event held at the Square Enix USA facilities in Los Angeles.