Forspoken Review: A refreshing fantasy RPG held back by its open-world design

by Ana Lopez

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Forspoken is a new role-playing adventure title developed by Luminous Productions following their work on 2016’s Final Fantasy XV. While a refreshing and unique twist on the RPG genre, it shares many familiar design choices in many modern Square Enix games . But is it good? Or will it ultimately fall into the same trappings that held Final Fantasy XV back? This Forspoken review answers those questions and determines if it’s worth your hard-earned money.

Gameplay

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Within the first hour of entering Athia, Forspoken will give you the tools to whiz across the map with its parkour at lightning speed. Parkour is central to the gameplay, helping you in both combat and mountain climbing. Players can improve their travel skills and spells and feel like they become more and more powerful as the story progresses. For example, a parkour spell like Leap seems simple when you first get it, but is completely transformed when you eventually gain access to Soar. With the second ability unlocked, you can now perform multiple jumps in the air, which will allow you to climb mountains in seconds.

Luminous Productions gives you multiple trees with magical abilities to help you shape the gameplay to your liking. Forspoken’s gameplay maintains a good pace throughout the adventures, as Frey’s magical abilities improve significantly throughout the story. However, those looking for a traditional RPG experience will have to look elsewhere, as Forspoken is essentially an action game.

The open-world RPG is packed with downright terrifying enemies, such as deadly monsters called Mutants or the epic Tanta boss battles. The gameplay never fails to engage, as Forspoken requires you to find unique ways to combine your magic and parkour to take down these formidable foes. For example, if you want to slow down the fight, you can use Bind to freeze enemies by summoning vines that wrap their legs. While battles are hectic, players can get creative by linking the Defensive, Offensive, and Parkour magic trees together.

The big downside to this design is that combat can feel too hectic. One minute you’re feeling like a badass while creating the perfect combo in style. But a few minutes later you can fall flat on your face, because juggling Flow while trying to chain your magical trees can be overwhelming.

rating: 3.5/5

Related: All voiced voice actors and cast list

Design in an open world

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Forspoken is filled with activities and side quests scattered around the map. After reaching chapter 3, Athia opens up and gives you a wealth of optional quests. In each city you can find NPCs with story-based missions that lead to items and experience points. Mini quests called Detours are also integrated into the map, of course; these range from collecting specific items to killing groups of enemies that have taken over a certain location. Because the game is anchored by its parkour gameplay, every nook and cranny of Athia can be climbed and explored, where chests and rare items can be tucked away, and players will need to spend hours to fully complete the game and map. The problem is that most of the side content is unexciting. Either the stories associated with it are superficial, or the rewards themselves are not worth it.

An NPC quest can have you running around for 30 minutes just to get to a few experience points. Still, you can get the same experience by talking to a new character you haven’t met before or doing a basic activity. Another example is Detours, which often have no story attached at all and, at best, only give you a minimal reward. For example, one of the first requires you to follow a cat in a circle for a handful of EXP that can be earned elsewhere in seconds.

While Forspoken is packed with an overwhelming amount of content, its open-world design leaves a lot to be desired. I found the world design to be Forspoken’s weakest element and a distraction from the excellent story. Given how rich the story is, it would have been fascinating to learn more about the people of Athia and the lore behind The Break plaguing the land. With games like The Witcher 3 raising the bar with complex side quests, open-world side missions that offer little plot no longer suffice.

rating: 2.5/5

Story

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The best aspect of Forspoken is the story. Luminous Productions has crafted a compelling story that will quickly connect you emotionally with Frey Holland. Since we experience her real-life hardships in New York City first, it adds more thematic weight to the journey she begins when she is thrown into Athia. Since the plot reflects the struggles she faces in both worlds, her character growth meant more to me, as her adventures to save Athia also prepared her for the challenges she must face at home. Frey is a breath of fresh air as a main character in the genre. Rather than the typical fantasy RPG protagonist of royal descent or who happens to be unique for plot reasons, Frey is a sloppy hero trying to find a place where she belongs.

Then there’s Cuff, Frey’s magical chatty bracelet companion who gets stuck on her arm. Their relationship is hilariously endearing, as both fish-out-of-water heroes are equally baffled by the other’s world. But the duo work together, as they offer a unique perspective rarely found in fantasy RPGs. Unfortunately, Forspoken follows a similar path to Final Fantasy XV, where the story shifts abruptly in the second half before quickly coming to a conclusion. The main story of the game can be quickly beaten by players who focus purely on the story. And while it shouldn’t take more than 40 hours, the plot feels rushed towards the end. While I wish Frey’s adventure was more fleshed out, it’s still the strongest aspect of Forspoken.

rating: 4/5

Pictures

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Forspoken is beautiful and will easily become one of the best looking titles in 2023. Luminous Productions has created a huge open world with frantic gameplay that still looks gorgeous in action. Every character looks beautiful in motion, especially Frey, who is incredibly expressive throughout the story. While the world of Athia could have used more variety in terms of location, the world is incredibly clean. The special effects used in spells also look beautiful in 4K, especially with ray-tracing enabled. I can only imagine how good Forspoken will look on the best PC installs since it’s already impressive on console.

rating: 4/5

Verdict Forspoken’s magical story is hampered by dated design and pacing issues in the open world

Forspoken features one of the best protagonists the genre has seen in years, which makes it a shame that Frey’s emotionally rich story is sometimes let down by the game’s tedious open-world design and uneven campaign. Still, Forspoken’s fast-paced gameplay is a lot of fun and a fantasy adventure worth jumping into.

We received this code from Square Enix for review purposes.

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To learn more about Forspoken, visit Forspoken Preorder Guide – All Bonuses and Editions here on Pro Game Guides.

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