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Forspoken preview – a promising guilty pleasure

After several delays, Forspoken is finally upon us, and this demo confirms a lot of my assumptions about the game. This preview build is sizable and offers an enormous landmass to explore festooned with soldiers, zombies, harpies, and all kinds of exotic fantasy creatures.

To contend with such a large area and weird beasts, Frey, the vexing protagonist, is endowed with various magical abilities for combat and traversal. Her parkour abilities function a little bit like the movement in the [Prototype] games.

By holding a face button Frey will auto-vault over objects and run up vertical surfaces. It works about as well as it did in [Prototype] but is nowhere near as effective. Frey is not fully powered up in the demo, and both the menus and skill trees suggest that many of her abilities can be expanded.

The environment offered in the demo does have a lot to see and craft materials to acquire, but nothing in the demo will carry over to the final game, which makes it worthless.

This is a preview coupled with a supplemental video preview. You can watch the video preview or read the full preview of the game below:

 

Conceptually, Forspoken feels a lot like a more refined execution of Final Fantasy XV. The world feels less empty and the stunning fantasy landscapes look amazing. Frey is much better at fighting than the night prince – she is adept at magic; thanks to her magic talking bracelet.

While the demo limits Frey’s full potential, the spells and various elemental attacks promise some variety. Her massive area effect casts and technical magic that’s mapped to the L2 have lengthy cool-downs, while the weaker R2 elemental attacks have none.

There are different styles of magic that mix up the combat. The stone-based attacks function as ranged assaults that can be like a rapid-fire machine gun or spread-fire shotgun. The way the PlayStation 5 haptics react to how the magic feels when you cast is a nice touch and adds a tactile quality to make the spells have a tangible identity.

Like most open-world games, Forspoken‘s map is liable to get littered with crap to check off on a to-do list. Some of the activities don’t have clear explanations and while the tutorials do their job to explain the controls, there is an extra layer to the mechanics that are not fully explained.

There are stat upgrades to be collected, fortresses to capture, and fast travel points to unlock. It is all very Ubisoft-ian in its design and gamers who enjoy those types of open-world grinds will likely devour Forspoken. Sadly, the demo did not have any towns to explore- just derelict settlements and ruins.

The combat certainly seems like it will have a lot to offer and the world does feel like a true fantasy setting with its massive floating rocks and scarred formations. Forspoken is tentatively a PlayStation 5 console exclusive but in the demo, there was nothing that suggested it couldn’t run on last-gen hardware.

The 60 frames per second performance is the one giveaway that this is a PlayStation 5 game. The amateurish and flat lighting doesn’t have any style. Texture detail is nothing to write home about, but the cloth physics and water effects are convincing.

The most impressive visuals are in Frey’s animation systems as she moves. Sadly, this doesn’t apply to her expressions – as she is stuck with permanent “resting bitch-face” syndrome.

Forspoken seems like it can be a fun game. I am a lot more interested in it now, having gotten to feel its controls and kinesthetics. Regretfully, the one thing that is holding it back is Frey. When trailers in August came out that focused on her and featured dialogue, everyone rightfully mocked it. The demo suggests it is going to be far worse than anyone could have imagined.

Open-world action RPGs tend to be very long and to have to hear some of the most skin-crawlingly awkward dialogue repeated for dozens of hours may hurt the experience. Not only is the dialogue embarrassing, but it isn’t even well-acted. Frey’s voice actress sometimes sounds like she isn’t sure what she is saying or there is no emotion at all. It doesn’t help that her face is utterly blank.

Forspoken seems like it will be a worthwhile guilty pleasure, especially for those who have a high tolerance for cringe. It looks nice (aside from the cheap-looking lighting), feels polished and the core gameplay feels stimulating.

Forspoken is set to launch on Windows PC (via Epic Games Store, Microsoft Store, and Steam), and PlayStation 5 on January 24th, 2023.
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A youth destined for damnation.


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