Forspoken review: A genuine story of humanity shines on PS5

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Title: Forspoken
Developer: Luminous Productions
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS5, PC
Release Date: January 24, 2023

Forspoken was one of those games where I was leery about it from the beginning. The premise had me excited because it’s my kind of genre, but the little gameplay shown was causing me to pump the brakes a bit. After a very underwhelming demo, I was prepared to be disappointed. It didn’t take me long, however, once I got my hands on the game to realize I was incredibly wrong.

The action RPG from Square Enix and Luminous Productions puts us in the shoes of Alfre Holland, a 20-year-old orphan living in New York. Abandoned as a baby, she’s named for being found at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. Having no parents to guide her and bouncing between foster parents, Alfre (Frey) ends up on her own and in legal trouble. After being granted a tremendous holiday gift by an understanding judge, Frey decides she needs to change her life. Unfortunately for her, she finds a bracer that suddenly sucks her into a wormhole and into the mystical land of Athia. This bracer, which Frey calls Cuff, grants her incredible powers. She is able to speak to Cuff and is the only one who can hear him.

Athia is suffering from something Frey calls “the break”. A mysterious force is plaguing the land, and it becomes clear Frey is the only one able to stop it. Four powerful warriors called the Tantas were tasked with protecting the citizens of Athia. As they were unable to fend off the break, Frey must set off with Cuff by her side in an attempt to restore harmony to Athia.

One of my favorite things about Frey is her completely unapologetic attitude.  She makes no bones about being pissed off about her past and getting sucked into Athia, and it adds to her relatability immensely. The banter between her and Cuff is funny because of how true to life it is. Games tend to remove all realistic emotional reactions too often from characters. So, I was enthralled when I heard Frey respond to a request for aid by saying “Leave me the f**k alone. I just want to go home” and then walk away. This maintains throughout the game, and Luminous does a great job of showcasing not only the struggles Frey is undergoing but the changes she matures with and undergoes as well.

Traversal is the highlight of Forspoken. You begin with an ability called “Flow” which allows you to run like the wind. Further spells add up to a grand total of 103, and Platinum hunters will need to learn every one for a trophy as well as a separate one for upgrading each one. 206 total – no biggie, right? Spells like Soar allow you to parkour up cliffs more than once, while others like Float allow you to slow your descent and thus cover more ground in the air. Others like dash and shimmy along with your rope pull combine to allow Frey the ability to travel almost everywhere. Now, you may not be able to scale directly up the sheer face of a cliff, but there’s always a way. It was an odd thing while I was playing. A few times I was stuck after picking the wrong path to my destination, but it wasn’t as frustrating as I expected. Instead, it was exciting to see how I could backtrack and parkour around in order to find the path that would get me to the path I needed to be on.

Combat naturally evolves over the course of the game. Beginning with the magic from Cuff called “Frey’s Magic”, you utilize earth-based spells. Flinging rocks at enemies or using them to create a shield to block an attack is where you begin. You learn more of each magic type as you go while picking up others such as fire, water and electricity. Some enemies are vulnerable to one type of magic while others are resistant to it. Combining the magic abilities with Frey’s parkour mechanics really allows you to experiment with your favorite options. Camera accessibility options help balance out the fast-moving fighting by staying centered on any locked-in enemies. This was important because many times the enemy would be off-screen due to the parkouring of Frey. There were several times when the lock-on would disappear if the enemy was off-screen for a couple of seconds, which was a pain because I’d end up slinging spells at thin air like I was looking for John Cena. Fortunately, it didn’t happen too often, but it was noticeable and a fix is already in the works.

The world of Athia is gigantic and it is absolutely loaded with things to do. Other than the main story (about 15 hours in length), you most likely have another 50 hours or so in side content. The game’s main city of Cepal is the hub where you will find most of your side quests. Called Detours in this game, the side quests see you helping the citizens of Cepal by completing various tasks both in the city and across Athia. Each one adds to the lore of the game and immerses you in the story of the land. Frey’s attitude and her maturation throughout the game along with the humanity of the citizens create a truly relatable and based story.

On top of all that, Frey can encounter various points of interest such as refuges (safe houses) where she can save and upgrade her gear/spells, unlock belfries to reveal more of the land, locate treasure chests and upgrade materials, locate monuments to upgrade abilities, explore labyrinths for better gear and more. There is no shortage of things to do, and all can be completed after the main story. The NPC quests will make you want to do them due to how genuine they all are.

There are three performance modes in Forspoken; Quality, Ray Tracing and Performance. I played on two separate televisions, one of which is a 4K 120hz and the other is a basic 1080P and 60. There is definitely a difference. I’ll admit I was concerned after playing the demo, but those concerns were quelled after setting up both TV’s. All three of the modes did exactly what they are supposed to do on my 4K Samsung. I honestly couldn’t see that much of a difference with the naked eye as far as combat or framerate, but the graphical difference between the three was noticeable. The differences are much more noticeable on lower-quality televisions, so be aware of that going in. Granted, yes it is still a downgrade overall from the reveal trailer. However, I’m not going to hold that against anyone as it’s basically par for the course in the industry nowadays. While the graphics could have been better, of course, the overall presentation blended well and didn’t do much to take away from the experience as a whole.

The accessibility options present many great varieties for your chosen style of gameplay. There are no difficulty-related trophies, so don’t worry about that. My favorite option, not coincidentally ties into the game’s worst aspect – puzzles. Now, I enjoy puzzles and puzzle games but the ones in Forspoken killed me. During your time in Athia, Frey will come across a number of puzzle-locked treasure chests. They are slide-tile-locked puzzles that I honestly just couldn’t understand the control scheme setup. Knowing what I had to do but not being able to get the controls to do it turned me off. As a result, I just turned on the auto-complete puzzle option and BOOM! – every chest opens right up. Camera accessibility options allow you to quickly turn the camera or slow it down, which can vary based on each individual user’s gameplay style.  Forspoken is actually set up so well with accessibility that you can almost make the gameplay itself.

I really enjoyed my time with Forspoken. It took me about 15 hours to beat the story and I’m going to pick up all of the trophies and side content. With over 30 quests alone done on top of a number of POIs already unlocked, I still have so much more to do. None of the extra quests or exploration felt like filler as they sometimes can in games. I think a lot of that comes down to how genuine and human the characters and their stories are. I enjoyed helping each one of them and doing their quests as their attitudes made me feel as if I was actually contributing to their well-being.

Forspoken ends on a great note and sets up the future with the possibility of more games. With story DLC already planned and part of the digital deluxe package of the game, Forspoken reminded me of another classic franchise. The manner of the NPCs and Frey’s attitude, the overall story and the relatability of humanity of the game’s characters, Forspoken is the type of franchise for PlayStation that the Fable series is to Xbox. I can’t wait to see what else is next for Frey in the land of Athia.

Forspoken (PS5) score: 8 / 10

Forspoken presents a genuinely human story blended well with combat and a variety of exploration options, setting it up to be PlayStation’s next big franchise.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.