This is a spoiler free review.
I read a great take regarding the performance of Forspoken on Twitter on its launch day. ‘Forspoken is the PS5’s equivalent of (the PS3’s) Lair’. If that somewhat damning yet accurate comparison is lost on you, allow me to explain. Forspoken, taken as a complete package, is bad. There are elements of it such as the combat which have the potential to be fun and satisfying at times, but for the most part the game is just plain bad.
A lot of players have been giving the dialogue a tough time, to the point I believed it to be something of an internet joke. I thought there was no way the game would get all the way through development without someone high up on the team questioning it. Unfortunately this is no online jape. I like a good chain-swear as much as anyone, and ‘fuck’ is definitely one of the most used words in my vocabulary. That isn’t quite the case for our protagonist, Frey, as it appears at times to be the only word she knows.
Taking place in the fantasy world of Athia after Frey is mysteriously transported there from a modern day New York city, things don’t start tremendously well with her being accused of witchcraft and thrown into prison. It is from here that the development team at Luminous Productions have decided to crowbar almost every awful video game trope from history into this one experience. From here the game has a mandatory stealth section out of nowhere, and while it’s by no means difficult, it is incredibly boring.
I kept a constant eye on the time while playing Forspoken, predominantly because of boredom, but I was also timing how long it would take for the game marketed as being about magic and free-running to actually get to either of those things. The answer is one hour and fifty minutes. This is appalling.
Frey, not content with being the only Earthling in town, regularly breaks out dialect which I’m not even sure resembles normal human speech. That said I am 32 so definitely out of the loop on what kids think is cool now. I know ‘kicks’ mean trainers, but why Frey is baffled the local Athians don’t realise this genuinely irritates me.
The open world is aggressively bland, with long stretches of copy pasted expanses of absolutely bugger all interrupted by impassable cliffs and hostile wildlife. I do want to give the game a thumbs up for some of its enemy design, but in the frantic and particle heavy sections of combat it’s difficult to tell if you’re battling a snarling wolf demon or a flying armchair with anger management issues.
I can give the story credit for being short, but that’s about it. Developing a bizarre relationship with the magic cuff latched onto her, Frey and her new bestie she names ‘Cuff’ set off to face down the four evil leaders of Athia, the Tantas. I won’t go into story spoilers in this review, but spanners are regularly thrown in the works when working towards this goal, often by Frey herself, and it never works in the game’s favour. The final couple of hours were intensely dialogue heavy, snapping the flow of the game which had begun to feel like it was finally getting somewhere in the build-up to the third Tanta, before fumbling its story and dropping the pace off a cliff, much like I did to Frey dozens of times in my gameplay.
I will also give credit to some of the designs for magic attacks Frey can use, but I always found I would only spend upgrade points on using what I already had, as using up points to get others felt like a chore. I applaud the ability to refund your upgrade points for magic you decide you don’t want anymore, and strangely this is the only thing I feel the game does right. I would certainly boost the score for Forspoken if the developers had taken this a step further and refunded the money I spent to play this game the moment I realised it was a colossal waste of time.
A problem I had early on, within minutes of reaching Athia in fact, was that it became immediately apparent even for long stretches of dialogue between Frey and Cuff, two creatures capable of moving and talking at the same time, that they refuse to budge an inch whilst engaging in dull and meandering exposition dumps. I also take umbrage with the game’s constant thrusting of lore pamphlets and books at me, which it expects me to read to better understand the world of Athia. In brief, I honestly could not have fucking cared less.
‘Enough hating on the writing’ I hear you cry! Let’s shift attention to the graphics. They’re woefully weak for a PlayStation 5 exclusive title. I typically favour 60 frames per second, but as Forspoken is astoundingly vague on what each of its three graphics settings actually does, with none of them saying clearly 60fps was even possible (at launch), in the end I opted to favour ray-tracing instead. After no small amount of experimentation I did discover which mode enhanced frame rate, but I must don my sceptacles over the idea of it being a solid 60. Uncharted 4 released in 2016, and there is absolutely nothing visual about Forspoken that gets half as good as we had seven years ago.
I’m going to have a go at the developers directly now, as someone has to. In July 2022, Luminous Productions tweeted that the release of Forspoken was being ‘strategically’ delayed from October to January 2023 even though ‘All game elements are now complete, and development is in its final polishing stage’. I would like to thank you, as yes the case the game came in was very tidy, but I wish time had been given to polishing the actual game.
What we have received game wise is a short, ugly, illiterate and lifeless parody of the original concept we were introduced to in 2020. I wouldn’t usually try to include shaming a development team in a review, but this has to be an exception predominantly because their previous game, Final Fantasy XV, was my favourite game of all time for years! Luminous Productions, you ought to be embarrassed by Forspoken. You can do, and previously have done, so much better.
At this time last year, Forspoken was my most anticipated game for 2022 based off early gameplay shown. Not only is it now apparent that a lot of the content shown was cut from the final version, but also that in order to release the game in the condition originally shown it would have needed another couple of years to reach it! To bring this miserable experience to a close I must take the crown for ‘Most Disappointing Game Experience Ever’ from Middle Earth: Shadow of War and hand it to Forspoken, along with a ringing slap to the side of the head and a score of
3 / 10
Written, edited and images sourced by Alexx.