It might be time to stop ragging on Forspoken. Yes, it has an abysmal name (that, upon reflection, is no more ridiculous than, say, Triangle Strategy or Live A Live), but after finally getting my hands on the demo that launched yesterday, there’s actually a solid game hidden under the layers of poor promotion and cringey dialogue.
I’ll admit to not being particularly wowed by Forspoken during any part of its development cycle. It looked like a very generic action RPG whose only interesting feature was that it had the shiny veneer of being a PlayStation 5 exclusive with all the souped-up graphical impressiveness that entails. The marketing for the game was not the greatest, featuring dialogue that was memed to death (and not in the good way). Taken together, Forspoken, then, seemed like a bit of a mess.
It may still be, as the demo was extremely short. I was able to finish all the objectives in 20 minutes, but the demo’s time can be stretched if you decide to hardcore parkour your way through the world. Despite the demo’s brevity, the little bit that I saw, I really liked. The demo starts with a brief cutscene explaining Frey and how she came to be in Athia and what she needs to do now. It’s all very bog standard girl gets teleported to a mysterious world where she becomes the chosen one destined to save it.
I think it was really smart to build around Frey’s parkour powers. When she activates her parkour abilities to get to the next objective, obstacles in the terrain become mere suggestions. For some reason, I expected all her momentum to stop once she ran into a boulder (thanks, Sonic Frontiers), but she vaulted over them effortlessly, and I was suitably impressed. Frey’s parkour-ing translates to combat as well, and she can dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge enemy projectiles with these fluid motions that remind me a bit of my favorite game, Kingdom Hearts.
If the game had instead focused on the magic Frey can wield via her magic cuff, then I don’t think it would have inspired my interest the way her flipping and dipping as she travels across Athia did. The parkour is fun in the way web-slinging was fun in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and it makes Forspoken stand out in a way its marketing hasn’t been able to convey quite right.
The parkour is fun in the way web-slinging was fun in Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Combat itself wasn’t too terrible, either, just generic. You have a handful of spells you fire with the two triggers. Press them at the same time to unleash an explosive area of effect attack that wipes out everything in range. You can change the kind of magic you wield — the demo had two types of magic: rock and fire — and each class of spell has different sub-spells you can mix and match together depending on the enemies that surround you.
The world is expansive, and there are many different things Frey can get up to when she’s not completing story objectives. Early in the demo, I abandoned the main quest to walk around and see what I could, stumbling upon a quaint village that needed to be cleansed of the creatures that infested it. It seems like there will be plenty of opportunity in Forspoken to parkour to your heart’s content.
Since it’s a demo, that’s the length and breadth of what I saw, and I gotta say I’ve come around on Forspoken. I have the suspicion that, a lot like Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s going to be way, way better than folks give it credit — funky dialogue aside. And while I can’t say I can’t wait to try it, I can say that at least I want to try it when it launches on January 24th.