Square Enix isn’t shy about bringing Eastern and Western gaming together with releases from the minimalist JRPG Dungeon Encounters to games based in the Marvel universe. However, one game that stands out in their upcoming catalog is the Luminous Productions-developed Forspoken. With its isekai premise of traveling to a fantasy world with magical abilities, some might write this off as a gimmicky action game used as a way to show off the Luminous Engine. However, while there are some beautiful action systems, I was mostly drawn to the main protagonist Frey Holland.
In Forspoken, Frey is a New Yorker set on getting out of the city and away from trouble. She does what she can to survive, but she’s definitely struggling. As she finds herself heading down a rather dark path, she is magically transported to the fantasy world of Athia. If this wasn’t strange enough, she also has access to magical abilities after coming into contact with a sentient bracelet that she names Cuff. Her plan is to get home, but that’s difficult when the world she’s found herself in is overwhelmed with deadly creatures that were created by what is known as the Break. This miasma transforms humans and animals into beasts, but Frey is able to survive unaffected.
I know, this just sounds like your typical isekai, and as a premise alone, maybe it is. However, Frey is really cool. Her reactions to events and even comments made during fights express her upbringing and personality. The writing for this character leaves room for growth, but her survival instincts and understanding of deadly situations are something that she learned before she had magic. I really enjoyed hearing her cuss during battles or impulsively act without fully thinking things through. It just felt so real and grounded as a large monster appears and she simply says, “Oh, shit” without it coming off as overreacting. The writing in general felt natural and flowed so well during character interactions.
The battle system is something I’ll need to spend more time playing with. Looking at it filled me with questions about how the flow of the action combat system would work in fast-paced situations. In execution, the various elemental abilities look fantastic, but then there are skill wheels and menus that make it seem like I’ll be switching between elements in the menus more than I’ll be fighting. Streamlining this process is important to keep players engaged in the fight.
Further, navigating the world seems very much inspired by games such as NieR: Automata as Frey has access to various abilities that can speed up traversal. The game touts a parkour system where players can scale walls and buildings as they quickly get through the world. There are optional places to explore, but randomly, a Break storm may occur causing Frey to fight against waves of powerful monsters. I’m curious to dive deeper into the leveling and weapon systems, which may require material farming from fighting monsters.
While watching the presentation of Forspoken, I was surprised by the scale of this game and the action systems, but I was more interested in Frey. I found her reactions to the world and her isekai situation so relatable and grounded that it made me want to follow her through this journey and see how she makes it out. There’s a big adventure to discover here, and I’m looking forward to getting to know more.
Forspoken is coming to PlayStation 5 and PC on May 24, 2022.
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