Way back in October, my colleague Dan and I got the chance to try a hands-on demo of Forspoken while we were at NYCC. We both had a great time, and so when I was offered to try a deeper dive preview of the game ahead of its launch in January 2023 I eagerly accepted. While the demo gave us a chance to get a feel for the controls and the world of Forspoken, the deep dive offered a much more in-depth experience.
Forspoken is the story of Frey Holland, a young woman who finds herself transported from modern-day NYC to the fantastical world of Athia, where she then has to fight to save the land from the Break, and to make her way home. The chapters that I played through gave a much clearer idea of Frey as a character, both her origins as an orphan found by the Holland tunnel and her rough life growing up on the streets and with foster parents and who she is as a person. She’s tough and sarcastic, constantly snarking at her wristband, Cuff, and while she’s self-serving, she also has a softer side. Initially, she agrees to help free Athia from the Break so she can get back home, which is an understandably selfish goal. However, we see her interact with other characters like Olevia and Auden and her kinder instincts do start to poke through, rounding out her character and making her more sympathetic as a protagonist.
Playing through a few chapters also revealed more of the story, that the four Tantas who ruled over Athia (think the four witches from Wizard of Oz) were corrupted somehow, though the exact details are unclear. Giving a face to the antagonists also helped flesh out the world and show how Athia used to be, changing it from a ruined but still pretty world to explore into somewhere that actually had people and a way of life. These story revelations affect Frey similarly, which is really interesting to see.
Playing from earlier chapters in the game, I got a feel for how combat works from the get-go, learning along with Frey and Cuff as they fight together. Of course, my experience was slightly skewed by being set on Hard mode by accident for the majority of my time, but I still had fun. At first, Frey’s combat abilities are much more limited, but a good look at the skill tree shows some exciting upgrades available. Combat is, however, much more fun in boss battles than against groups of mooks. Frey and Cuff are randomly attacked by groups of animals mutated by the Break and by former humans who were also mutated, but dealing with multiple enemies at once gives you less of a chance to show-off. Fighting bosses is more fun because you can break out some of the fancier magic parkour moves and do some really incredible dodges and things like kicking off of the walls, as there is more space to move around without worrying you’ll smash into a stray zombie.
There were several apparent differences between Normal and Hard modes, even early in the game, the most prominent of which was the use of parkour and dodging capabilities. Normal mode automates some defensive capabilities and allows you to focus more on offense, whereas if you’re on hard mode and that dragon is bearing down on you, you’re a sitting duck no matter which way you slice it. Hard Mode was definitely more challenging in terms of offense, and it felt like my attacks did significantly less damage there, even though the enemies seemed to have approximately the same stats and effects. Fighting the automatons, however, was really rough on hard mode, and was actually the fight that clued PR into the fact that I was playing on Hard Mode. For an enemy that doesn’t take much damage from the front, it’s a difficult task to get behind them when you don’t have as sophisticated parkour-flipping abilities.
Traversing the world with fewer parkour skills than my last demo was actually more interesting, as it really highlights the world design. Parts of the world, at least when you’re starting out, are designed to not be accessed or easily accessed until you have more parkour skills, leaving me with tantalizing questions like “What’s on top of that cliff?!” But, at the same time, upgrading parkour skills suddenly became one of the most important things that I wanted to do, in order to access new places. I was far more motivated to learn them to explore the world than I was to level up my defensive capabilities, though that says more about my personal playstyle than the game itself.
Beyond that, it was cool seeing the little details of Forspoken and watching it really come alive as a world. I got to try out the crafting system, used for both equipment upgrades and crafting things like healing draughts, followed a calico cat on a sidequest, called “detours” in this, and fought my way through a portion of the underground Locked Labyrinth. There was really so much to do in the game, beyond the main quest and objectives, and I barely even scratched the surface.
While Forspoken’s strength lies in its interesting story and unique magic parkour system, the game has a lot to offer beyond that. Buoyed by strong writing and a fleshed out world, as well as a solid combat system, Forspoken is shaping up to be one of the best RPGs of 2023.
TechRaptor played Forspoken at an event that they were invited to by Square Enix.