A lot has been said and written about Luminous Productions’ latest release, Forspoken – most of the discourse hasn’t been kind about the 2023 action RPG. As with anything on the Internet, though, it’s best to take everything said with a pinch of salt. After all, people lose their minds over the smallest thing and love nothing more than to destroy something if the opportunity presents itself. In the case of Forspoken, the Internet may have gotten something right. Well, hey, a broken clock is right twice a day, too, so…
Forspoken follows Frey Holland who transports from New York to a mythical place known as Athria after discovering a magical, talking gauntlet that she names Cuff. What follows is an action-packed journey as Frey needs to fight the evil people of Athria, save the day, and go home.
The story is far from unique – in fact, it’s a generic fantasy quest. However, it isn’t terribly bad or awful, as the settings, monsters, and a few of the characters are compelling enough to keep a player engaged. What is less than stellar, though, is the dialogue. Most people have already seen the section of the game that’s become a meme in the gaming community, and while the rest of the writing isn’t as bad as that, it is clunky and filled with repetitive exposition dumps. There’s a lot of talking simply for the sake of it, where the developers could have allowed moments to let the players take in what’s happening rather than over-explain it.
This brings us to the next point: the cutscenes. Oh, boy! There are so many of them. During the first three chapters of Forspoken, it feels one can’t go five minutes in the game before being interrupted. For example: There’s a section where Auden helps Frey escape from the castle. It’s supposed to be a tense scene with guards lurking and the characters need to operate in the shadows and wait for the right moment to move. Unfortunately, the insistence of slicing up the gameplay with cutscenes and unnecessary exposition slows down the mood and destroys the moment.
Of course, we can’t ignore the hero of the story: Frey. For the better part of the game, it’s Frey and Cuff quipping along and keeping the player company on the journey. Sadly, both Frey and Cuff are two of the most unlikeable protagonists in recent history. For every twist in Forspoken‘s story, Frey whines and has a complaint about everything. Cuff also isn’t much better, as the bracelet feels like Hugh Grant’s less charming brother. They’re highly annoying and there are times when a player may root against them.
Forspoken‘s graphics are a mixed bag. There are lush sceneries and stretches of awe-inspiring terrain that maximise the PlayStation 5’s power. At the same time, the character models in some of the cutscenes appear like they are pulled from 2006’s The Godfather video game. Apart from the terrain, this simply doesn’t feel like a game that’s showing the PS5’s potential at all.
The gameplay is Forspoken‘s saving grace. Once Frey develops the ability to traverse through the terrain, the movement is fluid and fast-paced as it feels like magical parkour. It’s fun to run up the side of a mountain or to vault over buildings at breakneck speed. Additionally, Frey’s magical powers develop throughout the game as players upgrade their skill tree. This enables the player to decide which type of magical strikes and defences to incorporate, thus helping to shape the playing style.
Forspoken tries incredibly hard to be a merger of Horizon Dawn and inFAMOUS. Unfortunately, it never really understands what it is in the process nor reaches the potential of either of those franchises. It’s clear to see there is a good idea behind the game and the elements are there for something spectacular, but the execution belly flops. There’s an impression that Forspoken may have been designed by committee and some of the people with key decision-making power may not play video games. Honestly, it’s mind-boggling to see how some basic gaming fundamentals are ignored here. At the end of the day, life is too short to sit through pointless cutscenes.
It's tough to recommend Forspoken as a brand-new purchase. The game has a lot of good ideas, but the execution is sorely lacking. Wait until it hits PS Plus or is discounted.
Sergio Pereira is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa. He has a strong interest in comic books, film, music, and comedy, having been in the entertainment journalism space for over 15 years.
Sergio is also an accredited Rotten Tomatoes reviewer and has interviewed numerous celebrities in this time. He is the author of the highly rated fantasy comedy novel The Not-So-Grim Reaper and numerous short stories. In addition, he is the co-writer of the South African crime drama film The Lifesaver. As a columnist, he contributes to Looper, Grunge, Screen Rant, Ranker, CBR, SYFY WIRE, IGN Africa, and Fortress of Solitude.
For Sergio, all he wants in life is to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles eclipse the Justice League as the greatest heroes of all time. Then, he will sleep peacefully.