To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Forspoken preview: much better than the trailers would have you believe

Forspoken preview: much better than the trailers would have you believe

Give this one a chance

Last month, I had the chance to play five hours of Forspoken, dropping both its central character and myself into the fantasy world of Athia with nothing but a bunch of sparkly spells. Through lots of free exploration and boss battles, I saw that this game shows a reckless abandon for fun, at its own expense as well as the exciting combat that dominated my memories of Forspoken.

Forspoken was ridiculed beyond belief for its Whedonesque narration in a trailer from earlier this year, and I’ll admit, it was incongruously generic for the visuals that played out. Spending five hours straight with the game, you’ll be pleased to learn that my eardrums were not dripping down my collar.

Check out the latest trailer for Forspoken below.

Frey’s reaction to being dumped in a fantasy world where nearly everything wants to squish her like a grape is rather refreshing. Enough with the strong female characters, I say. Time for female characters who have no interest in learning anything, whose every third word is “f*ck” or a variation upon it, who whoops with delight whenever they turn an enemy into confetti. This is a jokey way of putting it, but really, the use of a female central character is frequent yet often offers no real positive or negative representation in practice.

Forspoken, alternatively, lets Frey’s character settle into a space that is reserved for pithy heroes like Star Lord, Constantine and Jake Peralta. And there are a number of choices that filled me with joy, like different nail designs that bestow combat buffs. These are anchored in the lore of Athia - it’s a practice of the Tanta sorceresses that infuse their paints with magic - but I wouldn’t have cared if it was a whim of one of the developers.

It’s 2022 and we actually haven’t made much progress in gaming to equalise the disparity between genders. Sitting in briefings for one not-so-new-anymore game, I was irritated to see that a female character model was exclusively featured for marketing materials, and then the team shied away from naming her the canon choice. I assume it arose out of fear that men wouldn’t like the series any more, and though it aggravated me, it would be foolish to argue that this was unfounded.

TikToker Navami Nethravathy (@pinkjujitsu) recontextualises mainstream games like The Witcher 3, God of War and Elden Ring to be “girly” or “cottagecore,” inciting waves of ire from people who have no sense of humour. Most recently, male pro players who used a voice modulator to sound “feminine” were subject to vile abuse, death threats and slurs against their perceived gender. In sum, a surge of female playable protagonists in games is no marker of actual change.

Forspoken /
Square Enix

The inclusion of nail sets is a small thing, there’s no doubt about it. Yet it shows a level of care that is absent in a lot of examples that purport an aim to represent an identity outside of the brunette crew-cut white dude who dominated games for the past two decades. It’s the same happiness that I felt when Need for Speed Unbound added graphic eyeliner to its character creator. Someone listened to the junior staff member, wafted the whisper on the wind.

If Forspoken has caught your eye as someone who doesn’t play a lot of games, I’ll tell you that its combat takes a moment to click, but once it does, you’ll be as happy as a clam. The mechanics themselves are recognisable with a range of damaging spells and restorative spells that you deal out, responding to Cuff’s instructions and the damage indicators. Enemies, whose types range from dragons, corrupted bears, wolves, soldiers, knights and a semblance of zombies in this section of the game, are vulnerable to different spells.

Occasionally, the screen becomes a bit busy with these particle effects transforming your attacks into effervescent light shows and all of the numbers popping up over your enemy. The camera had its moments too but the overall experience of combat is the elation. Forspoken likely won’t blow you away with its story but the spectacle is brilliant. The Tantas designs, especially, ensure that this world feels as real as Frey’s. And though I didn’t have that big of a range of attacks and defensive spells, I couldn’t wait to fill out that roster.

I suppose that’s the biggest thing about the time I spent with the game. So far, it’s missed opportunities to put its best foot forward (what does Forspoken even mean?), but playing it is another question entirely. You are as delighted as Frey is firing off the abilities Cuff lends you, filling the screen with sparkles in a detailed devastated playground. Those looking for a tightly spun narrative with linear gameplay will be disappointed here, however, those looking for a good time and a long time should settle in and await Forspoken on 24 January, 2023.

Featured Image Credit: Square Enix

Topics: Square Enix, PlayStation