Playing Forspoken shows that he has a lot of potential that stands in his own way

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In the three or so hours I spent with Forspoken, I got to a fantastic new world, fought a dragon, and took part in a prison break. This all sounds very exciting, but the truth is that, so far, Forspoken looks like a game that gets in its own way. Square Enix’s latest action RPG has some potential, thanks to a promising combat system that could be nuanced over time, but its early sections feel uninspired.

I was able to play chapters two, three and five, which allowed me to get a pretty good idea of ​​Forspoken’s rhythm. Athia’s open world is packed with things to do, like side quests, dungeons, and battles galore, so its variety of activities won’t be too surprising to those who have played any title in the genre. It’s encouraging that some of those fights can be quite challenging, and I ran into some fascinating enemies for whom, despite my best efforts, my level was too low.

Regardless of my defeat at the hands of more fearsome enemies, combat is where Forspoken is most attractive. His quickness and the way he keeps you on your toes as you juggle his many magical abilities hold some real tactical promise. There are over 100 spells in Forspoken, many of which look really exciting in the trailers, but in the early chapters you’re limited to just a few. This can make the early stages a bit monotonous, as you have to hold the trigger to shoot chunks of rock at enemies while occasionally dodging an attack. That primary “shot” can be toggled between Scatter Shot, Burst, and Shield, acting as a Magic Assault Rifle, SMG, and Shotgun respectively. However, when new unlocks appear, things become much more interesting. I had fun mixing these standard spells with much more interesting support abilities, like conjuring roots out of the ground to bind enemies and summoning a small friendly plant turret to help out in sticky situations.

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All of these skills belong to the land-based magical skill tree, one of four different elemental types you’ll acquire throughout your adventure. I’m afraid that being limited to these basic skills for most of the early Forspoken not the best way to introduce your combat systems, as it hardly offers a taste of the promised excitement. For example, it wasn’t until late in my game that I unlocked the much more interesting fire magic, which sadly meant I couldn’t use it.

There are over 100 spells to use in Forspoken, many of which look really exciting.

Although so far I have not been able to use them, I’ve seen glimpses of extensive skill treesPacked with bigger and better abilities that hint at exciting and evolving gameplay. It’s a combat system that really promises, and it has left me excited about the possibilities of playing with different types of magic and the effects that the combination of spells can have on enemies. I remain hopeful that it will develop substantially and more quickly, because the truth is that Forspoken hasn’t had much else that has caught my attention.

The story is the old tale of Alice in Wonderland/Wizard of Oz, in which a stranger is transported to a magical land and (presumably) sets off as its savior. The protagonist, Frey Holland, is an abrasive character who doesn’t have much time for anyone or the situation she finds herself in. However, I’ve seen signs that she’s softening up, which I hope points in the direction of an endearing character. Ella Balinska interprets it with solvency, despite having to carry a rather weak script in which one of every two words written seems to be a swear word. Seriously, I must have heard one over 100 times in the few hours the game lasted, and it doesn’t lend itself to creating a subtle or nuanced protagonist. More painful were the conversations between Frey and her anthropomorphic wristband partner, Cuff. While walking around with a charming Paul Bettany on your wrist might be a nice experience, in Forspoken it turns out to be less impressive than expected.

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Even more unpleasant is the visual appearance of Forspoken, which it does not show the graphical power that one would expect from a next generation game despite being exclusive to PS5 and PC. Textures are confusing, draw distances are limited, and aside from some nice particle effects, it’s not exactly a spectacle. It’s all pretty barren and lifeless, an atmosphere that’s especially pronounced in the city where I spent a good deal of my playing time: a series of gray, anemic streets filled with nondescript people. It’s also where I witnessed Forspoken commit his biggest crime to date: a downright abysmal auto-fail stealth mission that deserved to die on PlayStation 2.

However, once that matter is over, Forspoken continued to show promise. Chapter five takes place in a much more interesting area of ​​Athia, a fiery red land painted with brush strokes similar to the Caelid of the Elden Ring. A vertically varied landscape with hidden dangers on each layer, a place where my combat skills were put to the test along with my magical parkour skills. When everything clicks, traversing chasms and jumping over enemies can be a real delight. But for a game that places so much emphasis on these slick movement options, it can sometimes feel frustratingly unreadable; I found out the hard way after climbing too many unconventional bunny hopping cliffs. Like much of Forspoken, it feels like the fun is there when it reaches its peak, but in these early chapters it stumbles far too often.

The final part of my experience was a big boss battle, which was undoubtedly one of the best moments of my game. It consisted of two difficult but varied phases, and it made me constantly think and juggle all the cooldowns and spells I had learned thus far. The first section was an exciting fight against a powerful enemy and a group of soldiers who showed really clever battle design. I focused most of my firepower on the boss, reserving my other attacks for weaker enemies, launching vines in a wide area of ​​effect that healed me with each connection they made. This kind of clever encounter encouraged me to think that Forspoken might offer some inspired boss skins later on that combine spectacle and challenge.

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While the second phase of the fight did show some of that spectacle, I found it far less entertaining, and even bordering on annoying, as I was channeled into a narrow arena and required to repeatedly dodge some rather unreadable attacks. Also is one of Forspoken’s visual presentation letters, where the color of the world is drenched by a blue filter. It’s supposed to be a representation of “The Rupture”, the evil force that plagues this fantasy world, but it doesn’t sit very well and removes any kind of distinctive identity outside of a certain area. It also means you miss out on some of the impressive creature designs; a huge dragon that I met at first seemed more like a giant winged silhouette to me.

I’m pretty convinced that Forspoken offers fun, but its first few chapters don’t seem like the right place to find it. The magical combat promises to develop and become more and more interesting over time, but whether it will be enough to overcome an uninspired script and the world it intends to bring to life remains to be seen. With so many open world action RPGs at our fingertips, Forspoken needs to differentiate itself. Despite leaving an unimpressive first impression, I am hopeful, if not confident, that he can pull it off.