You may have already heard that several outlets haven't had review code for Forspoken, Squeenix's magical parkour isekai game that's out today and that some people have already decided they hate because of the dialogue. I was actually pretty excited to review the game, and was hopeful that the dialogue would make sense and work in context. But unfortunately we, too, are one of the outlets who don't have code, so no PC review from us for a while.
Like many others - and you too, if you've got a PS5 - I've been able to play the free Forspoken demo, which plops you into the game after the opening bumf, and presumably the cutscene where Frey establishes her modern girl "lemme get this straight?!" credentials. And you know what? I don't hate it!
I say that because the conventional wisdom has become that everyone will and that it's going to be shit. My impression from the demo is that it's aaaaallright and I would like to play more - which, in fairness, is not the impression I'd want to get if I'd pre-ordered the deluxe edition for £90. Still, Forspoken has some cool stuff going on. The combat sees you switch between two kinds of magic: the Purple magic ranged and with more control/healing support spells, and a melee-ish Red magic where you thwack people with fire swords or - my favourite - throw explosive fire lances at them. It's a bit fiddly, and I wonder what the controls will be like with a keyboard, but it started to get fun when I got the hang of the controls and switching on the fly to suit the enemies I was up against.
Frey didn't speak much while I was chuntering about the world, aside from some contextual banter with her talking bracelet - who has the voice of a kind of bored, over-sexed Etonion - and it actually works because he's a magical fantasy doodad. But Frey's status as a cool modern girl pops up in other places. Your gear is limited to swapping your cloak and necklace, which have different defense and magic scores, and abilities and buffs respectively. But you can also paint your nails, different on each hand, for other buffs. I really like that idea. There's a lot under the hood that wasn't explained in the demo, too. You can craft potions and there are a load of spells to unlock.
The menu screens may be fairly stuffed, but the world itself felt a bit empty, such of it I saw. I think this is a consequence of the magical parkour. Frey can basically auto-run across the place, leaping and vaulting and gliding over water. It's fine, I guess, but she goes quite fast, which means there are a bunch of wide open spaces and tracks with not a lot in or on them - something I noticed about Sonic Frontiers, too. Maybe in the full game I'll find cities full of people, and, like, Frey will mention Starbucks and someone will say, "A stag of the sky?" or whatever. But I'm still feeling pretty positive about Forspoken. I'm worried that even if it does good and interesting stuff it'll be used by business analysts to show that single-player games, or games with a Black female lead, just don't do the numbers, when neither of those will have anything to do with its performance.
That's all on PS5, though. There's more than one reason a game might not have review code in time for launch, and it doesn't mean the game will be bad. It's a "make of this what you will" situation, but I'll be honest and say, as I pointed out in my Callisto Protocol review, it's never been a good sign before now, and I wouldn't be shocked if it turns out to have performance problems on PC. Apparently there's a day one PC patch. Even so, as Graham pointed out last week, Forspoken's PC specs are demanding and weird; my PC hits minimum spec but not quite recommended, so like Graham (and a lot of other potential players) I'm nestling somewhere in the mini-mended bracket.
I dunno, reader. It could be shaping up to be a classic 7/10. I'll hopefully have a review for you next week.