I finally got the chance to play the Forspoken Demo that was released during the Video Game Awards. Gotta say, I think there might be something special here, which I’m very thankful for given the backlash of the Forspoken trailer from August, where the tone of that video was just…off.
The story we have thus far is that Frey Holland, Forspoken’s protagonist, is thrust from her world of New York City to the sprawling magical fantasy world known as Athia, controlled by evil sorceresses known as the Tantas. Frey arrives in Athia with what seems to be a sentient bracelet known as Cuff wrapped around her wrist, which also gives her magical powers that she can use to defend both herself and the people of Athia from the evils lurking the land. Understandably, the magical bracelet may even be Frey’s ticket to finding her way back home. In the demo, you are dropped right into Athia with some abilities already available, so let’s get directly into the gameplay.
Speed. That’s the first thing I noticed in this Forspoken demo. Moving across the huge open world map and doing parkour is satisfyingly fast. As for battle, I think people will make some type of correlation with Devil May Cry, but I’d also add that the fighting and dodging mechanics remind me of Batman Arkham Asylum, considering how Frey evades and then can immediately follow-up with an attack. It feels good once you’ve mastered it, but I believe most people will find it difficult at first.
There are two spell sets to choose from, essentially being fire and earth spells. Pretty much everything is linked to your L2 & R2 buttons and they include attack spells like sword melee, throwing rocks, throwing spears, creating a shield, and even support spells. There’s a vivid array of options, admittedly overwhelming at times, but crucial when engaging different enemy types such as aerial baddies or tanks. By the end I was starting to get a bit more comfortable linking together move sets and changing them on the fly. Frey’s movement in engagements seems a bit elongated at times, meaning new players will probably take a while to adapt, so whether or not they decide or should change that remains to be seen.
This is simply anecdotal, but regarding that elongated movement, I found myself feeling a bit nauseous by the end of my playthrough. Whether that was something to do with the framerates or just oblivion calling out to me and making me ill, I’m not so sure. Something to note, however.
Upgrades also are enticing because they seemed to be linked to collecting experience in the wild, gathering resources and crafting or upgrading gear to add custom stat improvements, and/or executing various “spellcraft challenges” a number of times. The equipable spellcraft challenges are specifically intriguing to me because, for example, one can improve their overall stamina rate by evading attacks using magic parkour 25 times or boost their overall damage by attacking enemies while performing magic parkour. It gives the player mini goals to focus us, which simultaneously adds to your in-game repertoire of styles to deploy. It’s a great teaching tool disguised as an upgrade path. In short, it just seems that there are a load of ways to upgrade your character, which is more than I expected.
Graphics & Sound
Man, Forspoken is pretty. There were plenty of times I caught myself gazing at the details of Frey’s capes or large structures in the distance. The landscapes are truly easy on the eyes and there’s definitely a feel of grandiose exploration and secrets to unlock.
Along with the epic scale of the world, there’s also what seems to be carefully crafted world building told through the banter between Frey and her seemingly sentient bracelet named “Cuff.” During combat, Cuff will interject during a battle and remind Frey that her health is low or she needs to take some other action, adding to the seriousness of the battle. You’ll hear his voice directly on your PS5 controller as well. Even outside of combat, I found the tone of their convos cheeky and entertaining, so hoping that doesn’t become repetitive in the actual game release. The voice of the bracelet reminded me a bit of Paul Bettany from Knight’s Tale, Marvel Avengers, and Star Wars fame, which is high praise from me because I think he’s got a great voice. Initially, I thought it was him, but it’s actually voiced by Jonathan Cake, so shoutout for his fine work.
This is an open world game and there were a ton of things to do in the demo. Due to time, I wasn’t able to pursue much more than the key plot points, but the speed at which Frey is moving doesn’t make anything seem like a chore. There’s even fast travel features, so in terms of traversing the world, I don’t think there will be much frustration concerning that. In fact, it may be quite fun. It’ll be interesting to see if the story keeps pace with the movement.
I was really taken aback by that trailer from August. Granted, a trailer doesn’t really encompass everything a game is about, but the tone was simply off and I think it made people a bit worried in what they were going to get for a long-awaited game. Thankfully, from what I’ve seen in the demo, I don’t think we have anything to worry about concerning tone. The landscapes are beautiful, the audio design is on point, the combat feels fluid and seems to have an addictive quality when combining it with the spellcraft upgrade system. There’s a lot to like here and I’m thinking this could be a special entry in the Playstation 5 library.