Forspoken Review: A refreshing fantasy RPG held back by its open world design

Does Forspoken succeed at its unique spin on the fantasy RPG genre?

Forspoken is a new role-playing adventure title developed by Luminous Productions following their work on 2016's Final Fantasy XV. Although it is a refreshing and unique spin on the RPG genre, it shares many familiar design choices in many modern Square Enix games. But is it any good? Or does it ultimately fall into the same trappings that held back Final Fantasy XV? This Forspoken review will answer those questions and determine whether it's worth your hard-earned money.

Gameplay

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Within the first hour of stepping into Athia, Forspoken gives you the tools to zip around the map at breakneck speed with its parkour. Parkour is central to the gameplay, and it helps you with combat as well as scaling mountains. Players can improve their traveling skills and spells and feel like they're getting more powerful as the story continues. For example, a parkour spell like Leap might seem basic when you first get it, but it becomes completely transformed when you eventually gain access to Soar. With the second ability unlocked, you can now execute multiple leaps in the air, which will have you scaling up mountains in seconds.

Luminous Productions gives you multiple trees of magic abilities to help you shape gameplay to your preference. Forspoken's gameplay keeps a good pace throughout the adventures as Frey's magic abilities improve significantly during the story. However, those searching for a traditional RPG experience will need to look elsewhere, as Forspoken is very much an action game at its core.

The open-world RPG is filled to the brim with downright terrifying enemies, such as deadly monsters called Mutants or the epic Tanta boss fights. The gameplay always stays engaging as Forspoken requires you to find unique ways to combine your magic and parkour to take down these formidable foes. For instance, if you want to slow the battle down, you can use Bind to freeze enemies by summoning vines that wrap their legs. While combat is hectic, players can get creative by chaining the Defensive, Offensive, and Parkour trees of magic together.

The major downside to this design is that battles can feel too hectic. One moment, you will feel like a badass as you pull off the perfect combo in style. But a few minutes later, you may fall flat on your face as the juggling act of zipping around with Flow while trying to chain your Magic trees can be overwhelming.

Score: 3.5/5

Related: All Forspoken Voice Actors and Cast List

Open-World Design

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Forspoken is filled with activities and side quests scattered across the map. After reaching Chapter 3, Athia opens up and gives you a wealth of optional quests. In every city, you can find NPCs with story-based missions that lead to items and experience points. Mini-quests, called Detours, are also naturally integrated into the map; these range from collecting specific items to killing groups of enemies that have overrun a set location. Because the game is anchored by its parkour gameplay, every nook and cranny of Athia can be climbed and explored, where chests and rare items can be found tucked away, and players will need to spend hours to complete the game and its map fully. The problem is that most of the side content isn't exciting. Either the stories associated with them are surface-level, or the rewards themselves aren't worth it.

An NPC quest may have you running around for 30 minutes to lead to a few experience points. Yet, you can get the same experience by talking to a new character you haven't met before or doing a basic activity. Another example is Detours, which often have no story tied to them at all, and only give you a minimal reward at best. For example, one of the first has you following a Cat in a circle for a handful of EXP that could be earned in seconds elsewhere.

While Forspoken is packed with an overwhelming amount of content, its open world design leaves much to be desired. I found the world design to be Forspoken's weakest element and a distraction from its excellent story. Given how rich the narrative is, it would have been fascinating to learn more about the citizens of Athia and the lore behind The Break plaguing the land. With games like The Witcher 3 raising the bar with complex side quests, open-world side missions that offer little in plot no longer cut it.

Score: 2.5/5

Story

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The best aspect of Forspoken is its story. Luminous Productions has crafted a compelling narrative that will emotionally connect you to Frey Holland quickly. Because we get to experience her real-world hardships in New York City first, it adds more thematic weight to the journey she embarks on when she's thrown into Athia. With the plot mirroring the struggles she faces in both worlds, her character growth meant more to me, as her adventures to save Athia also prepared her to deal with the challenges she needs to face back home. Frey is a breath of fresh air as a lead character in the genre. Instead of the typical fantasy RPG protagonist from royal lineage or who just happens to be unique for plot reasons, Frey is a scrappy hero trying to find a place where she belongs.

Then there is Cuff, Frey's magical talkative bracelet companion that gets stuck on her arm. Their relationship is hilariously endearing, as both fish-out-of-water heroes are equally perplexed by the other's world. But the duo works together, as they offer a unique perspective rarely seen in fantasy RPGs. Unfortunately, Forspoken follows a similar path to Final Fantasy XV, where the story abruptly shifts in the second half before reaching a quick conclusion. The game's main narrative can be beaten quickly by players who focus purely on the story. And while it doesn't need to be over 40 hours long, the plot feels rushed toward the end. Still, while I wish Frey's adventure was more fleshed out, it is the strongest aspect of Forspoken.

Score: 4/5

Graphics

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Forspoken is gorgeous and will easily be one of the best-looking titles in 2023. Luminous Productions has crafted a massive open world with frantic gameplay that still looks beautiful in action. Each character looks stunning in motion, especially Frey, who is incredibly expressive throughout the story. While the world of Athia could have used more variety in terms of locale, the world is incredibly clean. The special effects used in spells also look beautiful in 4K, especially with ray-tracing enabled. I can only imagine how good Forspoken will look on the best PC rigs, as it's already impressive on console.

Score: 4/5

Verdict  Forspoken's magical story is held back by dated open world design and pacing issues

Forspoken has one of the best protagonists the genre has seen in years, making it a shame that Frey's emotionally rich story is sometimes let down by the game's tedious open-world design and uneven-paced campaign. Still, Forspoken's breakneck speed gameplay is a lot of fun and a fantasy adventure worth jumping into.

We received this code from Square Enix for reviewing purposes.

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For more information on Forspoken, check out Forspoken Preorder Guide – All Bonuses and Editions here on Pro Game Guides.

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About the Author

Brent Koepp is a games journalist based out of California. An avid Pokemon fan for over 25 years, he has spent his career reporting on the popular Nintendo franchise. You can follow him on Twitter @brentrkoepp.

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Forspoken Review: A refreshing fantasy RPG held back by its open world design

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  1. I’m sure if I play this game any longer it will burn through my new 4080..why is it so unoptimized for pc bro