a PS5 and PC exclusive (un)forgettable?

The Final Fantasy 15 team, Luminous Productions, is going into the deep end with their first original creation: Forspoken. A PS5 and PC exclusive that was talked about, for better and worse, from its 2020 teaser to its launch. Does this big release in January 2023 deserve all the criticism or praise it has received? We immerse ourselves in the world of Athia to get to the bottom of it.

2023 should be a banner year for Square Enix with the arrival of games like Octopath Traveler 2, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, the big piece of Final Fantasy 16 and maybe even Final Fantasy 7 Remake 2. But it’s in Forspoken that the publisher chose to open the ball. Formerly known as “Project Athia”, the Luminous Productions title is the result of a very close collaboration between Japan and the West. We saw Bear McCreary (God of War Ragnarok) and Garry Schyman (BioShock) on the music, Amy Hennig (Uncharted) and Gary Whitta (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) behind the game concept, and finally Todd Stashwick (Malcom, 12 Monkeys…) as well as Allison Rymer (the Shadowhunters series) on the screenplay. What will make sparks?

An eFREYante writing

Life is very far from Frey Holland, the heroine of Forspoken, who struggles to find her place in the world as we know it and survives a robbery in hopes of giving herself a better future. As he plans to escape the streets of New York, the failure of an illegal job hinders his plans but not his motivation to leave. It is at this moment that he is attacked by a mysterious energy that draws him towards a building where a bracelet is stored. A magical gem that transports him to the fantastical universe of Athia.

A world divided into four kingdoms – with different biomes (mountains, abandoned and fertile forests, vast plains or sparkling waters) – which were once fertile and vibrant territories protected by the four Tanntas. So powerful are the witches that, like their lands, are corrupted by a strange evil: the “Mist”. A devastating phenomenon for the fauna and flora of Athia, but also its inhabitants who lose their status and become evil when exposed to it… except Frey. For some reason that we won’t spoil, this one is actually immune, which causes him damage when he goes to Cipal, the last bastion where the surviving Athians live. Can Frey restore the balance? Some think, while others believe that it is on the contrary an additional threat. A stranger who arrives without warning in tight jeans, a plaid shirt and sneakers, it scares the people of a parallel dimension.

Forspoken Review

On the surface, the universe and the lore of Forspoken is fascinating, but here, the whole thing barely stands up because of the writing. Let’s start with Krav, Frey’s talking and sidekick bracelet, which will be of great help to him for scanning the horizon and revealing important objects, identifying nearby enemies and their weaknesses, and communicating also in H24. And that’s the first problem, Krav like Frey has been talked about a lot, a lot. Any situation is good for propagating dialogues that are a bit cringeworthy and repetitive. We have the impression of being in front of a GTA 4 or Assassin’s Creed 1 with NPCs with a limited vocabulary – the famous “Mer it and mad!” He will kill himself, it will be good for him.”. The interaction between the two characters is too often forced and we are far – very far – from the truth from a happy relationship as is the case in Shadow of the Damned or Lollipop Chainsaw for example. Therefore, we can better understand why the studio implemented the option to silence the two protagonists, even if it was just a small bandage on a gaping wound.

Because yes, this buffer solution will not make you forget that it is difficult to invest yourself fully in the story of Frey, his fate or that of Athia, and be convinced by the twists that fall like hair in the soup. A problem directing actors? We suspect it. A rather simple scenario and deja-vu but mostly badly told? Absolutely. We have the feeling that the authors have a general idea, a beginning and an end, and that they are knitting as much as possible to try to connect everything with the result that the sauce will hardly take. Forspoken also drags on details or protagonists without interest and skims over other more interesting ones like Tanntas, and does not know which foot to dance between the light tone (rarely successful) and false darker tone. And unfortunately, the presentation and the structure of the game are similar.

The open world and the Forspoken technique failed

The introduction does not show Forspoken in its best light and on the contrary highlights the flaws of the writing – in terms of the story as well as the characters – and the too choppy pace of the adventure. Soon, the game loves to cut us off for nothing with an old fashioned presentation that doesn’t know if it should be pulling more towards its Western or Japanese side. A strain in between that renders any attempt at a narrative pointless and must also be blamed on a poor technique, with particular modeling and animations not worth it.

Forspoken Reviews

Forget the fictional demo Agni’s Philosophy from 10 years ago and the various trailers for the game, Forspoken is not a showcase for the PS5 or for the Luminous Engine and is accused of one hell of a downgrade . Visual – and technical shortcomings with a framerate that can completely go off the rails at 30 or 60fps depending on the mode, lower quality graphics in Performance, etc. – which only reinforces the annoying dialogues and cutscenes and keeps taking us out of the story. To say that the software is less appealing than Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PS4 Fat is problematic. But it is at least on par with the production of Insomniac Games at one point, the generic open world, with the difference that spider-man is ultimately more pleasant with a better mastered main plot.

As stated above, Athia is divided into kingdoms – four to be exact – each of which is associated with a Taanta. Do you understand the course of the trip? No, well you have to fight your way through each environment until you reach one of the witches to fight him, and this in a loop. If the main and side missions were exciting, that certainly wouldn’t be a hassle, but that’s not the case. Disappointing or even absolutely zero (sheep feeding, touring the city with the presentation of hell…), the quests are accompanied by a whole bunch of additional activities that, again, are not original. Clearing forts, bridges, or ruins where equipment is hidden, protecting citizens, feels hot and the map is overfilled with these repetitive and similar tasks.

The dungeons, called Sealed Labyrinths, which seem interesting turn out to be very small, average and very flat. It’s always a long hallway – sometimes with side roads to get items -, a bigger room, a hallway, a bigger room, a hallway, and a big boss room. There is no effort in the artistic direction, the atmosphere or the level of design to have the minimum attention and we want to visit them, more than the promise of departure with special equipment. The difficulty is also not that the monsters are easier to defeat than some enemies that roam the nature.

The icing on the cake, as everyone loves, the activities are revealed on the map after going to the bell towers, many bell towers, to scan the surroundings. We have the feeling of a failed world, seen a thousand times with an identity that is not sufficiently supported, while it is promising on paper. This Alice in Wonderland wonderland – to which Forspoken refers directly – is also very small. However, we believe in an improvement three quarters of our progress in this inclined environment and this intoxicating music. But no, it’s just an ephemeral sequence.

Happiness is in fighting and parkour

All activities and missions aim to gain experience points and mana to boost Frey’s attributes (health, defense, passive upgrade…), his equipment (cloak, necklace, nail polish – original for blow) and its four types of magic that will perform in different ways. For example, green or even blue is good for ranged combat (medium / long range), while red lets us engage by chanting the fire sword. You have to constantly juggle between each of them to vary the fun, adapt to the confrontation situation and break the defenses of opponents who may experience resistance to certain effects.

All the blows given to the enemies are thanks to three types of spells (all of which cannot be improved during the adventure through challenges): the offensive ones that will attack our aggressors, the supporting ones to keep the an opponent by pressing him in place with help. of plants for example, and the flows. These are actually final attacks that activate after casting some offensive and support spells. Even fights require hitting L2 and R2 at all costs – with adaptive triggers used too harshly – and therefore can seem completely jealous, counter-attacking, critical hits and others that enrich the system. And then finally, if we come back to it, it is for the pyrotechnic spectacle offered by the sequence of spells – even with technical shortcomings – and the parkour that, like the battles, prevents Forspoken from sinking .

As powerful and magical a character as he is, Frey is also comfortable with his moves thanks to parkour and his various abilities. He is able to propel himself through grappling to rush the opponent, cover or reach areas that are inaccessible during normal times, float in a water bubble to catch a waterfall or even create a hoverboard to surf on a lake. Skills used in combat to dodge and create unstoppable dynamics, but also when exploring the open world.

Jumping over hanging rocks is dizzying and turns out to be as much fun as pulling off pranks to take out our enemies. A fly in the ointment, however, is how to access these parkour skills. They are unlocked by immersing themselves in the various fountains (mana pools) sprinkled across the map. No challenge, little presentation, for something that could / should have been more integrated with the main missions, so as not to suffer more from a generic world and its map lit up everywhere like a Christmas tree.

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