Forspoken Hands-on Preview – Promising, but Still Needs a bit of Work

Forspoken is an upcoming title from Square Enix that has been receiving a lot of flak lately due to some marketing and trailer-related mishaps. After being delayed, the game is now scheduled to be released in January 2023, just about 4 months away from today.

Thanks to our friends from Square Enix, I got to play a 25-minute demo of the game during Tokyo Game Show 2022, which gave me a glimpse of what to expect from it when it comes out early next year. While I wasn’t totally sold on the short gameplay slice just yet, I also feel that Forspoken could surprise a lot of doubters given a few tweaks here and there.

The demo I tried out didn’t really fill me in on any story details, as it was more tailored to trying out battle and traversal capabilities. In this sense, Forspoken really surprised me because it turned out to be better than I was made to think based on the previous trailers.

One thing players will recognize from the trailers will be Frey’s ability to traverse the landscape in an acrobatic fashion. Named “Magic Parkour,” Frey energizes her boots, activating what is basically the sprint mode. While activated, Frey can parkour her way through long drops, ravines, and any other form of obstacle in between.

Parkour feels fast and fluid, but your meter will drain itself after continuous use. Frey can also use her abilities to catapult herself off of protruding rocks on the side of cliffs to reach higher areas, and even latch on to areas just slightly out of reach. Overall, movement is something that the devs have done well with, although I did notice that Frey doesn’t do well with very sharp turns, and tends to circle her way around a path instead.

That said, Magic Parkour isn’t only used for traversal in Forspoken, but during combat as well. Various enemies are spread across the world and will require the use of various spells and acrobatic maneuvers to take them down.

Spells in Forspoken are plentiful, and for demo purposes, a whole bunch of them were unlocked for me to try out. The moderators told me that this was intentional, but during the game, unlocking these spells will be paced as you progress through the world. That said, the combat feels great, to be quite honest.

The L2 and R2 buttons are used to activate the spells, and while L2 handles mostly support-type actions, R2 controls the offensive spells. As mentioned, Frey will have access to a TON of spells, and at some point, I was overwhelmed with how many have been made available.

Of course, as my time was limited, I didn’t get to look at and try out all of them, but there was a great variety based on what I saw and remembered – a fire lance that could be thrown, slinging rocks, a fire sword, a rapid-fire rock spell, and so on. There are even some defensive spells that buff the player and some trap-like spells that can be used against unsuspecting enemies.

One gripe I had was that I needed to switch spells often since the menu only allowed one type of spell per trigger button to be equipped. Popping in and out of menus to switch spells really took me out of my momentum, forcing me to just stick to one spell. Maybe I just didn’t know that I could equip more than one?

I also noticed that the AI of the normal mobs in the world of Forspoken didn’t prove to be much of a challenge. While there was some variety of enemies to be had, some of them even flying, they were easy conquests that fell to a few spells.

These enemies have elemental weaknesses, so some spells will be more effective than others, but during my time with the game, sticking to a comfortable spell was good enough to see me through. It could be possible that exploiting this weakness will be much more crucial in the later stages of the game.

Based on the demo slice that I got to play, the world of Forspoken looked to be a bit too barren for my liking, both in things to do and see. While there are enemies spread throughout the map, the scenery looked rather lifeless. It could be too early to tell and would be unfair to judge it over 30 minutes of gameplay, but maybe other parts of the map will feature more things as we go along.

One quest that I managed to complete rewarded me with a new cloak that offered various stat bonuses. As I opened up my menu to check it out, other cloaks in my inventory had different stats as well, leading me to believe that certain builds based on certain spells can be maximized in the late game.

Forspoken also offers crafting items to pick up as you travel around the world, but when I reached a safe house to craft some items, it seems that I didn’t pick up enough to replenish my healing items. Again, a function of the lack of time to actually walk around at my leisure and explore the world.

Visually, Forspoken looks pretty good, and the spell effects and enemy designs are particularly intriguing. I played the first few minutes of the demo at what seemed to be the resolution mode of the game, but the frequent frame dips were a big turn-off. After switching over to performance mode, the gameplay instantly became 100% smoother, which was perfect for this type of action RPG.

Lastly, the banter between Frey and her magical cuffs is here and in full effect. Normally, I wouldn’t mind the back and forth, but some of the lines don’t quite stick the landing and feel like forced comedy. The performance of the voice actors isn’t really to blame, but the culprit seems to be attributed more to the game’s writing than anything else.

forspoken tgs 2022 demo screenshot 1

Overall, Forspoken seems rough around the edges but has the potential to surprise some people thanks to its combat and traversal mechanics. There are some intriguing systems here, especially when it comes to the amount and combination of spells, that are weighed down by other aspects like its writing.

The next few months leading up to launch will be crucial, and we’ll have to wait and see if Forspoken can pull off a comeback.

Forspoken is scheduled to be released on January 24, 2023 for the PS5 and PC.

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