Forspoken Review (PS5) – Final Blandtasy

It’s never a good sign when review code is difficult to get, especially for AAA, big-budget titles from one of the major publishers. You may have already seen the middling review scores Forspoken has received from those outlets who did secure early code and this review will not be any different.

We received code roughly 18 hours before launch and after waiting for it to download — thanks LNP FTTN — I dove in. Almost immediately I was struggling, not with the mechanics, but rather with how dreadful the experience was.

Instead of getting players into the action quickly, Forspoken makes you sit through an excruciatingly painful introductory sequence set in New York. The dialogue is painful as are the illogical series of events that unfold for reasons I’m still yet to fully grasp. Forspoken is also as subtle as a brick to the head so when I found a copy of Alice in Wonderland in protagonist Frey’s house I actually rolled my eyes.

And even once you (finally) make it to Athia and the actual story starts to unfold the logical doesn’t improve. Not one single element of Forspoken is consistent. Not the characterisation, not the dialogue, not the motivations of any characters and especially not the characters. It is, unfortunately, all over the shop like a madman’s breakfast.

Forspoken Review

Forspoken’s deepest issues start and end with it being completely overcooked and underdone. There are myriad overlapping mechanics that simply do not work together. Worse still, nothing feels like it’s fully and completely finished. Frey’s magical parkour is very ordinary and feels as though she’s skating on ice. You never really feel completely in control of Frey when you’re running through Athia and nine times out of ten, you’ll end up getting stuck or falling and having to take a different route. And while Frey is nigh uncontrollable out in the wild, when you’re indoors she slows down to a pace so glacial I wanted to throw my controller every time I was in a building.

Similarly, the magical combat just feels completely unfinished. It’s more of a concept than a fleshed-out system. Pressing and holding R2 fires magic at enemies and L2 uses support magic but Frey has access to multiple types and switching them on the fly requires you to hold L1/R1 and use the right stick. It’s not complex but it does enormously derail any pacing or flow you had in combat. Eventually, I simply stuck with using one type of spell just to avoid switching.

The pacing could be the biggest issue I had with Forspoken. Despite not enjoying most of what it had to offer, I may have had fewer negative things to say about it if it was paced in an acceptable way. I feel like every 30 seconds the game was interrupting me to introduce some new idea or mechanic I had no interest in; this continued onto the final boss fight. Worse still, I had hoped that after the painful opening, few hours the game would release its grip a little. Sadly, it did not.

Cutscenes bombard you constantly, interrupting gameplay for a pointless conversation or forcing you to listen to yet another exposition dump. Worst of all is the extended sequences where you’re forced to wander around and speak to townspeople to hear a canned response before moving on and repeating. I am so grateful there’s an option to skip cinematics, I just wish there was an option to skip the pointless sections in between each of the main missions.

Even with all of the issues I have with Forspoken, I might have warmed up to it if the story had been any good. It’s not, it’s woeful and tedious. Frey and her magic bracelet Cuff are tasked with freeing Athia from the rule of the Tantas (witches) and they spend the entirety of their journey being insufferable. Frey whips back and forth between wanting to help and refusing to help at a moment’s notice. Initially just seeking a way home, Frey sets out to get revenge once an innocent child, she’s known all of 5 minutes, is killed even though she reminds the player constantly that she only looks out for herself. Then, after getting revenge she refuses to continue to help as that would be murder…

Her characterisation really is laughably bad and when coupled with the inane back and forth of her and Cuff for the duration it’s really easy to tune out and stop caring. And tune them out you’ll need to as you “explore” the vast, empy bland world that is Athia. There may be Ubisoft-levels of map markers but they’re mostly pointless and add nothing of value to the game. In between these markers? Nothing. Actually nothing.

Forspoken’s world is vast but so empty it would have been better off being a straight linear game in the vein of Final Fantasy 13. It still would have had painful dialogue, awful characters and gameplay mechanics that don’t really work but it wouldn’t have the most dead and empty open world I’ve seen in quite some time.

Overall, there is very little in Forspoken worth mentioning. Seemingly a product without any clear direction and with any and every idea allowed to be added, Forspoken is a muddled, boring, toneless mess. Even with a bit longer spent on development, I’m not sure this one could be saved. There’s so much wrong with it that it would need to be restarted from the ground up before anything worth salvaging appeared.

If this one is added to PlayStation Plus and you can pick it up for free, sure, check it out. But there’s no way I can advise you to spend any money on Forspoken. It just isn’t worth it.

Forspoken was reviewed on PS5 using a digital code provided by Square Enix.

Reader Rating0 Votes
The cat Homer seems nice
Gameplay constantly interrupted by cutsecenes, exposition and awkwardness
Undercooked and overdone gameplay systems
Nothing really works together
Inane, incessant, repellant dialogue
Not one single character or story beat is consistent
Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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