Going from the bustling streets of New York City to an ancient fantasy world is quite the leap.
And yet, that’s exactly where Forspoken‘s protagonist, Frey Holland, finds herself. Ripped from her own hard-knock life, she’s suddenly the most important person to ever land in the world of Athia, a place where people are living in constant fear and threat due to a terrifying dark presense known as the ‘Break’. Frey’s the one to save them all – or at least, that’s how it seems.
It’s quite the story, and it makes something of a change from your typical fantasy yarn. You could argue that giving Frey a basis in the real world makes her more relatable to us: she’s a real-life twenty-first century person, not some mythical character. It means that, despite how far Forspoken‘s tale may stretch at times, Frey is always grounded in reality. Or as grounded in reality as someone who suddenly finds themselves with a sweet arsenal of magical powers can be.
Yes, Forspoken is a game all about magic, and much of your time will be spent shooting bolts, parrying with a magical sword and creating huge explosions with nothing but your hand. Perhaps the greatest asset of Forspoken, though, is Frey’s arsenal of traversal skills. Forget simply walking or running through environments: Frey’s ever-expanding range of magical parkour skills means she can speed run, run up walls, climb with ease and zip through the environment. Moving at speed feels sublime, and even when Forspoken‘s landscape appears rather barren it’s still a joy to move around. You’ll have access to basic parkour from very early on, but more skills will be acquired as you go. It’s almost a shame that the full extent of Frey’s unique movement isn’t unlocked until later on in the game.
Even though much of Athia, outside of its few key areas, is rather bare, there’s still plenty to be done. Frey’s never far away from a side quest or diversion, and one would argue simply running from one main mission to another really isn’t the best way to play Forspoken. It’s hard to avoid coming across a side activity, whether it being clearing enemies out of old ruins, or diving into a hidden dungeon to face a miniboss. Everything you do has some worthwhile reward, either a new piece of equipment, an upgrade to Frey’s magic, or something else. Skipping over these activities simply means you’re not getting as much out of Forspoken. Immerse yourself fully in the experience, and you’ll find a rich and fulfilling adventure.
Even Frey’s story had us gripped. She’s a New Yorker, orphaned since birth and had a rough childhood growing up in the care system. As such, she’s fallen on the wrong side of the law on more than one occasion. But after coming across a magical cuff in an abandoned store one night, she finds herself transported to the world of Athia. Currently without anywhere to live in NYC, it doesn’t seem the worst turn of events, but it’s hardly ideal. After all, within minutes she’s accosted by a fearsome dragon – and that magical cuff is now stuck to her arm. And won’t stop talking to her.
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The banter between Frey and Cuff forms the backbone of Forspoken‘s personality. We rather enjoyed it: the dialogue may be a little cheesy at times but we loved Frey’s spiky personality, juxtaposed by Cuff’s somewhat aloof Britishness. They’ll pipe up amid traversal and action, and every so often Frey will take a moment to ask Cuff some pertinent questions – if you want, that is. There are a few lines of dialogue that you’ll end up hearing again and again, which can get tiresome. If it bothers you, Frey and Cuff’s interactions can be minimised in the game’s settings.
Forspoken‘s settings are worth talking about as a whole, in fact. There are so many gameplay and accessibility settings which can be played with, and it’s rare we’ve felt our experience with a game has been so personal. You can fiddle around with how Frey’s traversal skills work, for example, changing some inputs to suit your preferences. You can also change how much direction you’re given, if you need to push a button to pick up nearby items and more. It’s perhaps one of the most in-depth accessibility menus we’ve seen, helpful not only for people with additional needs but for anyone wanting to tweak their experience somewhat.
It really can make a huge difference, too. If you’re like us, your time with an open world game will be heavily punctuated by constantly picking things up. Forspoken‘s world is dotted with materials which can be used for crafting and improving your equipment. Hitting the ‘pick up’ button every time can be tiresome, and so the option to instantly pick up anything you’re close to simply streamlines the experience, allowing you to focus on other things. It’s a small thing, but one that’s very welcome.
We probably should talk about Forspoken‘s combat in more detail. Chances are, as you’re zipping around the game’s environments, you’ll encounter plenty of foes waiting to engage you in a fight. Enemies come in a variety of shapes and sizes: from zombie-type people affected by the Break to mythical beasts, everything’s out to challenge you. You’ll feel out of your depth from time to time as you run across a giant beast on the map, but some fights are designed to be tough. Standard enemies shouldn’t pose too much of a threat, so long as you use all the tools at your disposal. Frey’s magical parkour comes in useful in combat too, and you’re encouraged to dodge, evade and parry to truly best your foes.
As with Frey’s parkour, you’ll need to wait until later in the game to truly get the most out of combat. As you progress, you’ll unlock new sets of magic, allowing for different combat types. You’ll begin only with ranged spells, but later you’ll unlock melee attacks and more. Eventually, you’ll be able to tailor your combat style to suit you, but in the early stages you’ll need to make do with what you’ve got. It’s not such a bad thing though: we found ourselves going back to the early ranged powers in many later fights. Keeping a distance is a valid tactic and makes avoiding those incoming attacks.
Early on, Forspoken‘s somewhat empty, barren world isn’t the most appealing. Stick with it, though, and you’ll be rewarded with more interesting landscapes, plenty of side content to sink your teeth into and a range of magical beasts itching for a fight. Frey makes a great protagonist, and we couldn’t help but be charmed by her punchy personality. But it’s her exhilarating parkour that really sets Forspoken apart. This open world adventure offers up the type of fun that’s hard to put down once you get started. We’re certainly keen to keep returning to Athia to mop up those remaining distractions.