“Forspoken”: barely exploited potential
After many reports, the Square Enix studio finally presented us with its latest product this week: Forspoken. After having devoted more than ten hours to it, the observation becomes obvious. While his ambitions are obvious – and very honorable – they are unfortunately too big for his own good.
Nothing is going well for Frey Holland. In fact, life has taken on the nasty habit of getting in the way of him since he was born. Abandoned by her parents when she was just a baby, then tossed from one foster family to another, our heroine goes from galley to galley, narrowly avoiding prison time and time again.
While a lenient judge gives him a favor with a lightened sentence on the eve of his 21st birthday, Frey will try to flee New York to rebuild his life elsewhere. But at the turn of an evening, she will find her bad habits again and will switch to a fantastic world called Athia.
In this parallel universe, her only ally will be a sentient bracelet giving her magical powers and superhuman physical abilities to help him move about in combat. Because the road home will be strewn with enemies and challenges for the young woman (and, therefore, for the player as well).
The bar was high for this first PS5 exclusive of the year 2023. And obviously, Square Enix has put all the gum to go after its ambitions. Or, rather, to try to achieve its ambitions. Because the bet that the studio has launched is not entirely won.
As soon as we dive into Forspoken– first in his New York, then his Athia -, we immediately notice the obvious attention to detail, such as the richness of its environments and its innovative combat mechanics. It’s beautiful, it’s welcoming, it’s frankly refreshing. A thunderbolt ? Not exactly, but almost.
The first slights are indeed exhilarating, intoxicating and modern. But after a few hours, they quickly become redundant, in addition to being particularly difficult to maneuver. Aiming aid – crutch that we usually categorically refuse – seemed to us to be the only viable option at various times in the game as it becomes difficult to aim and align your shots towards the targets.
And that's probably the biggest problem. Because with risky orders and its convoluted fights, we sigh more than we get carried away after a few hours. An even longer gestation would perhaps have made it possible to better calibrate this element of Forspoken and, also, to find a more distinct guideline for it.
A little of everything
Both in the context of main and secondary quests, we surveyed lands dotted with enemies, fought hordes of zombified villagers, learned various spells and incantations, made magic concoctions… but also followed stray cats, fed sheep and gave a few minutes of our precious time to songwriters in need of attention.
In short, Forspokencasts a wide net in its missions. A little too wide, even. Because we come to lose the common thread of this plot, just like the personality of the game with different flavors (sometimes light, sometimes more heady) of Assassin's Creed, Elden Ring or Horizon Forbidden West. But rare are the occasions when this new offering from Square Enix does not surpass the games it tries – voluntarily or not – to emulate.
Fortunately, all the same, that we attach instantly to Frey Holland, her nuanced, three-dimensional, all-human heroine. It's incredibly easy to identify with her and side with her after all the hardships life has thrown her way. And this is the main strength of Forspoken: its human and universal dimension.
Forspoken is therefore not a bad game, far from there. But it's easy to be upset to see him exploiting only a part of his obvious potential.
- Forspoken ★★★☆☆
Available on PS5 and PC