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Forspoken finally gets better, shortly before it ends

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forspoken, of all things, is a Christmas game. It begins a few days before the holiday, which, as it happens, is protagonist Frey Holland’s birthday, a fact you learn when the game forces you to review his printed-out arrest record in the first scene, where Frey turns up in New York. The city court charged him with grand larceny and resisting arrest.

In the same scene, you learn that Freya, like the baby Jesus, had a mystical birth. Only in his case it was not the wise men who found him in Bethlehem, but the firefighters in the Holland Tunnel. (Hence his name.) After leaving the courtroom, Frey is thrashed by two women (one in leopard print, the other in camo) before returning to his barren, boarded-up apartment, where he writes up his plan to leave New York. is on a piece of cardboard pasted on the wall. Along with her cardboard decorations, Frey has a few books (Alice in Wonderland and a leather-bound hard copy of something called “Law & Order” being the most prominent) and a wall rack dedicated to his beloved “Kicks”. Her entire apartment immediately burns down, prompting her to reflect on her life while leaning on the edge of the Crossroads Hotel as the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Day. Suddenly, she sees a magical bracelet that is about to change her life.

from the get go, forspokenThe tone seems unintentionally absurd. The game, developed by Luminous Productions and published by Square Enix, opens in present-day New York City, a depiction that, even to a non-New Yorker like me, feels less like New York and more like AI. irrigated law & Order Reran and Tommy Wiseau room Will produce (At one point, when asked what she misses most about New York, Frey offered up Central Park and Niche, the latter of which plays a surprisingly important role in the game’s plot.)

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Protagonist Frey's criminal record, which the player is forced to look through in order to progress in Forspoken

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Image: Dazzling Productions/Square Enix via Play Gamez

Soon, however, you are whisked away to Athia, the game’s true setting: a medieval fantasy world beset by corruption that threatens to destroy life itself. There, you find yourself attached to a cuff on the wrist, a sentient bangle that hates you. Then, the dialogue from the infamous trailer is spoken, and you’re off to the races.

forspokenWorst opening hours ever. Taking in a fair share of side offerings in this open-world action RPG, it took me 16 hours to complete the game, being careful not to rush toward the game’s conclusion too quickly, however tempting it was. The first seven hours of those 16 (about half the game’s running time, I feel the need to emphasize) are long tutorials, one-note combat, and lore entries, punctuated with awful dialogue to “magic parkour” were interrupted by the request. sheep-petting minigames, cat-following minigames, and a spoken exhibit detailing the intricacies of meat production at Seapel, forspokenEmpty, ugly Hub City.

for a game that constantly references Alice in WonderlandOne of the biggest disappointments is how bland Athia is, not only visually, but perceptually. Divided between rich and poor palaces and slums? check. Mysterious blight that can be prevented by a poultice made from special roots? Also check. An old man who has gone mad, but could actually be the key to solving it all? Sure. and on and on.

It’s a blessing, then – a true Christmas miracle – that once you’ve got your second set of magical abilities, the game can actually be a little fun. forspokenCombat is its central draw, and despite regular issues with lock-on and camera controls, it’s satisfying to swap between multiple sets of magic on the fly, from charging up to a circular sweep of a sword of fire. Knocking enemies to the ground with vines first and watching the weak ones litter the screen while my combat rating goes up.

Frey observes a rock-studded, frontier desert region of Athia in Forespoken

Image: Dazzling Productions/Square Enix via Play Gamez

Traversal is good fun too. Frey has Infamous-esque sprint ability that gets further modified throughout the game, allowing you to traverse the landscape in a matter of moments. Sadly, you’re always moving to visually identical dungeons (the interior lighting changes from red to green as you progress), visually identical rest areas called Pilgrim’s Refuge (no lighting variations No), and the minigames that go near the cat (separate from the minigames that follow the cat). You quickly begin to repeat yourself as you explore and within the first few hours of the game, to the point where you’ll be able to remember his most memorable loot-pickup lines by the time the credits roll.

As you absorb the power of these magical queens, combat becomes more enjoyable with each tentacle you kill. By the time you get to the fourth set of magical abilities, the game feels like it’s finally opening up, a full suite of powers available to you, immediately undercut by the fact that it’s actually ending. Is. There was certainly additional material left to explore once I fought my way to true power, but in terms of what was left of the story, it more or less amounted to a series of minibosses, some of which I What was already seen. If I wasn’t already frustrated with the game, I definitely am at its conclusion.

Frey talks to an NPC in the open world of Forspoken

Image: Dazzling Productions/Square Enix via Play Gamez

Before I end, let’s spare a word for Frye, a fictionally black protagonist who joins a growing trend in media to place black people in a world where race is unimportant. Except the game is pretty insistent that Frey is a New Yorker, mystical birth or not, living her entire life growing up in a decidedly non-fantasy world where Blackness is a non-factor. Not there. Sadly, Frey’s identity is poorly written and awkwardly deployed, as the story relies not only on stereotypical narratives, but also trauma as a plot device.

An early plot point involves Frey holding the lifeless body of an Athean Black girl with whom he has been tied, an image that, in Athia’s raceless world, doesn’t carry the same weight that it does in ours — and Frey’s. Initially, Frey is driven to action, to avenge the child’s death, which led me to believe, optimistically, that the game was speculating about Frey’s identity, that of “Kick”. was more than the sum of K’s repeated pleas of her love and once she says “Ok bet.” Unfortunately, like everything forspokenThe death is quickly turned into quip-fodder, as Frey jokingly refers to the child-killer as “the kiddie-killer himself,” which brings us back to square one: a two-dimensional foster kid with a rap sheet that’s so Barb swears ‘I think she was paid by “motherfucker”.

Frey encounters Tanta, one of the Magic Queens, in Forspoken

Image: Dazzling Productions / Square Enix

forspokenhas a bizarre difficulty curve in the final hours, where I found myself completely destroying some bosses before full dialogue could even get going, only to be pitted against the big bad guys who killed others. Among other things, cleverly disguised as one-hit kills cutscenes. Frey wins, sure, but for a character who spends most of the game loudly declaring that he neither wants to be a hero nor does he want to be a hero, I have to believe him. Found the late game pivot as a savior. Still, the blight-stricken world needed rescue. If the cuff fits, or some formula like that.

Personally, I found myself more convinced by the game’s alternate ending, where you can return to New York without saving the world. There’s a ridiculously curt cutscene with the choice before the full credits roll, but it feels like a more honest conclusion to a character who, like me, was drawn to working with Athia.

forspoken Will be released on January 24 on PlayStation 5 and Windows PC. The game was reviewed on PS5 using a pre-release download code provided by Square Enix. Vox Media is an affiliated partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. you can find Additional information about Play Gamez’s ethics policy here,

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