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Forspoken’s gravest sin? It has no chill

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From Frey’s first step into the medieval fantasy land of Athia, of the forspoken The effects are emerging in full force.

She escapes under the crumbling walls of an abandoned palace and is chased by a giant dragon. He finds a teasing gossip companion named Cuff, who is actually a talking gold bracelet. Then, after escaping danger, we get a dramatic bird’s-eye view of the landscape, rising high into the sky on a massive stone milestone.

The game starts screaming: It’s a JRPG! It’s an iskai! There could be some great anime shit in here! Even small details, such as the stone landmark, reminded me of Xenoblade Chronicles’ Ghor Maidan. However, despite his early promise, most of Frey’s time in Atheia unfolds without much whimsy or the expected amount of levity. The new game from Luminous Productions and Square Enix strikes a distinctly grim tone that makes it difficult to survive the long journey.

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Frey, the protagonist of Forspoken, looks to the right of the camera in a dimly lit environment

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Image: Dazzling Productions / Square Enix

Luminous Productions fills Athiya with a kind of pervasive sadness. This mainly stems from the “bubonic plague vibe”. There is actually no plague, but dark and stormy clouds that cover entire cities and kill all living things. forspoken Relying on a photorealistic graphics style as well, the combat isn’t as colorful despite some vibrant magic – even its flowers look a bit bland and colourless.

Then we layer on Frey’s story, which is also very sad! He is an orphan who was abandoned at birth by his parents. She lives in poverty in New York City, and the day after she saved enough money to move on and make a better life, her house is burned down by a gang. He finds new confidence in Athiya, but still lives a lonely life. On her journey, she is joined by none of her band of companions, who fill the cutscenes with romantic monologues about the power of friendship.

He is an outsider to Athiya’s world and is smitten (without giving any spoilers) when she opens her heart.

Frey’s magical parkour abilities allow her to bound across worlds. However, outside of its mechanics, forspoken It lacks the moments of levity that allow players to endure the long, sad, and sometimes arduous journeys of so many “serious” games. There’s no silly cactuar to make you laugh; no cocky friends standing by your side; No moments of fad that allows you to take a break and recover from it. Perhaps the closest you get is a cute side quest where you feed the sheep, but even then, it gets a bit tiresome because you don’t actually see Frey feeding the sheep because the text on a black screen is just It says that you fed them.

Photograph of Frey kneeling to herd a sheep in Forespoken.  The world looks kind of dreary - the grass looks kind of dry and dead, but the sheep are lovely!

Image: Dazzling Productions/Square Enix via Play Gamez

There’s a reason comic relief is so common in blockbuster movies and video games – it gives the audience a breather before the next exciting, yet tense set. forspoken is so grim in its overarching narrative that it becomes too heavy for the dialogue to bear – thus, the crisis emerges. Bad jokes and tough self-statements are fixtures of many popular AAA games, but in forspoken When they miss, they seem even more difficult, because this isn’t a world where silly things happen or people speak in strange, unbelievable ways. The self-referential dialogue sounds less like comic relief and more like self-deprecation.

I personally think Frey deserves to have fun. She clearly enjoys herself at points. The first time she uses her magical parkour abilities, she says, “Well, that’s awesome! I’m catching some serious air! Her life and story needn’t be completely goofy, but all but sad.” Medieval stuff could use some pushback. And it doesn’t get it. For me, it’s tiring enough to push me away.

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