Is Forspoken Any Good? 3-Hour Demo Review

My Thoughts After Beating the Forspoken Demo on PS5 (Normal Difficulty)

The PS5 demo for Square Enix’s Forspoken just released over the weekend, and I’m not overly impressed. Not because the demo lacks content; quite the contrary, this demo offers lots to explore. First, let’s get the obvious out of the way; the dialogue between Frey and her magical cuff is every bit as cringe and annoying as the trailers made it seem. Frey constantly comes off as immature and whiny, and her magical cuff ain’t much better. There’s an option to turn down the frequency of the banter, but it doesn’t save the poor presentation of the characters so far.

Forspoken Demo

The next aspect that many are curious about is the story. The demo, understandably, doesn’t give too much of this away. It starts with a generic narration of the basic premise: an annoying New Yorker girl is isakaied into a fantasy world, with a talking cufflink giving her supernatural parkour abilities. There’s something about a Break in the world of Athia, too. This cataclysm explains why there’s nobody around and so many monsters and annoying bird enemies. Yes, the 1-minute narration is essentially all the plot you get, but I don’t mind that too much since the point of a demo isn’t to be story-focused. What did set off some red flags was the complete lack of any NPCs or characters whatsoever throughout the entirety of the demo. As a result, the world felt utterly lifeless and dead, which, I suppose, can be explained in-lore as a result of the Break. Still, it’s certainly not going to appeal to those wanting interesting character interactions or character development. Trailers and gameplay from the full game have more characters and interesting story tidbits between them, so we’ll see if the world is more populated with people to talk to and worldbuilding/story outside of the menu explanations.

Forspoken demo

That being said, the traversal is fun and probably the highlight of the entire demo. And thankfully, the demo emphasizes parkour above all else (well, besides the awful banter). You’re free to explore a sizable portion of the world map, with a copious amount of verticality in the numerous cliffs and crags you can jump over. It’s too bad there’s just not much to interact with or do in the open world besides parkour and fighting enemies because the art direction is solid. This looks like a lush fantasy world with all the enchanted rivers, ancient steeples, and impressive mountain ranges in the draw distance. Still, Forspoken doesn’t do anything interesting with any of it besides the parkour aspect, and even that isn’t necessarily perfect.

The controls are hit-and-miss for me. Parkouring is fun in general, but there’s a lack of precise control, which can lead to sloppy platforming. I found myself hung up awkwardly on cliff edges with little way to recover besides spamming the auto parkour button to reset the magical jumping. Thankfully, there’s no fall damage; you just get penalized with drained stamina when your parkour goes south and you fall off a 100-foot mountain. Sloppy platforming aside, stringing parkour combos by timing the jump button as you auto-parkour with the circle button is satisfying. Slingshotting yourself to distant ledges and onto enemies is fun, too, but it can be sloppy and imprecise when scaling a mountain or in the heat of a 20-enemy ambush. A lot of the sloppiness in movement can be attributed to the hefty animations weighing the precision down. Remember how slow and “realistic” the movement in Red Dead Redemption 2 was? This game has a slice of that realistic animation that makes movement feel clunky and cumbersome at times. But I suppose precision wasn’t the aim of the gameplay for Forspoken; it’s fast-paced parkour with over-the-top magic combat.

The combat can be fun, with the large arsenal of magic abilities tailored to enemy weaknesses. However, the clunky movement and padded enemy mob design really deflate an otherwise strategically satisfying combat system. Moving around the field, targeting enemies for ranged or close-up attacks is swift, thanks to hot-key toggles for the two combat types (close/ranged). That said, I often found myself attacking the wrong enemies because the target locks off when you fly past them, or the enemy goes just a tad off-screen for a moment. The fast pace of combat means you’re going to be turning around a lot to reorient yourself from the fast parkouring. I understand this fast-paced combat will be enjoyable for some, but I found it sloppy and unrefined, brimming with strategic possibilities. There’s a lot of variety in your moveset and combat style. It’s just too bad the precision makes combat feel like a clunky spamfest at worst and an annoying uphill battle to master the strategy you can envision at best.

Finally, my least favorite aspect of the combat is the enemy mob design; there are far too many enemies for most mob encounters. Take a close look at my fight with these low-level crocodiles.

Forspoken demo

The pic doesn’t do justice to how many damn enemies there were to slog through. There are way more off-screen, and they each take a bit of a beating to overcome individually. This is not a challenging fight like the fortress wave challenges scattered across the map (which I found boring and repetitive); this is essentially a common trash mob encounter where the rewards for conquering the giant mob are minuscule. Yet, you have to mash through something like 50 of the same croc enemies. This encounter is a slightly more extreme example of most encounters in the demo. They take a while and are repetitive to mash through. There’s not much design put into creating an interesting mob fight. It’s like they just dropped a couple dozen of an enemy or two onto the field and thought that’d be a fun and challenging fight. The sheer length of some of these encounters felt like repetitive padding with little satisfaction upon victory. You can turn the difficulty down to easy to dispose of them more quickly, but then the single-enemy encounters end up being a brainless one-shot affair. I don’t like the combat in this game; it’s primarily due to the bloated encounter design, but the clumsy movement plays a part. too.

I’m sure this game will appeal to some players, but I’m not one of them. Between the annoying banter of the bratty main character and her witty cufflink and the fast-paced yet overly-padded combat that gets in its own way, I didn’t particularly enjoy this demo despite my inclination to like this type of game. I’m an avid lover of RPGs and magical fantasy settings. Action-oriented games like Dark Souls and Bayonetta are my jam, too, yet this didn’t taste good like those games. Forspoken has/had a lot of potential with its interesting parkouring system and fantasy open-world isakai concept, but its rough edges with dialogue and combat keep it from being realized. I hope the full release proves me wrong and these missteps are improved upon.

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