Forspoken (TGS 2022) - An Innovative Action RPG in the Making - PreviewThomas Froehlicher , posted on 26 September 2022 / 2,027 Views
The Tokyo Game Show is finally back on track after two years of online-only events as a result of COVID. The exhibition re-opened in physical format this year, and the event's managers granted visa support to foreign press, which allowed me to attend, play some demos, and write up some previews once more. Forspoken was easily the biggest game of TGS 2022, but also the most intriguing - so double the reason to play (and wait in the long line) through the demo twice in order to ascertain as much as possible about Square Enix's upcoming Western-styled action RPG.
Forspoken's TGS demo takes place in an open region of the game. The player is given a couple of objectives that need to be met (in no particular order) within the fifteen minutes allowed. These give a good idea of some of the features the game will offer - the closest objective from the start has a crafting board that seems very similar to the one in The Last of Us Part II, for example. Frey can create new items from materials gathered in the wild and improve her gear here.
Our isekai heroine's equipment is composed of only cloaks and necklaces, which I actually found to be very fitting for the heroic fantasy world that she finds herself in. This is a departure from the traditional weapons and armors of the genre, but it's more coherent with a world governed by magic. Every piece of equipment has a unique design and different effects, varying from things like self-healing to critical hits. There were quite a few unique cloaks and effects available in the demo alone, so this bodes well for the game having plenty of different playstyles.
How you actually play is probably the most surprising part of Forspoken. Magic is the only way of fighting and it's therefore much more developed than the magic found in most other action RPGs, where you typically cut cut your way to success with a good old fashioned sword or other similar combat weapons. Frey had two sorts of magic in the demo: earth and fire. That doesn't sound like much, but each of these magic types grants access to a lot of different moves. With earth magic, you could fire little stones like you would shoot an assault rifle, throw a large crystal for a wider range of damage, deploy a rock shield, or set traps. Fire magic grants a flame sword, a flame lance, or flame gauntlets. The earth magic is cool to use, but fire magic felt a tad bit more powerful. Each magic type also has an even more powerful spell that can only be used from time to time; the fire one literally engulfs the zone in front of you in a wall of flames. I couldn't help being impressed by the range of offensive capabilities available in just this short demo.
Unfortunately I didn't find the controls to be very optimal - you have to push L1+R1 to change your current magic, and then R1+direction to select the ability you want to use. This causes a lot of short interruptions during fights, and sometimes it seemed to just change without notice (unless I missed something of course). Forspoken's real time combat is rather dynamic and fast-paced, so this is far from ideal. Precision is also lacking a bit, especially with the fire style. Enemy lock didn't work as much or as well as I wanted it to, making it tricky to move efficiently towards foes, resulting in misses.
Exploration is an area where Forspoken surprised me. Thanks to the magic concentrated under her feet, Frey travels the land in great strides, and this is strongly felt by the player thanks to the Dualsense's haptic feedback. She can cross water with ease and, more strikingly, fall from virtually any height without a scratch. Climbing is also possible thanks to a Spiderman-esque string that you can hook onto rocks, but it didn't feel very intuitive. You need to aim for every single jump and it can only stick to certain specific parts of walls. Even though this becomes tiresome and ironically reduces the overall sense of freedom, Magic Parkour (as the exploration system is called) on the whole is innovative and fun, allowing for some of the smoothest travel I've ever seen in an open world game.
The demo area was quite large. I found a hidden side quest in which I had to defend a couple of locals against waves of monsters. I also saw some other players before me facing off against a special boss, although unfortunately I didn't manage to locate it during either of my playthroughs. The main boss was located on a bridge and was notably imposing, which makes me think we can expect some unique and cool boss fights in the rest of the game. There was an altar that could be discovered which granted Frey some (permanent) defense points. I thought that was very clever; exploration can be boring if all it involves is finding a few trinkets, but becoming permanently stronger is certainly strong motivation for looking around. Forspoken may well become an excellent open world game if all of the elements in this demo are realised in the final product.
Visually it's also impressive. The level of detail is great and the monster designs are convincing, but the magic effects in particular are absolutely stunning. Some of the bigger fire, earth, and (enemy) water spells have an impact and magnitude that I've seldom experienced in a video game. The environment wasn't as strong as I expected for a flagship game like this; it consisted of some very common valleys with no prominent architecture. The geography itself lacks the fantasy you'd expect from such a title. From what I've experienced so far, Forspoken is very far off rivalling something like Elden Ring in terms of level design. There was no hint of story in the demo, but you could taste a bit of each characters' mood and personality. Frey continually chats with a voice called Cuff (I understand it's her bracelet), whose unnecessary and ridiculous commentary got on my nerves within seconds. Cuff would frequently make fun of Frey (and the player) when she took damage. I do hope that doesn't define the kind of fantasy storytelling and dialogue Forspoken is going to provide.
While there are clear pros and cons to Forspoken at this point, the main thing I took away from the demo was how original it is, particularly in terms of combat design and exploration. I still have some small doubts about the controls, but the demo was a great first-time experience that offered a genuine sense of discovery. The role playing mechanics seem great, enemies look awesome, and there are all sorts of things to do while exploring the world, so if Square Enix can just add more baroque fantasy to the full game then PC & PS5 gamers will have a strong action RPG on their hands in 2023.
After graduating from a French business school, Thomas felt an irresistible force drawing him to study Japanese, which eventually led him to Japanese Profeciency Test level 1 in 2012. During the day, Thomas is a normal account manager. But at night he becomes Ryuzaki57, an extreme otaku gamer hungry for Japanese games (preferably with pretty girls in the main role). His knowledge now allows him to import games at Japanese release for unthinkable prices, and then tell everyone about them. You may also find him on French video games media. Feel free to contact on twitter at @Ryuz4ki57