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What The Critics Are Saying About Forspoken

One thing's for sure: "Forspoken" is a divisive game. Luminous Productions and Square Enix's multiple delays might have slowed its release, but "Forspoken" did manage to generate an interesting range of reviews. 

Frey Holland, who is apparently named after the New York tunnel that she was abandoned in, lived a rough life before players meet her, soon after she was convicted for grand larceny and resisting arrest. Just as she thinks her life is taking a turn for the worst, she comes across the magical cuff that changes her life and becomes her partner in the magical world of Athia. She learns that she's immune to the plague called The Break, and it's up to her to figure out how she fits into this world she's stumbled upon. 

The "Forspoken" trailer didn't help first impressions when the internet started comparing the writing to a Joss Whedon skit, but it helped even less that reviewers thought that the narrative was a low point. Other gripes included the game's slow start, clunky controls, and bland world. Some critics clash with the overall consensus, but the divide only further leans into the narrative that "Forspoken" is a divisive game. Playing the demo told potential buyers as much. 

Here's what critics have to say about "Forspoken."

Satisfying combat, spellcasting, and movement

Critics generally praised the combat in "Forspoken," its movement, or a combination of the two. Some have an issue with how slow it takes for the combat to feel as entertaining as it should, while others think the game creates a sense of progression from doing so.

The Verge's Ash Parrish especially highlighted the parkour as the best aspect of the game, saying it was "some of the best" she'd ever seen in a video game. "I had the most fun flipping and flying, bouncing off walls and obstacles to get to higher and higher vistas. She can use it in combat, and it felt so very good to dodge an enemy by backflipping in the air, then come crashing down on its head with a powerful fire attack," Parrish wrote. However, she noted that the enemies that Frey fights aren't nearly as interesting as the protagonist's abilities. 

Meanwhile, Digital Trends' Tomas Franzese praised how spellcasting felt reasonably more rewarding as the game progressed. "Spells are upgraded by completing side challenges, and combat gets more intense. Players are not just rewarded with a visual spectacle for their spellcasting, but they'll do a lot more damage as well," read the review.

Lackluster story and characters, bland world

Many critics were left wanting more from the narrative and characters, including Inverse's Hayes Madsen. "We're told throughout Athia has a rich history, but the narrative generally fails to do anything surprising or complex with it," he writes. 

"Forspoken" could be leaning into the isekai trope, where protagonists often adopt their new persona without meaningfully addressing the "real" world, but it's still not completely justified, according to most reviewers. GameSpot, which ended up with one of the most critical reviews, even said that Frey was "one of the weakest parts of Forspoken."

"She's inherently unlikable for most of Forspoken's story, with the game forcing her through her transformation from selfish sorcerer to defiant hero over the course of a single chapter of lengthy exposition," wrote reviewer Jordan Ramée. "I didn't buy into her heroic shift in the final moments of the game — it felt like the storyline was going through the motions without taking the necessary steps to ensure Frey's emotional and mental development made sense."

Despite all the knocks on the narrative, though, Washington Post's Gene Park notes that the later half of the game could turn it around for some like it did for him. "The story relies on modern-day misfit tropes for a bit too long, and hides some genuine late surprises that turned my opinion around almost completely," he writes.

Anyone who wants to see for themselves will need to play "Forspoken" on PlayStation 5 or PC when it launches on January 24, 2023.