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Forspoken Review: Play It For The Parkour Magic

EDITORS' RATING : 7 / 10
Pros
  • Super fun traversal system using "parkour magic"
  • Entertaining moments of combat mechanics
  • Great performance from Frey's Ella Balinska
Cons
  • Story feels a bit one-note and cliché
  • Button-mashing strategies get old quickly
  • The world-building ideas feel like they could be so much more than what's presented

A PS5 code was provided to ZaaZ for this review. "Forspoken" is available now for PS5 and PC.

In ZaaZ's preview of "Forspoken," we were cautiously optimistic that the game might have some interesting surprises in store for us. Given the pedigree of its publisher, Square Enix, there was abundant hope that the game would provide something special despite some of the early concerns over the game's visuals and story.

Unfortunately, as cool as the game's combat mechanics can be, and as exhilarating as the traversal system is, our review joins the chorus of disappointed fans who feel "Forspoken" has failed to live up to its potential. The game's visuals, while still beautiful and lush in many spots, feel half-baked and fail to showcase the full power of the PlayStation 5. Moreover, the story is largely underwhelming and a bit cliché, with dull characters (other than the main protagonist) and a lack of emotional resonance through much of its run-time.

That's not to say that it's a bad game; there are still some enjoyable moments to be found in "Forspoken." However, even with its ambitious traversal mechanics and entertaining moments, there's little in the way of memorable experiences that will make it stand out from the crowd. While "Forspoken" is an enjoyable adventure, it falls short of its potential and fails to deliver anything truly remarkable.

Leave 'em wanting more

"Forspoken" tells the story of Frey, a young woman who discovers she has special powers after being brought to the mysterious, fantastical world of Athia. You must help her unlock and master her newfound abilities as she navigates the treacherous landscape and fights off hostile forces who are determined to take control of this magical place, effectively controlling Frey's fate along with it.

For such a story-driven game, "Forspoken" leaves much to be desired. Despite a strong performance from Frey's Ella Balinska and some genuinely interesting ideas presented within the world of Athia, the overall package feels shallow and lacking in tension or emotional weight. The world-building and repetitive side quests, along with several of the key story beats feel rushed and underdeveloped, leading to much of the game feeling like an extended series of disconnected and coincidental events.

The combat mechanics in "Forspoken" are solid and engaging, but they too fall short of fully capitalizing on many of the game's more interesting abilities. As you progress through the game, you'll be able to use various magic spells that have different effects on enemies, as well as defensive spells. It's a lot of fun casting crowd-control spells on a group of enemies while meleeing a handful of others at the same time. However, the button-mashing strategy and lack of any real challenge in the combat system keeps it from truly feeling rewarding and engaging.

Crafting, parkour, and the eventual payoff

A ton of emphasis is put on the crafting system in "Forspoken," which gives players the chance to add and upgrade skills in order to give Frey an edge in combat. For those in love with theory crafting and experimentation, it's quite an ambitious system. On the flip-side, if you're simply looking for a straightforward action-adventure experience, the (ultimately necessary) crafting system can feel overly complicated and time-consuming. You're constantly farming resources and ingredients in order to craft and improve your skill tree — which can be a fun challenge for some, but can also feel like an unnecessary distraction.

Arguably the most impressive features of "Forspoken" is its traversal system. Players can move around the game world with ease using "parkour magic," and the smooth and fluid movements make exploration a delight. Whether you're running through fields, scaling mountains, or jumping across ledges, the traversal system is responsive and makes it a joy to move around the world of Athia. Parkour magic can also be utilized during combat — with boss battles being especially entertaining — allowing for some unique and dynamic battle strategies instead of the standard hit-and-evade routine.

All things considered, if you're willing to put in the time to play through "Forspoken" in its entirety, the game does eventually pay off with a satisfying ending. It just toes the line of being too little too late, with the majority of the experience feeling like a preamble that should be something more engaging and rewarding.

Impressive moments, but nothing to write home about

Ultimately, "Forspoken" isn't a bad game, and probably deserves more credit than it's gotten up to this point. It just fails to provide a unique and compelling adventure that fully utilizes its setting or mechanics, leaving players with an average experience that falls short of its potential on PS5. The game's flaws prevent it from delivering an engaging and memorable story, and as fun as it can be, the combat feels too unstructured to remain consistently interesting. While there are plenty of fun and exciting moments in "Forspoken," it ultimately doesn't offer enough depth to provide a truly satisfying experience. If you're looking for an adventure that will stand out from the crowd, this isn't quite it.

Despite some enjoyable moments sprinkled throughout the experience and an ending that eventually makes it worth your time, "Forspoken" falls short of reaching the heights that we all expected it to achieve.

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