Forspoken Demo Impressions – An Underwhelming Display

When it comes to most video games, I try to keep an open mind. While Forspoken may never have made its way into my “Most Excited For” list, I felt the trailers made it look like a fun game. The spells looked beautiful, and the parkour system seemed fluid, despite its rather silly dialog. Thankfully, Square Enix has released a playable demo to get us hyped ahead of the game’s release on January 24th. Unfortunately, though, the demo had the exact opposite effect on me.

Developer: Luminous Productions
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: January 24th, 2023
Platforms: PC, PS5

Frey uses her Scattershot spell against an evil looking foe.
Scattershot is a fun spell that works like an automatic gun Firing shards of rocks rapidly at enemies until its fully charged for one final shot

Magic Parkour And The Open World of Forspoken:

When starting the demo, you’re placed directly into the world with an option to do the tutorial or skip it. Whether you do it or not, what you do next is up to you. You can follow the game’s request and follow the five objectives it gives, or you can go explore. As for me, I chose to parkour around for a moment until I discovered a belfry.

Belfries work like radio towers in the sense that they offer Frey, the game’s protagonist in this isekai story, a chance to scout out her surroundings. This was where I had my first realization about the game’s open world; it felt bland and boring. I was locating points of interest to mark them on the map and complete generic objectives. They consisted of things such as “Defeat the enemy”, “take a picture” and “scout the ruins.”

Magic Parkour mostly felt like a means of sprinting from point A to point B, then on to C, just with more style. The world is full of long stretches of nothing with a smattering of abandoned signs of civilization to fill the silence in between. Don’t get me wrong, the parkour system is what I expected it to be; smooth and fluid. However, the inconsistent momentum doesn’t do well in tight spaces like the crowded bridge Frey launched herself off on her own accord in my playthrough.

Frey surfs across a lake in Forspoken.
In the demo her traversal abilities are limited but eventually Frey can learn how to conjure a magic surf board

Okay, But What About The Combat?

Combat is another aspect of the game that I felt was underwhelming and clunky. I do not, however, think it’s bad, just mindless. As I played the demo, the most helpful ability I felt Frey had access to was scanning with the cuff. This ability temporarily marks the enemies, allowing Frey to examine them and figure out which enemy is weak to what type of magic.

In the demo, Frey has access to two types of magic; Frey’s magic, which is more Earth-themed. With this selected, she could launch ranged projectiles at her enemies, but I felt Frey’s magic was too slow and clunky. The other magic type is more melee-focused, called Silas’ magic. This gave Frey access to fiery melee attacks, and equipping the right magic type is essential to efficiently dispatch foes.

My problem is, at least where the demo is concerned, is that no matter what you have selected, the combat just feels like a button masher. At one point, I even went up against a tough enemy I encountered randomly in the world. It was a large white Elk, corrupted by the “Break” cloaked in a red aura. The game itself even told me to maybe avoid it upon scanning the creature. When I engaged it anyway, a health bar appeared at the top of my screen.

Long story short, this was an easy encounter, and its beefed-up health pool only dragged out the fight. While I am sure that Forspoken will be full of tough, random encounters, this one was not it. Casually dodging its attacks and mashing R2, while occasionally using support magic was all that was necessary. Frey’s biggest issue is the game’s wonky camera that issues on keeping up.

At Least It Looks Good, Right?

Forspoken is a pretty game, and the demo performs wonderfully. The demo never missed a beat, no matter how wildly I launched myself at the enemy. Frey’s large magical spells also look great as well. My issues lie in the overall world design and enemy variety.

What we’re given in the demo is mainly just cliffs and long stretches of grassy paths. Sometimes you come across some bland, stone ruins or dilapidated tents. Other times you’ll discover beautiful fields and huge forts filled with enemies. The enemies themselves also leave a lot to be desired.

There’s a lot of boring enemy designs in the demo as well. We mostly face zombies and helmeted soldiers dressed in black robes. That’s not to say there aren’t some great enemy designs, either. Referring back to that tough enemy I encountered, it was a towering Elk with wicked-looking antlers. At an earlier point, I faced an armored knight who used ice magic. She was menacing and fun to fight.

If you don’t like the dialog that was in the trailer, then the demo won’t change your mind. Frey banters with the cuff, but it’s pretty awful and, most of the time, feels out of place. Maybe it’s a lack of context, but their banter just felt weird to me. Thankfully, it can be scaled back in the settings menu. The same goes for the music used in the demo as well. It promotes something that feels like it should be necessary, but the gameplay never makes you feel like you need to do anything.

Frey casting a wicked fire spell in Forspoken. Developed by Luminous Productions and published by Square Enix
The spells do look gorgeous

Overall, The Forspoken Demo Underwhelmed:

As much as I dislike saying this, Forspoken’s demo really chipped away at everything I thought might be good about it. Luminous Productions made it feel like a run-of-the-mill hack-and-slash adventure with a checklist open-world formula. While I am personally still interested in seeing more of the game, I ultimately walked away feeling underwhelmed.

There’s more things to the demo than what I brought up, like a crafting system and spelling challenges. They just didn’t have a huge presence in the demo. So, if you’re reading this and feeling a sense of dread, know the developers haven’t revealed their entire hand. As for me personally, I’m still looking forward to Forspoken’s retail release.

Lastly, I’ve heard the demo is from an older build, though I haven’t seen an official source. Still! I haven’t given up on it yet.