Forspoken review: a PS5 exclusive with great exploration, bad dialogue

By Sean Lawson,

Forspoken is the latest PS5-exclusive action RPG from Square Enix. You play as Frey, an Earth lady in a fantasy world with a magical talking cuff. You will explore, fire spells and magic in combat, and be levelled by bad dialogue.

Forspoken has so much to offer those able to look past the bad dialogue. I have spent just over 46 hours exploring the beautiful high fantasy world of Athia with leading lady Frey Holland and, while there were a few bumps in the road along the way, I can conclude that Forspoken is addictive, engaging, and a fun PS5 exclusive action RPG.

This review was written and scored using the PS5 version.
ForspokenForspoken is a fast-paced dream to play

Forspoken PS5 review: a fun narrative, an annoying protagonist, and gasp-inducing twists

The story of Forspoken opens with Frey standing trial in modern-day New York for some scheme gone awry. As we make our way through an unexpectedly detailed and explorable Christmas sequence set in the city, another crazy series of events occurs, involving a court case, guns, cats, and fire. Frey mysteriously ends up on top of a street sign perilously high off above the ground. No special powers here just yet, so I honestly have no idea how she got there, but this is where Frey's life will change unexpectedly.

A bracelet — or "Cuff" as it will be known — blasts Frey from our world into the high-fantasy lands of open-world Athia, where the action RPG's story really begins. Over the course of Forspoken's 40-hour story, you'll be running around Athia, getting into big boss fights, and learning how to utilise Frey's spells effectively. You'll meet some interesting characters along the way, but none will quite match up to the wit, charm, and personality that Cuff presents — who will make sarcastic jabs at Frey at every opportunity that he can.

ForspokenFrey is just a barrel of conflicting emotions

The story of Forspoken is genuinely riveting. The mystery of the fall of the mad Tantas — these are the once-benevolent female gods with story arcs and boss battles — is the core pillar of our fantasy tale. While there are issues with the story centring around Frey and her heinous attitude, I still had a whale of a time actually learning the lore of this mysterious plague-ridden land. I found myself on the edge of my seat multiple times as big revelations, shocking twists, and cats pop into the frame out of left field. I can't deny that I was giddy with anticipation to see what was going to happen next and how this story would end, and it even brought a tear to my eye at one point, which is hard to do.

The world of Athia itself is grand, with so much to see and do amongst its variety of biomes, which include sprawling fields, treacherous mountains, and cavernous pits. The world has been designed with parkour at the forefront, as you'll find perfectly placed obstacles for you to stunt over and vast stretches of land for you to build up speed and flip around to your heart's content. Athia is filled to the brim with places of interest to seek out, making it feel alive, vivid, and engaging. While you won't find any friendly NPCs in the wild, you'll certainly encounter a lot of enemies during your travels. You won't be feeling lonely any time soon!

ForspokenRun Frey, run

We don't really get to know the Tantas all that in-depth narratively, but the boss fights are a huge highlight of Forspoken. Each one feels significantly different from the last. For example, the first Tanta, Silas, is all about overcoming her immense power with pure assault, while another Tanta turns the battlefield upside down. Each fight has a unique visual associated with it, or sometimes a fabulously head-spinning twist in the story. The final boss fight, in particular, is opulent and ends the game on a magnificent note, tying together Frey's journey perfectly.

The bad of Forspoken: dialogue and character

While there are many fantastic qualities of Forspoken, it's hard not to look past the obvious pitfall. Frey is just unlikable as a protagonist — she's bratty, miserable, unrelatable, and at times a downright nasty piece of work. When you play a game, you need to care about, root for, or at least understand the character you play as; especially when you spend 40 or more hours playing as them. I tried so hard to force myself to like or at least comprehend Frey at times, but I just couldn't vibe with her attitude and cringy outbursts. The unnatural dialogue with other characters felt so bizarre that I found it hard to sit through. She may redeem herself slightly at points throughout the narrative, but it's all too little, too late.

ForspokenForspoken's watery powers

You'll have another constant issue in Forspoken: lousy dialogue. Frey's dialogue wasn't initially explicitly cringy or over-the-top. However, it takes a nose dive almost immediately after she gets spat out of the portal to Athia. Frey's dialogue is diabolically bad, with moments where I wished she would just close her mouth and keep it like that. The sheer amount of unnecessary swearing you'll be subjected to is abnormal and not reflective of how humans actually talk. It's odd, out-of-place, and a weird attempt at making the narrative 'mature.'

With that all said and done, I still had an incredibly enjoyable time with Forspoken. I am planning to jump right back into the world of Athia to earn a new beautiful platinum trophy to add to the collection. It's just unfortunate that the dialogue put such a bad taste in my mouth (or ears) during my playthrough.

ForspokenForspoken shines through with its combat and plentiful skill tree

Spells and combat stagger on PS5

Square Enix and Luminous Productions have really nailed the gameplay of Forspoken: it's addictive and moreish. Combat is incredibly fluid and engaging — nothing beats pulling off a multitude of spells effortlessly, parkouring all around your foes, and then watching them be obliterated whilst you don't even get a scratch. Mastering all the spells you unlock along the way is positively divine. It becomes smooth, dreamy, and makes you feel like an all-powerful badass. It quickly became a favourite aspect of Forspoken.

Some spells look a lot nicer than others, with electric and water spells looking far more visually impressive compared to the rough around the edges look of fire and earth spells. These spell sets are unlocked throughout the story, so eventually, you will have four spell trees that allow Frey to work at range, mid-range, or get up close and personal with opponents. In my opinion, there is a point where balancing fire, earth, and water powers becomes cumbersome rather than a learning curve. You end up getting punished trying to explore the combat unless you level everything up to mastery — until then, there is no point. It leaves each one individually fun to use, but the synergy between spells is awkward and clunky until the post-game.

You can find out more about these spells in our Forspoken spells and powers overview that discusses the main, support, and passive skills available early on in more detail.
ForspokenForspoken has a lot to explore!

Exploration, side quests, and collecting mania

The open world is overwhelming, to say the least. The sheer size of it and the number of things to do is pretty next level, which may be seen as a blessing or a curse depending on who you ask. I ended up enjoying how much content there was to explore. Discovery was compelling throughout. Normally, seeing something of this magnitude would turn me off almost immediately, but the combat and thrill of parkour kept me engaged. Throwing yourself around the ginormous map, taking down every enemy in your sight, and collecting everything in close proximity will probably become your main focus ahead of the main story — and it's absolutely exhilarating doing so.

Forspoken trophies — platinum trophy tactics

During my 46-hour stint in Forspoken, I ended up with a 67% completion rate of the trophies according to my own personal trophy list — I managed to mop up 40 of the 54 trophies on offer. You'll earn 12 trophies by simply completing the story, and the remaining trophies are neatly interwoven in completing everything that the game has to offer. You can expect to do a lot of exploring and discovering to find all that you missed during your travels across Athia. There are no difficulty-related trophies, so grind away uncovering all that you missed, finishing up side quests, and fulfilling any combat challenges. It's not a hard platinum trophy, but it is a time-sink.
There is a surprisingly limited amount of side quests (or Detours as Forspoken calls them) you can dive on into. Most quest-givers are cats that ask you to follow them just so they can give you an item to trade for other items. Locked Labyrinths are also considered side quests, but they don't feel like it at all. Instead, they are more like an extension of the collectables. There are more side quests once you beat the main story of the game; however, there still doesn't appear to be a huge amount of them. This didn't bother me so much as there are so many other collectables, but some may be underwhelmed by the lack of story-driven side content.

ForspokenForspoken has a lot of avenues to explore in this seemingly never-ending world

If you think we are joking about the magnitude of this open world, get ready. You have Monuments (stat boosts), Villages, Caves, Tanta Familiars, Fortresses, Ruins, Locked Labyrinths, Belfry Towers (map unveiling highpoints), Pilgrim's Refuges, Mana Pools, Photo Spots, Mutants, Enemy Camps, Flashback Challenges, Puzzle Chests, Standard Chests, various materials, and enemies. It's a lot, but whenever you approach a structure you know that there will always be something just around the corner for you to explore. Chests are littered throughout the map (these are highlighted by purple dots) and there are so many that I had to actively start skipping them if I had any hope of finishing the story within a reasonable time frame.

Tanta familiars are my personal favourite collectable on the map: you are able to befriend magical kitties that will come and visit you at the various safe houses. It's absolutely adorable and, while it provides virtually no benefits, they are just too cute and irresistible. While the number of landmarks and collectables can be overwhelming, I loved discovering all the scattered bits and pieces across Athia — it provides immense satisfaction once you actually manage to clean up an entire area and can move on to the next one.

Forspoken

PS5 performance: accessibility settings and bugs

Fast travel truly is fast travel: a marker of the PS5's SSD in motion. You choose the location you want to go to and, boom, you're there with a very slight screen fadeout before appearing on the other side of the map. I was very impressed by this, especially after another PS5-exclusive open-world game I played, GhostWire Tokyo, took a bit of time to load up.

When loading into Forspoken for the first time you'll be greeted with a difficulty selection screen that makes every other difficulty screen look like a joke. I opted for the difficulty that centred around exploring all of Athia and finding the collectables — this turned out to be Normal difficulty. However, you can change the difficulty immediately to tailor things to your needs without reducing the overall challenge. Players will be able to change enemy recovery speeds, damage taken, stamina recovery speed, auto-evading enemy attacks, and a few other quality-of-life aspects. It's a fantastic selection of tweaks that we think tackles most issues players could have with accessibility. Great work, Luminous!

ForspokenForspoken bugs and glitches that impacted my time

When it comes to bugs within Forspoken, I had a rather pleasant, bug-free experience. There was one instance where an enemy didn't spawn, leaving me trapped in a closed room without any beastie to fight. Thankfully, a quick reload (in which didn't lose much progress) fixed the issue. I did find that on odd occasions, small crevices or other random objects proved too much for Frey. Thankfully, it appears Square Enix was aware that parkouring around the map at lightning speeds might cause mischief and implemented a quick respawn system. This efficiently prevented Frey from inexplicably becoming a rock instead of saving Athia.

The more major issue was with stuttering and a slight slowdown. This really came into full swing during chapter five, so roughly around five hours in (give or take your level of exploration). The stuttering came when I was parkouring around the map and jumping off the top of tall clifftops. The landing caused Forspoken to peace out for a few seconds before stabilising. Slowdown and stuttering really came to the fore when I used some of the bigger and more visually impressive spells on a large group of foes: it would seem the PS5 would struggle to keep up with the volume of high-intensity effects.

ForspokenGet me outta here, but like, I kind of also really like it

Though stuttering and slowdown occurred at random intervals, they never caused the game to crash and it wasn't so persistent that it became a prominent issue for me. I played with the Quality-Focused setting that tried to provide both a stable framerate and impressive visuals — I can imagine Performance-Focused would have reduced this issue, while ray-tracing would have enhanced the issue.

Summary

Forspoken is best when you are exploring the vast and beautiful open world or when the screen comes to life in combat. Spells give you a power trip with bright electric zaps, roars of water, angry flames, or harsh pelting rubble in gorgeous combat scenarios. Irritating lead protagonist Frey nearly kills an enjoyably twisting and engaging story, but luckily the world's lore and context help breathe life into a well-told high-fantasy adventure. Forspoken is nearly a great PS5 action RPG in many respects, but it has some intrinsic flaws it struggles to magic away.
7 / 10
* Sean made his way across the lands of Athia on PS5, discovering everything that he could possibly find within 46 hours. Sadly, there was just too much content for this poor man to get through and so he had to settle for earning only 40 of the 54 trophies on offer. The review code was provided by publisher Square Enix.
Sean Lawson
Written by Sean Lawson
Sean is a Staff Writer with a focus on the geekiest Sony news. He writes stories about PlayStation exclusives like Marvel’s Wolverine, as well as RPGs and Fighting games. He is also excited for The Callisto Protocol and Forspoken to launch on PS5. Sean’s favourite games include Mass Effect, Tomb Raider, Tekken, and Persona.