Forspoken combines magic combat and parkour with a splash of Final Fantasy 15

(Image credit: Square Enix)

In Forspoken, Luminous Productions is putting magic at the heart of the experience. From the way we traverse the landscapes of Athia with magic parkour powers, to the barrage of spells that infuse its combat system, everything we do as protagonist Frey Holland feels right at home in a fantasy setting. It's clear from what we've seen so far that the developers at Luminous Productions are using their RPG chops and previous experience working on the likes of Final Fantasy 15 to bring the setting of Athia to life. This is true not just in the team's approach to Forspoken's progression systems and combat, but also in the way in which they have gone about crafting the open-world we'll be transported to in Frey's shoes.

"When we created Final Fantasy 15, I think we took a lot from the open world and how interesting and fun that felt; there was a lot that we could take from that," head of studio and Forspoken director Takeshi Aramaki explains. "But on the other hand, we also were sort of left with the impression that we can still learn a lot in terms of scenario writing, and really bringing that into the story.  And so for Forspoken, we have worked with a collaboration of writers such as [Gary] Whitta, [Amy] Hennig and that's something we brought into Forspoken's development."

Fantastical fighting


(Image credit: Square Enix)

While the story is still somewhat of a question mark in terms of whether it will deliver, traces of the studio's past experience with Final Fantasy 15 can be found among various aspects of Forspoken's open-world. Whether it be the big boss battles that Frey goes up against that share a similar feel to Noctis' fights, or finding safe houses known as Pilgrims Refuges to rest up, or taking on dungeon-like areas called Locked Labyrinths, you get the sense that Luminous is building and expanding on what they've done before - albeit with a fresh new magical spin. 

The Locked Labyrinths in Forspoken, for example, are set locations in Athia that will see you take on various enemies, including a boss-like foe that you'll have to best in order to complete it. For me, they instantly brought to mind the dungeons in Final Fantasy 15 in the way they're structured - with an arrangement of enemies throughout a maze-like area that progressively get tougher as you go further in. 

With Athia being an open-world setting, it's this sense of structure that Luminous wanted to capture within the wider landscapes in order to let you take on a different kind of challenge with Frey's arsenal of spells, as co-director Takefumi Terada - who previously worked as lead level designer on Final Fantasy 15 - explains: 

"The real sort of fundamental idea behind these labyrinths is to get players to experience combat within a limited and defined space. Obviously, when you have an open world game, it's quite expansive and you're in the outside world. So there's a lot of freedom in how you battle there. By creating these labyrinths, we'd be able to design the level so that you come across enemies and bosses in certain situations. It's a more linear experience that we've been able to plan in that way."

Next generation 


(Image credit: Square Enix)

"The main reason that we introduced the rating system was to sort of encourage people to continue battling and enjoying the battles for a long time throughout the game."

It makes sense that the studio would set out to build on the strengths and knowledge of the developers when it comes to crafting its debut IP. But at the same time, it's also clear that with Forspoken Luminous is trying to carve a fresh path with new systems that play on the magic at the core of Frey's adventures. With 100 different spells to learn and play around with in the world of Athia, Luminous wants you to be able to use magic your way and develop it to suit your own playstyle. One feature that the team included also borrows a page from Final Fantasy 15's book, but it's designed to encourage you to experiment with Frey's spells. After a battle, you'll be rated on your performance in a fight to motivate you to explore different approaches. 

"The main reason that we introduced the rating system was to sort of encourage people to continue battling and enjoying the battles for a long time throughout the game," Terada-san says. "You know, the rating kind of gives this idea that, 'Oh actually there might be different ways to approach this', and then to encourage people to experiment. 'Oh, actually, I can use this spell, I can do this, and that seems to be more effective and to work quite well'. We really want people to engage with and enjoy the combat, so we thought the rating system worked perfectly." 

There are a lot of interesting systems and ideas at play in Forspoken that show potential; whether it be aspects in the world that build on the team's experience with Final Fantasy 15 or fresh features that look to do something new. And with all of this being brought to life on PC and PS5 using the studio's proprietary Luminous Engine that was expanded for the development of Forspoken, I can't help but be curious about just how it will turn out as a complete package. Will Forspoken deliver a memorable magical adventure? For now, at least, we'll just have to wait until January 24, 2023 to find out for ourselves. 

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Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.