In Forspoken, I watch as protagonist Frey darts and dives across an area of Athia. The soles of her sneakers illuminate with light over a dusty, barren landscape, and a translucent trail effect follows behind as she jumps across a gap between two mountain ridges. After landing on an open expanse of land, things start to change. The wind grows stronger, and as the camera pans around, a strange puff of blue smoke begins to engulf her surroundings.
These changes in the environment signal the arrival of an event known as a Break storm, which fills the area with the most dangerous creatures in Athia. Fantastical, other-worldly figures materialize, and in the distance, a huge boss-style enemy can be seen. Frey begins to unleash a variety of different spells in response – a bolt of light that sprays out projectiles to hit multiple targets and a fiery sword that she uses at close-range. From combat to exploration and the open world of Athia itself, it's evident that magic is at the heart of everything in Forspoken.
"The whole game is based around this core pillar of having magic at the center of everything," says co-director Takefumi Terada, "and certainly in the battle system that is very much the case. When we sat down to develop the magic system and work out what kinds of spells you have, we thought about making sure that you've got all these different functions covered. The idea that there's, for example, long-range magical attacks, close-range magical attacks, and spells which you can close the distance with and [use] outside of battle as well."
A spell is cast
We're able to wield spells in Forspoken thanks to a magical talking bracelet known as Cuff. Since Frey is a young woman from New York who finds herself hurtled into this fantastical world, Cuff also acts as a companion and guide. Throughout, Cuff often makes humorous remarks or commentaries as Frey explores Athia or enters into battle. But each time I see Frey go up against some of the enemies that populate the landscape, I try to soak in the vast array of spells on display that can be selected and assigned from a ring menu. The powers come in many different forms and serve a variety of purposes, from big elemental spells that take out foes with flare, to useful skills such as invisibility that can change up your approach on the battlefield.
Getting to wield magical powers is partly what first drew me to the concept of Forspoken. And now that I've seen first-hand that we'll have all manner of options available, there's an undeniable appeal about the prospect of changing up my approach to battle and experimenting to see how I can tactically put each spell to use. As Terada explains, the team at Luminous approached the design and creation of the different powers with player freedom in mind: "What we really paid a lot of attention to in the initial design phase when we're planning out the magic system, and how that works in battle, was to allow different people to use the playstyle that they want to use."
You'll certainly have no shortage of opportunities to put these powers to use since a "corrupting miasma" known as the Break is said to be consuming the land. Athia has turned into a hostile world filled with dangerous creatures as a result – any living beings that come into contact with the miasma will either not survive or be forever changed by the corruption. During the preview, I see how the Break has affected an area of the world, and that perilous Break Storm I witness is seemingly a nasty side effect you can occasionally encounter.
As Frey, you're thankfully immune to this mysterious corruptive force, which allows you to explore the world at large. During the preview, I follow Frey as she ventures through a city called Cipal, which is bustling with refugees that have been driven there. As she walks through, I see many individuals who can be interacted with, and I'm already intrigued to learn more about this place and the people who line the streets. Before long, Frey ventures beyond the city walls and out into the wide, open expanse of the world that has been affected by the Break.
It's here that I first see one of the more unique and exciting features in action: Magic Parkour. Instead of exploring the open world of Athia on foot or on a mount, Frey can use the Magic Parkour ability to travel through the vast landscapes. With lots of freedom when it comes to movement, Frey is able to get past vertical structures, inclines, and gaps using this ability. From leaping over rooftops to jumping to ledges using anchor points, you can even manipulate gravity to break your fall. Magic parkour looks set to offer up a fast, slick way of navigating through the world, and I can hardly wait to experience how it feels to control for myself.
Terada explains that the team wanted to create a means of exploration with high-speed movement that we haven't really seen before in open-world games. "We thought that by combining that [Parkour] with magic, we could create something really new and different that we've never really seen before," he says. "And it actually fits in very well with the idea of an open-world in itself. The idea that you can use this really unique ability, this traversal ability, to navigate around this big world."
The duration of your Parkour ability can be improved by leveling up Frey as part of Forspoken's progression system. With familiar RPG elements such as crafting and upgrades in shelters, and unlockable skills, Frey has a skill tree where you can gain new spells by spending Mana. Equipable gear items such as cloaks and necklaces can be found around Athia that add to Frey's stats – such as health, stamina, and defense. There is, however, one feature that's a bit more unique. By painting patterns on your nails with Break shards, you're able to make your spellcasting ability more powerful.
When it comes to Forspoken, I really love the way it seems to blend fantasy with reality. Frey, who's just about to turn 21 when she finds herself pulled into this mysterious, magical world, represents both the modern and the fantastical, and the addition of the nails feature is part of Luminous' representation of this idea. "One core kind of concept for Forpoken is this idea of duality," creative producer Raio Mitsuno explains. "And one example of that is that it's modern and fantasy and how they kind of are contrasted against each other. So, obviously, we have Frey representing the modern aspect, and we have everything else in Athia representing the fantasy aspect of it."
"If you actually look carefully at Frey, everything aside from the cloak is what she was wearing in her normal everyday life in New York. Her character design is kind of a fusion of modern and fantasy. She's got sneakers from our world, she's got jeans, she's got t-shirts, but then she's got the cloak that represents Athia in the fantasy world," Mitsuno continues. "And in terms of nails, it's kind of the same thing. We wanted to create something that is unique and part of the Athian lore, but also has parallels to our worlds as well. So for nails, specifically, Frey sees it, she understands it as something that we would understand, but it's actually part of their [Athia] culture and part of the lore. And it's associated with this magical attribute and that's how Frey gets involved with it anyway. But it's this aspect of modern and fantasy that is deeply ingrained into everything that we've established in terms of the system and in all the details of the RPG elements there are in the game."
With Magic Parkour traversal, a wealth of spells to make use of, and a battle and progression system that allows you to customize your experience, Forspoken continues to speak to my RPG-loving heart. And with an intriguing story, Luminous Productions' debut title shows potential. Even after the recent release of the latest story trailer, there's still a lot of mystery surrounding Frey's adventure and the world of Athia. And I can't wait to seek out some answers and see how Forspoken shapes up when it releases next year on May 24, 2022.
Look ahead to more exciting upcoming releases with our round-up of new games for 2022 and beyond.