With its blend of fantasy meets reality, some seriously slick magic powers, and vast environments to parkour through, Forspoken has quickly become one of the most highly anticipated and intriguing 2022 releases. After what we saw of the game during the PlayStation September showcase, it's hard not to be drawn to Square Enix's exciting new IP - especially when you consider the talented cast of writers who are bringing this new narrative-driven adventure to life.
Forspoken will take us to the fantastical setting of Athia as protagonist Frey Holland, a young woman from New York City who's thrown into a world full of magic, danger, and beauty. With talent pooled from TV, film, and games, Square Enix and Luminous Productions brought onboard Rogue One: A Star Wars Story screenwriter Gary Whitta to conceive the original concept for Forspoken. The opportunity to help establish a new IP was a challenge Whitta was all too happy to take on.
"Creating a new work of imagination entirely from scratch is always my favorite thing to do, so to be given a largely blank canvas by Square Enix, with their full cooperation and support, was really incredibly satisfying," Whitta tells GamesRadar. "They brought over some of their top concept artists from Japan to work with our team of writers in Los Angeles, and they would show us incredible visual illustrations of ideas we’d developed just the day before. It’s so satisfying to see something come alive almost immediately before your eyes like that, it reminded me a lot of working with the conceptual artists at Industrial Light & Magic during story development on Rogue One."
Crafting a new fantasy world
Taking what was then a blank canvas, Whitta explains that he was first approached by Square Enix back in 2017 about potentially working on crafting an ambitious new title that would be the first major project "under the banner of their new studio, Luminous productions''. With some initial visuals to work with, Whitta was tasked with taking Square Enix and Luminous Productions' initial points of inspiration and shaping them into a story and fantasy world that would later become the building blocks for Frey's adventure.
"I was excited to see what they had, which turned out to be some very ambitious plans for the kind of game they wanted to make — epic, visually very rich and luxurious, magical, mysterious, character-driven, and totally original," Whitta explains. "But what they mostly had was visuals, a kind of mood board for the type of feel they wanted the game to evoke, rather than a specific story or characters. My task was to take those points of inspiration and begin to shape them into some kind of coherent fantasy universe and story."
"I went away and put together a whole presentation that gave some beginnings of a sense of characters, narrative, and the underlying rules of a new magical fantasy world," Whitta continues. "The people at Square responded quite favorably to that and wanted to take the next step, but once they triggered that process it quickly became clear to me that an undertaking of this scale — the construction of an entirely new universe, with deep mythology and an epic storyline, all to its full potential — required more imagination than I could provide on my own. It’s common practice in the worlds of film and television to assemble a group of talented writers to collaboratively explore and flesh out all the creative possibilities, so I suggested we do just that."
With such an ambitious project that takes players to a sweeping open world full of mystery and magic, other writers were brought on board to help with the creative process of shaping the story and setting of Forspoken. So far, we've only learned about a few names attached to the project, but since Whitta worked on the initial concept, a talented team has assembled to bring Frey's adventure to life. Writers revealed alongside Whitta include the likes of Uncharted's Amy Hennig, who worked on the story concept in 2019. Entertainment writers such as Shadowhunters' Allison Rymer and Todd Stashwick of Devil Inside fame also joined as lead writers to work on the story and script.
"We wound up bringing together an incredibly diverse and talented group of writers from across the fields of film, television, video games, and fantasy literature, to really dive deep into this world and build it out in far greater detail," Whitta adds. "There were some really impressive names in that room that haven’t been announced yet, but I suspect you’ll be hearing more about that as we get closer to release."
With writers joining at different times throughout the development process, Whitta didn't work directly with Hennig or Stashwick who picked up the "story baton" after his work was completed to develop the story from there. Whitta did work with Rymer, though, who he says was "an incredible asset" in the writer's room. "She’s [Allison Rymer] been the main connective tissue between that initial story-breaking and world-building that we did back in 2018," Whitta says," and the more fully realized story that has developed since then."
There are still a lot of questions surrounding the new narrative-driven adventure, but the sense of mystery makes the prospect of diving into the world of Athia and discovering everything it has to offer all the more tantalizing. When asked about the narrative and themes of Forspoken, Whitta says that the story has evolved a lot since his initial involvement with its creation and development ended, and there's sure to be a lot that will come as a surprise even to him. But what we can expect is "a lustrous new fantasy world that feels both very original and at the same time in the time-honored tradition of classical fantasy storytelling."
From wearing a magical talking cuff that allows us to wield a range of interesting powers, to exploring a world and story that will take us on a journey of self-discovery as Frey, Forspoken continues to stand out among a groundswell of releases headed our way in 2022. The most recent trailer sparked a lot of excitement and positive responses to the upcoming release set to come to the PS5 next Spring, which Whitta believes demonstrates an appetite for original storytelling in games.
"It’s been really heartening to see people respond favorably to something new that they know very little about, particularly amidst a wider landscape of the sequels and remakes that have become the norm," says Whitta. "I think it shows that there’s still - and always will be - a healthy appetite for original storytelling and world creation in video games."