Forspoken #2 Hands-On Preview – A quick taste of the story

It’s only been a few months since Wccftech was last in NYC for a hands-on training with Forspoken for an intimate look at the same demo that was on at the Tokyo Game Show and other media events. Now, less than two months after the official launch, we’ve been invited to spend more time with Fry Holland and her magical talking palm. Instead of the curated sandboxes that make up previous demos (and the playable demo that was quietly released from The Game Awards), we’ve worked with a selection of chapters from Forspoken’s first moments, including the second, third, and fifth story chapters.

As the Forspoken Chapter 2 preview begins, the beginning of Frey Holland’s journey and transportation from the New York subway remains a mystery Square-Enix wanted to keep for a while. Instead, Fry has already left the Holland Tunnel behind, and the demo begins inside the quiet stone walls of an abandoned building in Athens. The Break has already begun to ripple across the landscape, a mystical phenomenon to which the young Miss Holland herself has some immunity.

Given that Fry’s journey has only just begun by the time the hands-on preview opens, there’s a lot to teach him before she’s well enough to go off on her own. The usual collection of tutorials that teach the player the movement and combat mechanics of Forspoken makes up the majority of this second chapter. This also serves as a fitting introduction for Frey to the magical bangle on her wrist which for all intents and purposes she affectionately calls Cuff. Having a skill set more diverse than both forms of abilities, it’s odd to go back to using abstract traversals like that, yet it makes sense in the grand scheme of the narrative.

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While Fry had control of a more diverse group of magical schools to draw on in the New York Comic Con/Tokyo Game Show sandbox demo, she only had one school that gave her a variety of spaced shots called Burst, Scatter, and Shield shots. If I had no prior experience with other magical spells, from summoning dumb soldiers to attack in an attempted fry to spears, I would have been disappointed by the limited selection of spells to choose from. Fortunately, the full version of Forspoken offers over a hundred magic spells (unclear if that includes raising the main attack level two and three) across different specializations of magic. What was made clear to me during my preview is that the Tantas that act as the primary antagonists that Square-Enix likes to talk about in Forspoken produce new magic types for Frey when they are defeated.

Parkour and speed traversal are a major part of what separates Forspoken from most other open-world adventures out there today, but it has its quiet moments as well. The majority of the third act revolves around Fry being captured (and serially released) upon her arrival in Sibal City, except that a young woman named Odin Kane, daughter of Shrimp and Calista Kane, asks for her help in choosing. Even something seems to have been lost in the intermission. During these short escape sequences, players are introduced to both stealth sequences and scripted walking-and-talking segments that feel alarmingly slow compared to the faster traversal. Whether these moments are reserved for a few key moments in the story or if Fry’s knack for sneaking out of trouble is a consistent target remains to be seen. Upon escaping from Cipal, Fry ventures into the search for the first matrilineal Tantas and subsequent boss fight for those who manage to make it to the end of the preview session.

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Without a full set of parkour abilities, traversing Athena can sometimes be a chore, especially when it comes to climbing uphill. The ability to link up that players can test for themselves in the current playable demo is a later unlock, with players mostly only having access to Flow as the first unlocked movement ability (used by holding down the left analog stick and circle button) . All of the fancier moves, from running on water etc., remain as teasers in the gameplay footage and will be something players can look forward to discovering for themselves.

Forspoken launched in less than six weeks in North America. As such, this probably remains my last chance to spend some time with Frey Holland before a full review. The official release on both PlayStation 5 and PC comes on January 24, 2023.

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