Forspoken review – why we won’t have our verdict ready before launch

Forspoken screenshot

Forspoken – initial signs have not been good (pic: Square Enix)

Square Enix has purposefully withheld review copies of the new game Forspoken, which did not bode well for its release on Tuesday.

This afternoon is the official review embargo for PlayStation 5 and PC exclusive Forspoken, but our review won’t be ready by then, for the simple reason that we haven’t been sent a copy yet.

At first, we thought this was because we made it clear we were not impressed by the game when we attended a hands-on preview in December, but it seems several other sites, in the UK and US, have also not been sent copies and if there are any reviews today it’ll likely only be from the very biggest American sites.

There’s usually only one thing this means: the game is a dud. However, since we can’t tell for sure until we play the whole thing, this week is going to be purposefully short on informed opinion on the game, especially before launch.

It also appears that PC copies of the game are not being sent out at all, which implies particular problems for that version of the game – which is already troubled by unreasonably high system requirements.

Although uncommon, this sort of thing is not unheard of from big publishers, but it doesn’t always mean the game is terrible, just that they don’t think it will review well.

One of the last times it happened on this scale was with Borderlands 3, which was by no means a bad game, just a bland sequel with an obnoxious sense of humor, that the publisher correctly predicted most reviewers wouldn’t find funny.

The previews for Forspoken don’t seem to have been universally negative, although most people don’t tend to put the boot in at the preview stage unless the game is looking unambiguously bad.

For us, it was one of the worst hands-on previews we’d played in a long time, not because it was outrageously poor but because the game made so little use of the fact that it’s a brand new IP with no predecessors or license to hold it back.

Despite that freedom it came across as an extremely generic open world action role-player, with an uninteresting story set-up, irritating main characters, and an uninspiring central gameplay gimmick.

The game features a magical parkour system that allows you to automatically move over any low level obstacles simply by moving forward. Functionally, this is so you don’t need a horse to get around, but it doesn’t feel particularly satisfying and, from what we played, is neither fun nor very precise.

The combat is okay, with a promise of over 100 spells, but as with the parkour it’s not particularly entertaining and made to seem worse by some extremely generic-looking enemies.

Forspoken PS5

Forspoken – the graphics aren’t very good either (pic: Square Enix)

We spent a good few hours on the game but all our complaints could become less of an issue as the story continues, although the free demo on the PlayStation Store wasn’t much more encouraging.

It was different to what we played – which seemed to be just chunks from the almost-finished main game – but went down so badly that the producer had to make a statement saying that, in terms of mission structure, it was not representative of the finished product.

The demo then got an update that changed how the lock-on works and altered things like the text sizes, which is not the sort of last minute change that inspires confidence.

And then there’s the problem with the main character. To Square Enix’s credit the lead is a black woman named Frey and the fantasy world she finds herself in is very diverse, in terms of race and gender (the main bosses all seem to be women).

That’s great but Frey is from New York and her dialogue, and that of her magical bracelet, is awful, with every fish out of water cliché you could imagine and endless, tiresome f-bombs.

We didn’t notice it at the time but apparently there’s already an Accessibility option to turn off the incidental dialogue of the pair. The fact that this was necessary really should’ve set off some alarm bells with the developer, as it’s a terrible waste of an opportunity to have a main character that is anything other than a generic white guy.

Perhaps Forspoken will be better than the demo and our hands-on suggested, but we won’t be able to tell you until after it’s already out. So, in the meantime we’d be very cautious and unless you really liked the demo you’re probably best to wait until there’s a critical consensus.

We will update this article with any review scores that are released on Monday afternoon, but Forspoken itself launches on Tuesday, January 24 for PlayStation 5 and PC.

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MORE: Forspoken demo is actually nothing like the final game says the producer

MORE : Forspoken preview – Square Enix’s new action role-player

MORE: Forspoken’s latest trailer has become a meme factory for cringe

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