The bar for open world games is high. The action-adventure "Forspoken" shows minor weaknesses, but scores in exploring its world with a refreshing gameplay element. The game even revives a trend sport from the early 2000s.
Escape your own world, down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. The game "Forspoken" from the developers Square Enix shows some parallels to the classic "Alice in Wonderland". The open-world adventure is more like an intoxicating trip - with parkour elements and magic. n-tv.de was able to test the third-person game extensively in advance and check whether the mix works.
The main character is Frey Holland, a young woman who makes her living as a petty criminal on the streets of New York. On one of her nightly strolls through the Big Apple, Frey, played by actress Ella Balinska, discovers a shimmering bracelet. A quick break-in into the apartment can't do any harm. However, the trinket magically teleports her to the strange world of Athia and endows her with magical powers. The bracelet also begins to speak and becomes Frey's eloquent companion.
The world of Athia is anything but idyllic, even if it looks quite majestic. Once these realms were ruled in unison by four magicians - the tantas - an insidious corruption ("the breach") swept across the land, turning all living creatures into monsters. Humans became "fracture zombies". The union of the sorceresses broke. Immune to the effects of the breach, Frey seeks a way back into her world. To do this, however, she must solve the riddle of corruption and defeat the four magicians. Like Alice in Wonderland, Frey is initially only driven by the desire to leave the new world for New York as quickly as possible. As the story progresses, she takes on her role as the savior of Athia.
Athia's four realms could hardly be more magical. Lush mountain landscapes with floating lake islands change into huge canyons, extensive swamp landscapes and alluvial forests. Moving around on foot or on mounts like in other open world games would take a tremendous amount of time. That's why the developers rely on the "magic Parkour", a movement boost that allows for rapid climbing like a parkour runner and lets Frey sprint through Athia at a crazy pace. In this way, chasms can be easily overcome or house walls can be climbed.
In fights, the boost is used to dodge enemy attacks at the last second or to combine them with attacks. Basically, the duels with the monstrous creatures of Athia focus on the use of spells. Attack spells deal damage, support spells activate various passive effects. While only one of each type can be active at a time, players can hold down the L1 or R1 button at any time to slow down the action around it and cast a new spell into the active slot. Frey has to adapt the spells depending on the opponent. Enemies are immune to some attacks, while others are particularly vulnerable. So you will always have to switch between the individual spells in fights and get a diverse arsenal of attacks that can be improved through various tasks.
Enemies can be tied up or distracted with the support spells. This is necessary from time to time, because apart from boss fights, the opponents usually attack in hordes. The range of spells expands as the story progresses. Frey starts with the purple earth magic. This allows you to use Rock Projectiles, Roots, Spikes, and Poison. The red fire magic creates flaming barriers and flaming blades. Icy arrows and explosive bullets can be fired with blue water magic, while green air magic relies on lightning and energy impulses.
While using the two spell variants, Frey's boost magic is charged - a kind of ultimate attack spell that can also be used in a variety of ways. Once the bar is charged, you can unleash it with a key combination. If an opponent is weakened on the ground, Frey can give him a killing blow. The developers rely on action-packed animations that optically enhance the combat events.
All in all, the combat system is well balanced, duels with hordes of opponents or bosses always have something dramatic due to the parkour inserts. The opponents' immunities literally force the player to use all spells and never fall into a monotonous combat pattern.
Loot and leveling is not neglected in "Forspoken", but is not overused like in other open-world games. In Athia, you pretty much pick up everything that's lying around. From sage plants for healing potions or various rocks and metals to improve the cloak. A nice aspect: As far as armor and artifacts are concerned, the game is rather puristic. Frey can wear different capes, which also differ visually. Add a necklace - that's it. The two objects affect the base values consisting of hit points, stamina, defense and healing.
In addition, Frey can paint her nails with certain patterns and colors. Although this form of folklore is an optical detail that is only noticeable in the cutscenes, it gives skills and magic power a small boost.
If you don't chase after the main story, there are enough side quests to improve your skills. However, the developers use well-known patterns from the quest textbook. The region can be overlooked from bell towers. Caves, villages and fortresses await with mini-bosses and rewards. A photo quest invites you to snap the most beautiful panoramas and sights of Athia with your smartphone. In addition, Frey can discover labyrinths under the surface of each region.
Anyone who dives into "Forspoken" will be particularly enthusiastic about the magical parkour. In places there is something intoxicating about moving through the open and very wide worlds. Again and again mana sources are placed, which give a stamina boost and allow the continuation of the wild hunt. As on Speed, hunger, thirst and pain seem forgotten. The player as Frey does not have to eat anyway - at the beginning Frey gets an apple, which she benevolently gives away. You can sleep in the numerous chapels (refuge), but you don't have to. Only healing potions are drunk.
The speed trip from "Forspoken" has its highlights. However, many things are lost in intoxication. For a putative triple-A title only available for the PS5 and PC (with high hardware requirements), there is a lack of quality in the details. Graphically, all cutscenes are great, but the game world only looks really magical in the panorama views. Many of the characters, apart from Frey and her antagonists, seem straight out of the drawing board - and are quickly forgotten.
While the story itself is well told, it gets bumpy when loading time is needed for scene changes. In fact, it is now standard for major titles in the new console generations to cover the loading screen with animations or cutscenes. In "Forspoken", on the other hand, there are often fades to black.
Creating a coherent open-world story without resorting to a template is fundamentally appealing. The setting from "Alice in Wonderland" on a magic trip plays well, for the really big hit there is simply a lack of fine-tuning in many areas. Like many other games in this category, "Forspoken" does not follow a fundamentally new approach in the genre, but with the magical parkour it has a supporting and refreshing element that ensures hours of gaming fun. You can indulge in this intoxication without hesitation.
"Forspoken" will be released on January 24th for Playstation 5 and PC. If you want to test the game, you can already use the free demo version in the Playstation Store.