Game news Forspoken: First contact on the exclusive PS5 console from the creators of Final Fantasy XV
In the tidal wave of announcements to promote the PlayStation 5, between a trailer for Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart and a tempting video for Stray, a certain Project Athia was revealed in June 2020. At the wand, Square Enix and the Luminous Productions studio, which brings together veterans of Final Fantasy XV. The action is fluid, the game lively, the universe mysterious. So many reasons to wait for the new license from the master editor of the J-RPG. Project Athia, since renamed Forspoken, was revealed to us during a presentation. Here is all the information we learned.
With a name like his, the Luminous Productions studio undoubtedly dreams of dazzling us. His first project, Forspoken, is an open-world action-RPG, which looks more than twice like Final Fantasy XV. This is normal: to set up Luminous Productions, Japanese publisher Square Enix brought together developers who worked on the latest installment in the RPG series. Forspoken also uses the same game engine, the Luminous Engine, which gave its name to the team. A software in gestation for quite a few years in the Tokyo premises of the company, and which gave life to several technical demos, including Agni’s Philosophy. Today he is at the forefront of projects for Luminous Productions but above all for Square Enix, which wishes to bring creative minds closer to pure technique. A beneficial step for Forspoken? To find out, we attended a presentation of the title and interviewed its creators.
What structure for Forspoken?
Let’s start with the most concrete thing we’ve seen, namely the gameplay footage. Luminous Productions reminded us that Forspoken is still in development, presumably in its polish phase, and is targeting a release on May 24, 2022 on PC and PS5. The extracts that we were able to see therefore naturally suffered from a sawtooth framerate and some display problems. That being said, what have we learned that is new about Forspoken? First thatit is an open-world game but not an open-world in the strict sense of the term. Large areas will open up as you go, depending on the needs of the scenario, and it is not possible to walk everywhere from the start of the adventure. In any case, the playing field will be large enough to let the game’s lively movement system express itself. This system, called “magic parkour”, allows Frey – the heroine – to use her magic to speed up, climb rock faces and grab onto ledges in slow motion.
“There is a resource system for magical parkour, because if you were able to use this power at will, it would lose its value. It would be too simplistic for the players. It’s a system that players will use throughout the game (…) It will grow and change, and there will be more stunts to be done as we go. – Takefumi Terada, co-director of Forspoken
Yes, Forspoken will be vast, but we have a fear about what to discover in this open world. Luminous Productions explained to us that the world of Athia – the name given to the universe – has been ravaged by a cataclysm, nicknamed The Break. The latter destroyed previously lush land, wiping out just about everything in its path and turning the inhabitants into monsters. Luminous Productions told us text: outside of a big main town, there will be almost no NPCs on Athia’s roads, and therefore probably few side quests (Frey is also the only one able to move in certain areas of the disaster). This does not mean that there will be nothing to do for all that. In the short gameplay that we were able to see, there was for example a treasure protected by adversaries. And the big city mentioned above, Sapol, seems to bring together a lot of interesting stories. The studio further assures us that one of the two challenges of exploration will be to observe the damage of the cataclysm and to understand what happened. The second concerns the fights, which we will talk about right away.
Special focus on combat
According to Luminous Productions, the player will indeed be first and foremost encouraged to explore Athia to find new spells to use. For now, the studio did not wish to expand on the number of powers in total, or even on their exact functioning. We were only able to observe the presence of various techniques – close combat, ranged combat, traps, fire, stone, ice, etc. – that we can switch on the fly via a “weapon wheel” and assign down on the right of the screen. Obviously, there seems to be a system in order to combine the power of the powers, but nothing certain at the moment. Either way, Luminous Productions promises us diverse approaches, encouraging players to find their favorite playstyle. However, it remains to be seen whether the enemies opposite will encourage us to act in this direction.
“We want to bring very different styles of play to life, so there is a lot of variation on the magic that gives you the ability to play differently (…)“ Since there is a lot of magic available, that adds ‘interest and depth in the game, when there are different monsters that have different vulnerabilities ” – Takefumi Terada, co-director of Forspoken
For the moment, it is therefore difficult to comment on the fights of Forspoken, except that they seem dynamic and varied. Ditto for the bestiary, for which we are still missing elements before issuing an opinion. However, we learned a few more details: the spells will evolve and gain in power over the course of the adventure (just like magic parkour for that matter), thanks to a skill tree where you can spend points. But also at the option of various bonuses brought by capes, pendants, and patterns on Frey’s fingernails. Finally, note that there will be a slight craft dimension, via crafting spaces distributed in shelters, where the heroine will have plenty of time to rest and regain health. Enough to create potions and – we imagine – boosts for his powers.
A heroine and a captivating universe?
We’ve been talking about Frey, her powers, but we haven’t even taken the time to introduce her. As we have seen in the various trailers, it is about a young woman living in New York and suddenly propelled into the world of Athia. The why and how is still a mystery. The heroine was however more revealed during our interview: “Todd and Alison, our screenwriters, describe Frey as a very raw person” says Raio Mitsuno, creative producer of Forspoken. “She starts off with next to nothing, and that gives us enormous potential to evolve her as a character, but also from a game mechanic perspective”. The young woman is not well in New York, a huge city from which she wishes to leave more than anything. She is looking for her own identity and the clash of cultures between her world and Athia will lead her to ask herself the right questions. And Raio Mitsuno tells us: we will see a “big transformation” for Frey between the beginning and the end (no info on the lifespan).
“As a short summary: Frey is transported from this modern world to Athia, this world filled with magic, with these matriarchs who run it, who are the Tantas. The latter were benevolent before, but something has happened, they are just a shadow of herself. When Frey arrives she has no idea what is happening at all and just wants to come home, much like a fish out of water. It is his adventure: to understand what happened in this new world, but also to return ” – Raio Mitsuno, creative producer of Forspoken
To bring this character to life, Luminous Productions has also used performance capture, a technology that transcribes facial expressions in a much more realistic way. A first for Square Enix, used to “fantasy” typed designs for its heroes, as in Final Fantasy XV. Another boost, the presence of Amy Hennig in writing, an author recognized for having shaped the personality of Nathan Drake (Uncharted). In all cases, the universe of Forspoken seemed rather neat to us, as evidenced by the very last trailer, broadcast on the occasion of the Game Awards 2021. A video that allows you to learn more about the “Tantas”, the matriarchs of Athia who obviously went wrong , notably Tanta Lisa, whom Frey will have to face. However, the gameplay images that we were able to consult did not really do justice to this work. The main town of Sapol seemed rather empty and not necessarily very inspired, the same goes for the other sets and the bestiary. It will of course be necessary to wait to have the game in hand before deciding further. Release: May 24, 2022, a few months to wait.
Forspoken – Trailer Game Awards 2021