It’s only been a few brief months since the last time Wccftech was in New York City to get hands-on with Forspoken for an intimate look at the same demo that was present for Tokyo Game Show and other media events. Now, less than two months from the official launch, we were invited to spend a little more time with Frey Holland and her magical speaking Cuff. Rather than the curated sandboxes that make up the prior demos (and the quietly released playable demo from The Game Awards), we went hands-on with a selection of chapters from the early moments of Forspoken, including the second, third and fifth story chapters.
With the action of Forspoken’s preview picking up in the second chapter, the beginning of Frey Holland’s journey and transport from the New York metro remains a mystery that Square-Enix wished to keep under wraps for a short while longer. Instead, Frey has already left the Holland Tunnel behind, and the demo starts within the quiet stone walls of an abandoned building in Athia. The Break has already begun to spread across the landscape, a mystical phenomenon that young miss Holland herself bears some immunity to.
Given that Frey’s journey is only just beginning by the time our hands-on preview opens up, there’s much to be taught before she’s well enough to set off on her own. The usual assortment of tutorials teaching the player the movement and combat mechanics of Forspoken make up the majority of that second chapter. This also serves as Frey’s proper introduction to the magical bangle on her wrist that she affectionately names Cuff for all intents and purposes. After having a much more diverse skillset of both forms of abilities, it’s strange to have to go back to having such barebones traversal tools, yet makes sense in the grand scheme of the narrative.
While Frey had control over a more diverse range of magical schools to draw from in the New York Comic Con/Tokyo Game Show sandbox demo, she only has a single school that gives her a variety of ranged shots called the Burst, Scatter, and Shield Shots. If I didn’t have prior experience with other magic spells, from summoning mindless soldiers to attack at Frey’s bidding to spears, I would’ve been disappointed with the limited array of spells to choose from. Thankfully, the full release of Forspoken offers more than a hundred magical spells (unclear if that’s including leveling up key attack spells up two levels two and three) across different disciplines of magic. What was made clear to me during my preview was that the Tantas that serve as the primary antagonists that Square-Enix is willing to talk about in Forspoken yield new magical types to Frey upon their defeat.
Parkour and fast traversal are all major parts of what separates Forspoken from most other open-world adventures out there now, but it does have quiet moments as well. A majority of the third chapter revolves around Frey being captured (and sneakily released) upon arriving at the city of Cipal, only to be broken out by a young woman named Auden Keen, daughter of Robian and Calista Keen, who requests her help to pick up something that was seemingly lost within the Break. It’s during this brief escape sequence that players are introduced to both stealth sequences and scripted walking-and-talking segments that feel unnervingly slow compared to the faster-paced traversal. Whether these moments are reserved for a few key story moments or if Frey’s knack for sneaking out of trouble is a constant objective remains to be seen. Upon escaping from Cipal, Frey then ventures out to seek out the first of the matriarchal Tantas and the ensuing boss fight for those that were able to make it to the end of the preview session.
Without a full suite of parkour abilities, traversing Athia can sometimes be a chore, especially when it comes to nay upwards climbing. The ability to bound upwards that players can test out for themselves in the current playable demo is a later unlock, with players mostly only having access to Flow as the very first movement ability unlocked (used by holding down the left analog stick and the Circle button). All of the fancier moves, from running on water and so forth, remain as teasers in gameplay footage and will be something that players can look forward to discovering for themselves.
Forspoken launches in less than six weeks in North America. As such, this remains quite possibly my last opportunity to spend some time with Frey Holland before a full review. The official release on both PlayStation 5 and PC comes on January 24th, 2023.