Contemporary reality clashes with high fantasy in "Forspoken" - Catholic Courier
This is an image from the video game “Forspoken.” This is an image from the video game “Forspoken.” (OSV News photo by Square Enix)

Contemporary reality clashes with high fantasy in “Forspoken”

NEW YORK (OSV News) — Contemporary reality clashes with high fantasy in the action-adventure “Forspoken” (Square Enix). While the game boasts some promising merits, it fails to live up to its potential due to awkward dialogue, clunky combat systems and a barren environment.

Alfre “Frey” Holland (voice of Ella Balinska) is a homeless orphan from modern-day New York City who finds herself transported to the fantastical realm of Athia. In the process, she also acquires a magical — and sentient — set of interlocking bracelets (voiced by Jonathan Cake).

Frey soon discovers that troubled Athia is in a state of chaos because of the oppressive rule of its leaders, Tanta Sila (voice of Janina Gavankar) and Tanta Prav (voice of Pollyanna McIntosh). Her task is to help the inhabitants of this world so that she can return to her own.

Rather than provide useful guidance, Frey’s newly acquired adornment, dubbed Cuff, talks constantly to little purpose. The hollow back-and-forth banter in which Cuff and his owner engage does nothing to further character development or to endear either one to the audience.

The exchanges between the two, moreover, are needlessly littered with vulgarity. They’re also marred by the occasional rude gesture.

Frey fights human enemies as well as various monsters and animals. But there’s no gore involved. Adversaries simply dissolve into particles when killed.

“Forspoken” does have its strong points both with regard to mechanics and content. Frey, for instance, has the ability to soar and glide and it’s fun to watch her enhanced movements.

More significantly, as a protagonist of color, Frey injects a note of diversity into a genre that sorely lacks it. As Pope Francis has observed, “diversity is a richness” so that Frey’s presence helps to lessen the gaming industry’s overall poverty where multiethnic characters are concerned.

Yet Frey is not truly a hero, although the narrative strives to portray her as one. She aids Athia not out of any sense of altruism or because she now has the empowering capability to assist those who cannot help themselves. Instead, the succor she gives is simply a means to an end.

In fact, Frey continually whines and complains about her situation to Cuff. To the degree that she prefers to put herself before others, Frey is, if anything, an antihero — and not a very likable companion for players either.

Additionally, the story in which she features is bland and uninspiring, especially compared to the many narrative-rich games currently available. So, at a high-end price point of $70, “Forspoken” may be best foregone.

Playable on PlayStation 5 and Windows.

The game contains stylized combat violence, some grisly sights, frequent rough and much crude language and obscene gestures. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is M — Mature.


Adele Chapline Smith reviews video games for OSV News.

Tags: Game Reviews
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