Frey Holland is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock being a New York gang she owes favors to, and the hard place being the judge she finds herself in front of again as a result of those favors. Immediately after getting a second chance to turn her life around, the gang burns down the apartment she’s been squatting in. Making sure her cat, Homer, is safe and sound, she heads back to where it all started: the Holland Tunnel. Having been abandoned there as a child, it seems as good a place as any to think. Suddenly, she spots a golden cuff in an abandoned shop. Putting it on takes her to another world: Athia. Athia used to be ruled by four Tantas, kind sorceresses who kept peace and helped the people, but that age has passed and the mad Tantas now spread chaos and a corruption called the Break that turns living things into golden beasts. With magic powers granted to her by Cuff, Frey is the only one who can stop the four Tantas, steal their powers, and find a way home.
Forspoken is something of a superhero game, and is the sophomore effort from Luminous Studios – an in-house team at Square Enix who previously developed Final Fantasy XV. As a fan of XV (despite its many flaws) and another superhero-ish game called Gravity Rush, I was very excited to get my hands on Forspoken. I’m happy to say that I got what I wanted here, but at the same time I can see that it should have been so much more.
As such, we’re actually going to start with the bad here, because the good is just so freakin’ good. First off, the elephant in the room: Forspoken has a black protagonist and diverse cast, but has a very white team of writers, and you can tell. The game starts off with Frey in a courtroom, the judge lamenting that she’s seen Frey in this position far too often. I can see why they did this, as shortly after landing in Athia, she’s once again in another courtroom. Parallels and all, but it just feels a little in poor taste considering games rarely have a black protagonist.
The biggest issue throughout the game though is that it feels like they just don’t know what to do with her. Frey is a reluctant hero, and aside from liking sneakers (she calls them kicks, which as a term for shoes has been around since the 60’s if not earlier, fun fact) and reading, you don’t get much out of her. Her character arc seems to be about learning to trust people or using her anger for good, but neither of those things actually happen, just a few off hand quips referencing those ideas in the final battle. She has some fun interactions with Cuff and other NPCs, and I did end up liking her, but I can see why some will find her insufferable.
In addition, I found the soundtrack to be a bit too minimal. There …….