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Boy, Square Enix has nailed it for the past few years, hasn’t it? And by “it” I mean “every wish anyone could have to play their shitty shit games”. And by Christ, they came out swinging this year. You know how “hangry” means hungry and angry? There must be a word that means bored and angry. And hungry. Because that brings out Forspoken in me. Hangr-Ennui maybe. And you know, on paper, the idea sounded pretty tempting. Ordinary Smurf from the real world is transported to a pseudo-medieval fantasy land and must take on the motherfucker. But then I realized it only sounded appealing because it’s just the storyline of Army of Darkness. And Army of Darkness worked because Bruce Campbell was in it, and he elevates whatever he’s playing, he’s the B-movie actor’s equivalent of Worcestershire sauce. In his place, Forspoken has Frey Holland, a 21-year-old New Yorker who I think is meant to come across as “sassy,” but I get more of a “deserves a pavement slab to the teeth” vibe. Her hilariously hilarious dialogue, which is about as funny as a quadruple amputee with itchy balls, is the issue most correspondents got caught up on I think, but it could have been voiced by Brian Blessed, and it wouldn’t have helped, because she is simply unsympathetic in general.
When we first see her, she’s on trial for stealing a bunch of cash. But she insists she needed it for a good cause, so I waited for it to turn out to be like she was single-handedly keeping the orphanage afloat or something, but then it turned out to be the good cause she was talking about , “had a big sack full of money at my house.” Which she then loses for stupid reasons so she can spend the next half hour sulking in New York and whining about wanting to be somewhere else where she can do something Can be special, possibly with a craftable gear system. I wonder if I would have felt differently if I hadn’t known where this was all going from the cover art and various other things. Watching a Ken Loach film about poverty on a council estate in Sheffield changing gears after an hour as someone in a hoodie and fake Converses is teleported to Narnia, holding up Aslan with a jackknife. As it was, by the end of the prologue I was thinking, “Are you going to stop pulling the damn Disney princesses bullshit from act one and get on with hanging out with fantasy lions?” I assumed when she finally got to Narnia , the game would actually start and get interesting because I was naive in those carefree days.
The incursion into Narnia eventually takes place and Frey discovers that she is special and has magical powers and must save the dumb peasants while they all rigidly patronize them for not understanding their cheeky contemporary dialect. So the plot would feel straight out of a first-time author’s young adult fantasy novel aimed at 14-year-old girls were it not for Frey saying every other word “fuck” and the absence of any vampiric sexplague love interest characters. For this, a fairly typical Triple-A gameplay model has been hacked – an open world map littered with icons marking tricky combat challenges, and don’t worry, there are also collectibles and crafts, which is why a confused big-city youth will stumble into a fantasy meadow wants to start bagging random leafy plants she finds right away. But don’t think just because Frey went from whining about wanting to go to whining about going back to where she wanted to whining about wanting to go means the pace picks up, oh no, you’re dancing now Forspoken’s whistle, motherfucker. No, after a cutscene you can’t regain control until you’ve stood there and fully considered the events long enough for the drool to start beading the corners of Frey’s mouth.
And sometimes not even then, because sometimes that moment when we think we’ve finally escaped the cheeky cutscene dialogue and the undulating meadows of the open world stretch out enticingly before us like a freshly formed pubic canopy is the perfect time to nail our feet onto the ground for a forced dialogue tree with the overgrown smartwatch, which is Frey’s primary support NPC. Apparently someone thought more world building was needed and that was the gap under the fingernail where the crowbar would fit. But tell the wise, Forsporken: Before you can build worlds, you must have a world worth building. And Frey’s personal Narnia consists of a city and about ten square miles of wasteland. Like a piercing on a uniquely nondescript nipple. And the town isn’t particularly handsome either, it’s made up of a slum area and a rich area, both adorned with pristine gray bricks that look like the default level editor texture, and overall look more like an overly elaborate set from Shakespeare in the Park than anywhere else where someone really fucking lives. And yet Frey’s central character arc is recognizing the importance of protecting the gaping array of copied, earth-toned finger puppets who live here like the cardboard cutout fans at a socially distanced sporting event.
So that’s the city, and like I said, otherwise it’s mostly fields and copy-paste combat. I take it anyway, it all became a blur as I ignored it at full speed. At first I gave it a shot, stopping for side missions and doing enough to keep upgrading my gear and my spells, but copying and pasting combat was pretty much the only activity on offer and I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s mostly based around using projectile spells, but it’s hard to focus on targeting the gloomy, morning-vomit-colored enemy against the background of gloomy, afternoon-vomit-colored grass, especially when six zombie wolves take turns hitting your leg. And when you activate the lock, your magic long-range submachine gun doesn’t fucking hit a target if the target is moving faster than a heavy marijuana user in Safeway’s baked goods department. And as far as upgrades go, I wasn’t entirely convinced that a cloak that adds 0.5% damage to purple magic when Frey is at full health and isn’t currently thinking about cake was totally worth the effort. Since the game very accommodatingly provided traversal powers that were too fast to catch anything, I ended up choosing to speed through the critical path and ignore all optional activities.
All the time “Do it, game. Give me a mandatory fight that’s too hard if I’m underleveled. I know you won’t, you bloody coward.” And it didn’t. I suppose there was something to be said for the sheer joy of bunny-hopping through the world without very visibly caring, but the traversal powers — or “magic parkour,” as Forshitpoke insists on calling it — have theirs own problems. Any time you have to navigate something more complex than a field of wheat, Frey seems to lose track of the order of her arms and legs. I think the ability to slide across the surface of the water was pretty fun. I made sure to make the most of the game’s only lonely lake. So in summary, Forspoken? More like… for-throttles-on. Exactly what it’s choking on I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader, but can probably assume it’s something rude. I speak with absolutely no exaggeration when I say that Fuckshitcunt represents everything that is wrong with gameplay design and story writing in today’s high level game development. And when you buy it, you represent everything that is wrong with human genetics. Okay, THAT was an exaggeration.