Square Enix’s east-meets-west Forspoken confirmed for May 24, 2022

Forspoken's blend of western-style narrative and Square Enix's layered game mechanics bear plenty of promise.

by Justin Choo

Square Enix’s upcoming triple-A title Forspoken has a release date locked in at last. The game is notable for the fact that it is also the first game produced by the newly-formed (in development terms) LUMINOUS PRODUCTIONS studio. Forspoken has been the subject of much speculation as the team had worked on Final Fantasy XV. It also features a creative team from across the Pacific Ocean and a very atypical leading lady.

Frey Holland is a down and out New Yorker who has been mysteriously transported to the magical world of Athia. Where she was once helpless, Frey now holds the power to save the world from a menacing blight, accompanied by a talking cuff named, err, Cuff (Jonathan Cake). Frey is voiced by Ella Balinska (Charlie’s Angels, Resident Evil), one of several high profile voice actors confirmed for Forspoken. Janina Gavankar (True Blood, Star Wars: Battlefront) plays Tanta Sila, while Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead) plays Tanta Prav.

The Tantas are former rulers of Athia who happen to be powerful sorceresses as well. Once beloved by the people, they became oppressors seemingly overnight, and Frey stumbles into their crosshairs to set up an inevitable showdown.

It’s somewhat unfamiliar territory for Square Enix, whose games are often westernised but often written from a Japanese perspective. The Forspoken collaboration is perfectly in line with the current trend of content favouring representation for minorities and women; the team had every intention of designing the game with strong female characters and protagonists. Creative Producer Raio Mitsuno explained that to create a game that had universal appeal, they felt that it would be best to team up with a creative team from the West.

And the lineup is quite impressive. The writing team features Gary Whitta (Book of Eli, After Earth, Star Wars: Rogue One) and Amy Hennig (Legacy of Kain, Jak and Daxter, Uncharted trilogy) along with Allison Rymer and Todd Stashwick. Meanwhile, the musical score is undertaken by Bear McCreary (God of War, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Walking Dead) and Garry Schyman (Bioshock, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor).

The East-meets-West partnership, according to Forspoken co-director Takefumi Terada, was “different but a lot of fun,” as it “combined what was traditionally done at Square Enix with new ideas and with a slightly different look at things. And it turned out to be a really good combination in the end.”

From the visuals we’ve seen, Forspoken pretty much looks as advertised: a visually stunning game a la modern Final Fantasy but yet with a narrative and dialogue that could easily have come from the likes of Naughty Dog.

Despite the open world that the demos have teased, Terada has suggested that the Forspoken will be mostly narrative-driven (somewhat linear?), though your leeway to explore widens up the open areas the further you progress.

Much of the mystery revolves around the Break, a mysterious mist that corrupts and mutates all that is caught within its reach. For whatever reason, Frey survives the mist, and naturally, the people of Athia look to her to help save their world.

The eagle-eyed might notice the many literary references, but Mitsuno clarified that they weren’t trying to establish a universe rooted in any aspect of history or mythology; they were simply taking inspiration where they saw fit. Names range from Greek philosophers to Lewis Carroll creations while some of the architecture was inspired by Croatian architecture from the Middle Ages. The fantasy world of Athia is the perfect backdrop for the developers to show off their chops, from breathtaking landscapes complete with spectacular magical effects.

“We were torn about what direction to take the game when we first sat down to design these combat systems and ideas, but we thought they must give the game its own identity,” explained Terada. “We focused on magic instead, so we set out from the start to create this combat system, built from scratch, where everything was focused on magic.”

The system revolves around four styles of magic: green, blue, purple and red, and each with their respective skill trees, suggesting a wide variety of possibilities. From what we’ve seen, you can cycle through the colours (of magic) and the menu offers three spells that can be combined. On top of that, you can replace each of the spells with others in your library. The game was designed around the idea of having the player try out lots of spells and try to use as many as they can. That said, Terada explained that they tried to provide different types of magic for people who prefer different play styles; so there are sets of magic that are easier and more suitable for beginners, but of course, veterans and hardcore gamers can try their hand at the more technically difficult spells.

Also, is it a coincidence that Silas and Prav are easily identifiable by the colours they adorn? Silas is unmistakable in her fiery red dress while Prav’s understated blue robes provided the perfect contrast. A clue perhaps, that the magic that Frey has access to is somewhat linked, and that there are two more bosses to be unveiled in the lead up to the launch?

We expect the developers to reveal more with regards to the world of Athia but for now at least, DLCs have not been confirmed as the team’s focus is squarely (hur hur) on the core game.

So is Luminous Productions essentially a specialised wing of Square Enix that will produce game titles with a more international flavour? Mitsuno did not rule out the possibility, citing that what they’ve tried with Forspoken seems to work and that effectively keeps the door open.

Launch bundles

The following kits have been confirmed for May 24:

  • The standard disc will come with the Cat’s Meow Cloak, Covet Nails and Wicked Nails.
  • The pre-order bonus for the PS5 digital edition gets you the No Limits Cloak, Symbol Combo Necklace, Trigger Happy Nails and Crafting Starter Kit.
  • The pre-order bonus for the PC digital edition (Steam, Epic Games Store, Microsoft Store) gets you the Elite Cloak, Spectra Combo Necklace and Overclock Nails.
  • The Digital Deluxe Edition (download only) gets you the Main Game, Digital Mini Soundtrack, Digital Mini Art Book, Story DLC ‘Forspoken: In Tanta We Trust’ (Winter 2022 release), Early access for Story DLC ‘Forspoken, Rare Resource Kit (PS5 only), and the respective pre-order bonus (same as download version).