Are you tired of playing open-world games? Are you tired of chasing down collectibles, clearing icons on maps, and completing filler content for no other reason than ‘the game told you to’? Are you tired of Ubisoft’s repackaging of world maps, the icon clusters and roaming NPCs, as well as the endless repetition of the “go-here-do this” quest line? Maybe, just maybe. Forspoken It is for you.
Earlier this year, I spoke to Forspoken co-director Takefumi Terada via a Square Enix interpreter, and he told me that Luminous Productions’ latest RPG experiment could be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to open world fatigue. “Obviously, from our side, we’re keeping an eye on what people are saying about open worlds and what the general feelings are in the industry right now,” he explained back in September. “And so we are aware of the sentiment people feel towards [the genre].”
Now, in a follow-up interview organised by publisher Square Enix, I had the chance to ask Terada how exactly the studio plans to offset the boredom many players are feeling with open world games, and if there was anything specific the studio has learned from other titles in the world right now that taught Luminous how it should – or indeed, shouldn’t – approach open world titles.
“When we were creating Forspoken, knowing that we wanted to create an open world game, we did a lot of research on other titles,” Terada tells me. “For example, Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac, and Ghost of Tsushima from Sucker Punch, and Rockstar’s GTA. But, really, what sets Forspoken apart is the magic parkour: it’s the defining element of the game, and a strength we have at our disposal. That’s why we put so much emphasis on it.
“Because of that, the world of Athia has been built around the speed and flexibility of the magic parkour; the speed that you move at and how quickly you can traverse the world has informed the distances at which we’ve placed content, and made us think about how we set up the world. As such, you can think of Athia as a playground in which to explore magic parkour to its fullest extent.”
This is evident in actually playing the game; there’s never more than a couple of seconds between open world beats – whether that’s an enemy that needs blasting with your magic, a waypoint that can be explored, some collectibles that can quickly be grabbed, or some smaller player-driven objective, there’s always something to do. Forspoken is a fun, customizable combat game that combines fun traversal with customisable combat. And that’s really to the title’s benefit.
“We have experienced working on RPGs, mostly,” adds Takeshi Aramaki, head of studio at Luminous Productions and Forspoken director, “so we didn’t just want there to be lots of spells in this game, and that’s it. We wanted progression and traversal to be something players could really adapt to their own play style as they get deeper into the game and progress down different paths.”
That RPG artisanship is also present in some of the game’s bigger challenges. When talking about open world fatigue, I raised something that’s a particular favourite of mine in big games like this; the hidden megaboss. The idea that there’s something you can strive to defeat once you’ve finished everything else in the game; a secret entity more powerful than the actual final boss, and something that works as a carrot for the most dedicated players to hunt down and defeat.
“In terms of end-game content, I think the combination of being able to power up spells and find your own playstyles really works with the open world setup of this game,” grins Aramaki. “So, yes, if you do explore right to the ends of the earth or dig deep into the deepest bits of the darkest dungeon, so to speak, there will be challenging content and strong monsters you can really get your teeth into.”
I think that’s selling what’s on offer a little short, though. Later on in the interview, I asked all three of my interviewees what they wanted most from Forspoken’s launch. Aramaki noted that he wants the game to be the start of a new IP that will become as beloved as Final Fantasy, creative producer Raio Mitsuno outlined the desire for Frey to find her audience and really connect with people, and Terada… well, Terada said the exact sort of thing I wanted to hear.
“So when I play Forspoken myself, the thing that I think is really fun myself is going to the ends of the map and going ‘oh there’s this enemy here – who would have thought!’ or going all the way over there and going ‘oh I found this spell, wow!’ So that’s what I’m most looking forward to, and seeing players get to grips with when the game comes out.”
So, if you enjoyed the long road to fighting Penance in Final Fantasy 10,have clashed with Baal in any Disgaea game, know the pain of fighting the Demi-Fiend in SMT games, or spent days of your life in a battle of attrition with Yiazmat in Final Fantasy 12, you should probably pay attention to Forspoken… it might be the latest entry on this niche (but very satisfying) list.