Last week I had the chance to sit down and play Forspoken. No, not the free demo that is available on PlayStation 5 now, but a significant chunk of the story-heavy sections. After roughly four hours with the game and an interview with the Head of Luminous Productions and Director Takeshi Aramaki, Co-Director Takefumi Terada, and Creative Producer Raio Mitsuno, I’ve walked away with a lot to chew on.
How Forspoken Draws From Alice in Wonderland and Final Fantasy XV For Its Story | Preview
Forspoken, at its core, is a fantasy action/adventure game. The world of Athia is in ruin, and the protagonist Frey is ripped from modern-day New York and thrown into this world with no way to return to the traffic-ridden city. It’s your classic Isekai story, and when I asked about the inspiration for Forspoken’s main plot point, Creative Producer Raio Mitsuno told me.
“We knew thematically how to use magic and fantasy as themes for video games. So for the next project, we wanted to just take that even further and really capitalize on and maximize that aspect of magic and fantasy. In terms of the story, this is where we started working with the likes of Gary [Whitta] and Amy [Hennig].”
Scenario writing is where the team felt like it needed the most work. After learning lessons from Final Fantasy XV, the biggest takeaway was the studio needed more help to tighten up its world. This is where Garry and Amy come into play for Luminous Productions. When coming to Forspoken, Luminous looked at what they could do better, and Aramaki told me through a translator the answer was “collaborating with overseas talent.”
Of course, the team had its own inspirations for Forspoken, being enamored with your classic fish-out-of-water stories from back in the day. Drawing from classic tales like The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and The Chronicles of Narnia, Raio told me they want to make a “modern version of that.”
While the preview I played was very focused on the characters and story of the world, there was plenty of combat as well. Using a mix of support and attack magic to defeat enemies can sometimes be tricky and feel a bit clunky. Still, the team was focused on providing players with an elevated experience from Final Fantasy FFXIV. Co-Director Takefumi Terada said,
“You know, when we were creating the battles for this game, pay close attention to things that we weren’t able to do with Final Fantasy 15 to kind of create this new magic action.”
Magic was in Final Fantasy XV, but it wasn’t the game’s draw. With Forspoken, your spells are everything. As you continue to push through the game, you’ll unlock dozens of new types of powers to play around with. A lot of FFXV’s DNA is in this game, from a teleport that is similar to the Warp Strike and plenty of bombastic explosions and powerful spells. It’s clear the team at Luminous is trying to go all out on the spectacle of it all.
Magic isn’t just a means for progression, though. The team was also very cognisant of the maturing and growing of Frey as a spell wielder. The game starts you off with only a few different abilities, and over the course of the game, you’ll obtain more and more. As Frey’s character grows, so will her arsenal of powerful abilities. Overwhelming the player with many spells upfront wouldn’t be great for the experience, and Terada told me,
“So when you start off, you have some mid-range spells at your disposal, or then when you go further into the game, you’ll get access to some close-range spells. And then, farther into the game, you’ll gain access to longer-range spells.”
This helps ease players into the experience and gives themselves and Frey a sense of more natural growth throughout the game. Forspoken’s skill tree will give you access to more potent versions of the magic you’re already wielding, while main story progression and optional side-objectives will introduce you to entirely new spells.
Related: How to Play the Forspoken Demo
In my four hours with the game, I unlocked various abilities like a plant-based turret to deploy on the battlefield, a shield made of rocks to block incoming projectiles, and even a long tendril to swing and trip my enemies.
While I’m still not sold on Forspoken, it’s clear the team at Luminous Productions is learning all of the right lessons from Final Fantasy XV and are crafting an interesting experience from a story perspective. Frey grew on me as a character in my four hours with the game, and her quips about New York felt authentic as a native New Yorker myself. Poking fun at Newark, New Jersey, and telling villagers she’s from Hell’s Kitchen when being tried for Heresy. It’s a good mix, and Frey feels like someone who would fit in on the busy streets of the big apple.
When designing Frey’s character, Raio told me “We started from the inside out, we started thinking about her characteristics and personality, what’s her favorite food, is she a cat person, is she a dog person, just all the little details that go into making a character.”
Once they landed on all of the finer details, which I’m told are brought up in the game, the team determined New York as the obvious choice. My biggest takeaway from this preview is that Frey’s dialogue and conversation with other characters feel authentic to the New York experience.
One final question I asked the team was something I had been enamored with since the second I started playing. I couldn’t stop looking at the physics on Frey’s cloak. Spinning the character model around and around just to watch it wave. Why does the Luminous Engine render fabric so well? When I asked this question, the entire room burst out laughing, and Arakami told me, through stifled laughter,
“The team has been working on fabric for like over three years or so,” he goes on to say. “And so, for example, they’ve captured video of real-life physical fabric being blown in the wind, and then had the artists reference that to kind of create similar behavior within the game.”
It’s a small detail, but it is indicative of the Luminous team and their passion for their first big project, Forspoken.
Forspoken releases on the PlayStation 5 and PC on January 24, 2023.