The last time Forspoken dropped a trailer, we all went to town on it, so we probably owe the latest one our attention. They say no publicity is bad publicity, but I've never been sure that's true. Forspoken's infamous trailer was not controversial, edgy, or out of line. It was just quite bad. In an attempt to showcase the game's personality and sum up the isekai storyline, it featured an overexcited protagonist talking loudly while quipping lines on the level of "so… that just happened!", and revealed very little in terms of gameplay. Clearly an attempt to tap into the popularity of the laff-a-minute Whedonised delivery of the MCU, it came a few years too late to the party and only succeeded in putting everyone off. The new trailer ditches all of that, but is it too little too late?
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I’ve had my eye on Forspoken since it was first revealed, back when it was called Project Athia and little more than a fancy tech demo for the PS5. This was the kind of game Square Enix was always supposed to make. When the studio bought up a bunch of Western developers, it was supposed to be a union of East and West philosophy. That experiment hasn't really worked out – Square Enix seemed to resent many of its Western properties, declaring Tomb Raider and Guardians of the Galaxy as disappointments even as it rushed to defend much less successful titles like Babylon's Fall. Most of these Western titles have been sold to Embracer Group, and so whatever ideas Square Enix had for this meeting of the minds are moot. But Forspoken, written by a Western team with gameplay primarily developed in Japan, is the first, last, and only example of what Square Enix could have been.
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That alone makes it noteworthy. In every trailer bar the infamous quipathon, there has been a sense of intrigue. We have seen lightning fast traversal, a range of unique weapons, and frenetic gameplay. It has a JRPG swagger with the more grounded approach of a realistic Western triple-A. It previewed reasonably well, and I think there is at least a decent game in there. Great? That could be pushing it, but so many of us were writing it off after "oh yeah, and I'm talking to a freakin' cuff!", but one bad trailer shouldn't be a death knell.
Here's the thing – that trailer was always just a trailer. It seems obvious, but most trailers aren't just trailers. If it was 60 seconds of gameplay, and it all sucked, that's bad news. That 60 seconds of gameplay was probably the best gameplay they had, and if it's no good, that doesn't bode well for the other 29 hours and 59 minutes of the 30-hour game. But this trailer had basically no gameplay in it. It didn't even have cutscenes from the game. It was designed entirely to be a quippy, memorable trailer that everybody loved. I guess two outta three ain't bad.
We learned nothing from the game. The latest trailer is a lot more informative. While it’s still a primarily cinematic affair rather than focussing on gameplay, protagonist Frey keeps her mouth shut and lets the action do the talking. We see a protagonist be chased down a city street, then through a forest as a mythical beast gives chase. Though there's no true gameplay, we see the mystical powers, the quick combat at close quarters, the hyperactive traversal, and the verdant vistas clashing against urban landscapes. Talking cuff or not, it seems like a game worth the ride. The dialogue about overcoming fears and finding a place is trite, but it's a video game – that's to be expected.
I've always been interested in Forspoken, and with the game almost here, my curiosity grows. I haven't seen enough for it to be my most anticipated game of the year (maybe not even of the month), but it probably deserves to be thought of for more than one bad trailer. It's a unique offering from Square Enix, and while the marketing has had some missteps, it'll be worth playing for the intrigue alone. I hope it's good, but more than that, I hope it's interesting.