Revealed as Project Athia in 2020, Square Enix finally saw the launch of its brand new AAA IP titled “Forspoken” on 24 January 2023. While initially set to release in early 2022, Square Enix delayed the title’s launch twice before its big day.
Normally, you’d expect people to be over the moon as more information is revealed for a brand-new, large-scale project from a developer as renowned as Square Enix. However, things ended up playing out in quite the opposite manner, as each reveal raised more eyebrows than the last.
The practices of corporations to control the reception of their new titles and the idea of paid reviews is hardly new. Square Enix’s recent decisions with Forspoken’s release and how they handled the game’s launch is possibly the latest example.
“Limited” Review Codes
Over a week before the game hit the shelves, Forspoken’s gameplay began to appear online, and it was assumed that select media outlets had received a review code or copy. As the game neared its launch, several renowned outlets took to Twitter to report that Square Enix had not provided them with the review codes ahead of the release.
This sparked an obvious concern for the state of the game in terms of quality, performance, and enjoyability along with being a massive red flag for the developer as a whole. It’s also worth noting that the review embargo for the title was to end 24 hours before the release.
The company showcased a lot of Forspoken over the last two years, and each part of the big picture appeared to be less impressive than before. Now that Forspoken’s global launch is behind us, the reception has been far from positive. The majority of the players claim that the game is quite mediocre.
Square Enix possibly withheld review codes from most major outlets while providing some with the codes for the PS5 version specifically. As a strategy to delay reviews and the subsequent reception, the results speak for themselves.
Keep in mind that PC review codes or copies were not given out, which, combined with the insane specifications, sparked an entirely separate branch of negative reviews and word of mouth.
As a brand-new IP, Forspoken was expected to be received with glowing reviews and find its standing alongside Square Enix’s icons, such as Final Fantasy & Dragon Quest. Due to how the game mixes all of its elements together, combined with the handling of its launch and other factors, Forspoken isn’t off to a good start.
It’s wrong to expect anything to come out the gate swinging and have no issues whatsoever, especially as technology is advancing every day. Due to its seemingly uninspired execution of otherwise brilliant ideas, Forspoken seems to have resonated poorly with most of the player base.
The recent success of Elden Ring is a prime example of a game winning the hearts of the players in light of its questionable launch state.
Even though Elden Ring was From Software’s magnum opus combining over a decade’s worth of experience in the genre, it was marred with performance issues at launch across all platforms. Something that has persisted since the original Dark Souls was released on PC.
The Reception After Launch
According to review aggregator Metacritic, Forspoken has received a score of 68 based on 67 critic reviews, of which 39 entries were “mixed” as of right now. Several players have taken to Twitter to share their sentiments regarding the game’s performance.
A lot of the criticism, however, was directed at the game’s writing and dialogue script. While the opinions are countless and range from one end of the spectrum to the other, one point of commonality is that it misses the mark and tries too hard.
The disparity in a voiceover’s quality is a pretty common occurrence due to the multiple languages available. Add to that how the world is now more exposed to other cultures than ever before, and it’s easy to see how some dubs tend to outshine the original.
A recent example of bad voiceover work is Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Its English dub was meme-worthy material in contrast to its original Japanese voice acting thanks to Rex’s golden scream.
The opposite is true in Forspoken’s case. Believe it or not, the game’s dialogue in Japanese has a lot more impact than its western counterpart.
Square Enix And Inconsistent PC Ports
From a technical perspective, Forspoken provides some amazing accessibility options to customize the overall player experience, but it falls short in the performance department, most notably on PC. Digital Foundry’s analysis of the PS5 version showed downgraded visual fidelity along with noticeable drops in framerate in certain areas.
Lousy and unoptimized PC ports have plagued the platform for quite a while now. Some developers have delivered pristine PC ports recently. It must be noted, however, that a strong first impression is paramount.
Even if you manage to deliver the peak experience a few months or a year after the game’s launch, the first impressions are what stick around for the long run, which in most cases is permanent. Plus, Square Enix has been a bit shaky, given some of their recent releases.
We have remastered ports of titles such as Chrono Cross, but then you have games like Crisis Core: Reunion and FFVII: Remake Intergrade that are an absolute blast. All this just makes you ask – what are they thinking? It’s no secret that they’re capable based on their library of games.
Square Enix’s recent titles ranging from Stranger of Paradise to The DioField Chronicles and Valkyrie Elysium, along with Guardians of The Galaxy and Marvel’s Avengers – that coupled with unreasonable sales expectations and a pro-NFT stance, Square’s been trapping itself in a cage of mediocrity.
For now, it seems that Creative Business Unit 3 is carrying Square Enix on its back with FFXIV and the upcoming action RPG FFXVI. Yoshi-P, along with his talented team, has been hard at work delivering amazing experiences in the critically acclaimed MMORPG. FFXVI is also shaping up to be a phenomenal experience but keep your fingers crossed.
Great Ideas Impacted By Flawed Execution
Square Enix expected Forspoken to propel them to new heights and attract positive attention. Not only did they mismanage the project, but they also failed to deliver a product with polish and quality. Objectively speaking, Forspoken has some amazing ideas, and even now, some elements of the game are genuinely enjoyable.
Most of the select few who received the PS5 review codes walked away with mixed feelings. They could see the potential in this new IP but couldn’t ignore the glaring issues. One example of this is a tweet from Bloomberg reporter – Jason Schreier. Going through Metacritic, I also found some disparities between the reviews.
I've played a bunch of the new Square Enix game Forspoken and pretty much all you need to know is that the main character's last name is Holland because she was found abandoned as a baby near the Holland Tunnel. Decent combat system though
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 23, 2023
IGN Japan gave Forspoken an 80, while IGN gave it a 6. We all meme IGN and its reviews, especially after their famous “too much water” situation, but you can’t help but think about the thought process at work here. Most of the other positive entries had a rather stiff, textbook feeling to them and barely expanded upon the merits of the game.
I want to reiterate that Forspoken brings some amazing ideas to the table. All of those things are bundled with elements that don’t work for one reason or the other. This impacts the experience as a whole. Players may still find a good time here, but the general voice is in a pretty divisive state.
Forspoken is a remarkably generic RPG – from its bland story to its lifeless open world. Thankfully its energetic combat and flashy parkour movement system do keep the relatively slim campaign decently entertaining throughout. Our full review: https://t.co/RYj1UmvNrU pic.twitter.com/Wr2ka16BXU
— IGN (@IGN) January 23, 2023
Anyone with a genuine interest in gaming, especially in today’s age, would want a new IP to thrive. I want Forspoken to do well, but pushing sales with this setup might prove to be difficult considering the initial reception, price tag, the platforms it is on, and the state of the PC port. I do hope it finds a measure of success in the future.
Considering Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t meet sales requirements, I don’t see this title living up to Square Enix’s presumably lofty expectations. Knowing their track record, they might push forth with a sequel that may or may not change the course for this IP, but for now, it’s a rough start.
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