Square Enix's Forspoken has been doing the rounds for a while - the second game built on the Luminous Engine that made its debut with Final Fantasy 15, it was at the forefront of the PlayStation 5's reveal when it was known as Project Athia and has had various public showings ahead of its release early next year, but perhaps its most impactful came after a trailer was posted on social media last month and was met with a rough response online, the dialogue becoming the butt of internet jokes.
"It was unexpected to see the reactions to the social media post," Forspoken's creative producer Raio Mitsuo told us after a recent opportunity to go hands-on with the game. "Basically, we used existing footage from previous trailers and put something together as a social media post. And yeah, it went kind of viral in a way - that's not the direction that we thought it was going to go! But I have to admit, some of the memes are actually pretty funny, so I got a good laugh out of it.
"But, you know, for us, it's not something that we're concerned with. We're obviously leaving a lot of information on the table, because we're taking dialogue and scenes out of context. Forspoken is a very narrative driven game. It's a very story based game. We don't want to ruin the experience in our marketing campaign. We're being very selective about what to use to generate interest and sometimes without that information about what led up to that moment, or what was the character's state of mind, we're leaving the audience the full freedom to interpret lines in any way they want. It's just one of those challenges that come naturally when trying to find ways to show the game without telling the full story, because we definitely don't want to reveal that."
Forspoken's certainly got more promise than some of the early showings might have suggested, with the most recent preview opportunity putting a firm focus on the gameplay and shying away from story details. The story itself is the result of a global development push, with the writing being handled predominantly in the west while Luminous Productions handles the nuts and bolts of development from its Tokyo headquarters.
"A global mindset is really at the core of what we wanted to do with Forspoken," said Mitsuno. "We thought we have a chance to create a brand new IP, and we obviously want players all across the world to play it and enjoy it, and the best way to do that was to pair these two different areas of expertise, in a sense - we have our pedigree of development here at Square Enix with longtime, long-standing franchises like Final Fantasy, and we have these amazing storytellers in the west that we worked with, and we're blessed to work with, like Gary Whitta and Amy Hennig.
"We worked with Gary and Amy during our pre-production phase. So very, very early on before we had started development, we worked with Gary to create this big world of what eventually would become Forspoken. We had different phases for both Gary and Amy - with Gary, it was more about big ideas. From there on, as we moved further along in the pre production, we worked with Amy who then took all those big ideas and helped us figure out which ones we want to focus on for this game and make it a more manageable experience, and as we went into production and the baton was passed over to Todd Stashwick and Alison Reimer who wrote the full story."
While story sections were absent from our short time with Forspoken, it's still a remarkably chatty game with frequent dialogue between main character Frey and Cuff, the sentient magical armband that acts as your guide through the game's fantasy world, though that's something it turns out can be tweaked to suit the player's taste.
"In terms of the conversations between Frey and Cuff, the frequency that they talk to each other can be adjusted from the accessibility menu," Forspoken co-director Takefumi Terada told us. "Obviously we've put a lot of effort into that dialogue and the character building through the conversations they have there, so we really want people to pay attention to that and hope people enjoy it. But at the same time, we do understand that there is a need there depending on how you play the game. Some players may want to have slightly less voices to concentrate on the action at different points, so we're allowing you to do that too if you want."
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