Forspoken (opens in new tab), Square Enix’s next big RPG, made a pretty positive impression on us when we checked it out in a December 2021 preview session (opens in new tab). The tale of a tough young woman from New York City who falls through an interdimensional portal into the fantasy world of Athia promises a stylish blend of action, magic, and parkour in a dangerous open world, and while we didn’t get to see everything, the bits we saw were “sick as hell.” Alas, a trailer shared to Twitter yesterday has prompted a different sort of reaction.
The trailer shows off 30 seconds of Forspoken gameplay, which seems fine, but it also has lead character Frey Holland describing her new circumstances in a snarky, faux-disbelieving tone. “So let me get this straight,” she says. “I’m somewhere that’s not what I would call Earth, I’m seeing freaking dragons, and—oh yeah!—I’m talking to a cuff! Yeah, OK, that is something I do now. I do magic, kill jacked-up beasts, I’ll probably fly next.”
And then, of course, she flies. Well, jumps a long way.
Unfortunately for Square Enix, the edgy, “witty” dialog did not go over well. At all. Multiple replies call, with varying degrees of seriousness, for the writers, voice director, and/or marketing team to be fired; others say the dialog has dampened (or outright murdered) any enthusiasm they had for Forspoken based on earlier, dialog-free gameplay clips.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad. A handful of creative-minded respondents applied the formula to other games, with wonderful results:
Some who watched the trailer found that it reminded them of the quip-heavy style of Joss Whedon, the once-beloved writer and director of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and a couple of Avengers flicks. One redditor in this thread (opens in new tab), for instance, said Holland talks “like a Joss Whedon parody,” while another complains that “every piece of dialogue so far is quippy, Whedon-esque tier crap.”
Whedon is not involved in Forspoken, for the record, but several other high-profile writers of note are, including Star Wars writer (and way-back-when PC Gamer editor) Gary Whitta, Uncharted writer and director Amy Hennig, and veteran television scriptwriter Allison Rymer. That’s an impressive collection of talent, which makes the cringe factor of this video even more remarkable—and, for followers who had previously been impressed by Forspoken’s gameplay, frustrating.
The trailer botch is the latest misstep on a long, rough path for Square Enix in the West. Recent releases including Marvel’s Avengers (opens in new tab), Guardians of the Galaxy (opens in new tab), and Babylon’s Fall (opens in new tab) have stumbled, and in April, Sonic the Hedgehog creator Yuji Naka said straight-up that he doesn’t think Square Enix “cares about games (opens in new tab).” In May, Square Enix offloaded Eidos Montreal, Crystal Dynamics, and Square Enix Montreal—and all their games, including Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Thief, and Legacy of Kain—to Embracer Group for $300 million (opens in new tab), leading Eidos Montreal founder Stephane D’Astous to say in July that Square Enix’s handling of the studio was “a train wreck in slow motion (opens in new tab).” Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda continues to be bullish on the blockchain (opens in new tab), meanwhile, despite a strong pushback from Square Enix fans.
This new Forspoken trailer isn’t likely to bolster anyone’s confidence in Square Enix, but hopefully it’s just some early voiceovers and a bad edit, and the game itself will still live up to our earlier hopes. We’ll find out early next year: Forspoken is set to come out on January 24, 2023.