Forspoken is one of the most highly-anticipated games of the year, and though it’ll see a launch on PC, all eyes are on the PlayStation 5 version of the game more than anything else. Why? Because it’s one of the few non-Sony first-party titles that’s being treated as something of a new-gen exclusive; a game that has the potential to show off what that imposing PS5 hardware can do.
I’ve been banging the ‘Forspoken is good, actually’ drum for a while now. After a hands-on with the game earlier this year, I was invited back to play a more advanced build of the game a few weeks ago, and it’s looking better than ever. The game has gone through something of a rehabilitation in the eyes of the public, making up for a terrible meme of a marketing video that rallied every malcontent gamer out there against the studio back in August.
And there’s a reason for that; Luminous Studios are pulling out all the stops to show you why this is a game that could only run on PS5, why this is a true new-gen RPG experience, and why you should really give a shit about what it’s trying to do.
“From the very early stages of game design, we always thought about doing something that could only be done on PS5,“ says, Takeshi Aramaki, head of studio at Luminous Productions and Forspoken director, via interpreter. “Bringing that full power out was something we’ve been aiming for since day one. So I don’t think it would be possible to have Forspoken on PS4 at all, in terms of the engine, or graphics, or anything that we’re doing with gameplay.”
Luminous Productions is so comfortable with Forspoken’s status as a technical show-piece that it’s even pushed a demo live to PSN, using The Game Awards as a launchpad to show the world how well the game plays – and just how nice it looks. This is a team that’s confident in what it’s made, then, and rightly so – there are a lot of fancy PS5-specific things tucked away in Forspoken.
“The colour of the light bar in your DualSense controller changes according to the magic type you’re using, and the haptic feedback you’ll feel in the triggers is unique to the different kinds of magic, too. And those different lighting effects are something we put in right at the last minute, too!“ laughs Aramaki.
The result of Luminous leveraging the DualSensel is that you have quite a lot of feedback from the game telling you whether you’re playing well. Forspoken wants you to be nimble, quick, aggressive and fluid. You’re coaxed into swapping between the hundreds of spells available to you on the fly, and zipping from one encounter to another in order to get the drop on your enemies with your magically-enhanced parkour. And the pad in your hands is giving you as much information as the graphics on-screen to help you – and that feels great.
“For the PS5, the haptic feedback is something we really wanted to explore - we think it’s a really interesting feature ourselves, and we wanted to see what it could do,” says Aramaki. “And that goes for the visual effects, too; we wanted to create something very readable for the spells, something that’s never really been done before. So we wanted to put the spells in people’s hands, too, so that they can feel them properly, as well as seeing them, as they’re casting them.”
Aramaki and the other developers in my interview explained that every spell in the game has been “minutely adjusted” to feel right, and to reflect what’s happening on-screen. Per Aramaki, Luminous is “really quite confident” about how it all ends up feeling, and the team can’t wait to see how people react to the DualSense programming, particularly, once the game is out in the wild.
“On a general scale, it creates even more immersion,” adds Raio Mitsuno, creative producer on the game. “In the game, Frey has Cuff on her right arm. She has magic coming from her fingertips. And you, the player, have the colour matching the magic you’re using through the controller, and you’ve also got Cuff talking to you via the DualSense, too. So it’s kind-of a reflection of what Frey’s going through; a one-to-one immersion between the player and our main character.”
So that’s why the game stands out on PS5, and why it couldn’t come to PS4 as far as the base tech is concerned. But Forspoken will land on PC, too… but that version also has caveats.
“In terms of platform, the game is coming out both for PS5 and for PC,” notes Takefumi Terada, co-director of the game. “But it was created from the beginning with the capabilities of the PS5 in mind, and as such it has really been optimised for that platform.”
Terada notes that having to rely on PC gamers’ hard-drives creates a bottleneck for the developers, so knowing a PS5 has an SSD built-in allows the developers to really take advantage of the loading speeds and allow Forspoken to feel as fast and fluid as the design teams wants.
So there you have it; if you want to play the best version of Forspoken you can, you owe it to yourself to try it out on PS5. It’s a game that’s been made to show off the new-gen tech Sony is pioneering, and when you play it and see the magic and parkour in action, you really can tell this is a team that cares about tech.
Terada wrapped up this interview by telling me he wants Forspoken to be a new IP with as much respect and love as Final Fantasy, one day. So let's hope the beginning of this tale lands how the team wants, and finds its audience in the loyal nerds that love games that play up to their host platform’s strengths.