Forspoken fixes Final Fantasy XV's biggest mistake

Side quests should matter.

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Square Enix

Final Fantasy XV is a divisive entry in the long-running franchise, and for each thing that it does right, there’s plenty that it gets wrong. The compelling core storylines and charming camaraderie between Final Fantasy XV’s bros make the experience, but pretty much every side quest amounts to little more than a fetch quest. Even just a cursory glance at Forspoken, Luminous Studios’ next game, shows that the developer is building on the foundation of its work on Final Fantasy XV, but the team definitely learned what flaws needed to be addressed. I recently had the chance to play roughly four hours of Forspoken, and one side quest has stuck with me for days as one of the most memorable I’ve played in a long, long time.

The story of Forspoken sees Frey Holland, a native New Yorker, transported to the fantasy world of Athia. She’s given wild magical powers by a sentient cuff. Athia has been devastated by a phenomenon called “The Break,” which has filled the land with miasma that turns humans and animals alike into horrible violent creatures. At the same time, the world’s former rulers, the Tanta, have suddenly turned into violent and despotic tyrants. There’s seemingly one safe haven in the world and that’s the massive city of Cipal, which Frey travels to early on.

Cipal is the only habitable city in Athia, and it really feels like a bustling hub.

Square Enix

Forspoken’s side content is largely split into two types: open-world activities focused on puzzle-solving or combat, and more story-focused side quests that develop Frey as a character while helping the player learn more about Athia. In an interview with Inverse, co-director Takefumi Terada made it abundantly clear that investing in the side content of Forspoken was just as much a priority as the mainline narrative.

“Since Forspoken has this huge open world, the main thing we wanted to bring to the front for the main quest was this modern female character that’s dropped into Athia, and she has these run-ins and battles with the Tanta there,” co-director Takefumi Terada tells Inverse. “With the side content, we wanted to depict the relationship between Frey and the people of Cipal, which is the only city in Athia where people are able to live. So the different people she meets there and the different ways she grows and develops as a person is really what we wanted to depict.”

During my demo, there were a half-dozen question marks on my map of Cipal, indicating a potential side quest. I picked one at random and met a young blacksmith from the slums who offered to show Frey around town. At first, it seems like one of those simple quests you find in every JRPG walking you through the various districts, but once you reach the “upper city” things take a turn. The rich and affluent of the city whisper in groups as you walk by until a few confront you and say both Frey and her companion aren’t welcome here. It’s an interesting look at the classism of Cipal, and things are deliberately left on a sour note that doesn’t resolve the tension.

The city of Cipal has a host of interesting side characters whose stories seem to be explored more in the side quests.

Square Enix

The final step of the side quest connects to an important main story event that happened earlier, but in order to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into specifics. However, it’s an interesting moment that sees Frey confronting the fact these people are starting to see her as their “savior,” something she doesn’t think she could ever live up to.

I’m an unapologetic lover of Final Fantasy XV, but this single sidequest in Forspoken felt more compelling than any piece of side content in Luminous’ previous game. It’s hard to say if that level of quality will stay up across the game, but this was just a random quest I picked from a list, so I have hope that might be the case. What gives Forspoken the advantage here is that Luminous has chosen to have most of the story revolve around one city. That means the story can explore how this singular location grows and changes from Frey’s influence, and in turn, how that affects Frey.

Compare that to Final Fantasy XV which had a smattering of towns and settlements, but failed to really display how those locations changed with the events of the story. Forspoken has had a rough go of things with its admittedly hammy marketing, but actually getting my hands on the game has made a world of difference, and at the very least I’m excited to see how Luminous explores this location and story.

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