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More games need Forspoken’s parkour

It’s where the game and its protagonist come to life

Frey from Forpsoken as she dashes in midair away from a dragon. Subtle ribbons of gold like and golden sparkles emanate from her body and she appears to be moving quickly. Image: Luminous Productions/Square Enix
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Forspoken’s Frey can’t seem to catch a break.

Within the first hour of the game, she gets caught up in court with criminal charges, runs from a gang that has just threatened her at gunpoint, and then watches her home and life savings burned to the ground by said gang. Even when she’s given a golden ticket to escape, and magically teleports from the streets of Manhattan to the sprawling plains of a fantasy world called Athia, her luck continues to deteriorate. Within minutes of being scooped up in the claws of a dragon, the menacing creature happens to drop her in a town where local officials immediately lock her up after a sham court trial.

Both Athia and Manhattan present rather grim prospects for Frey. However, she has one secret weapon: her magical powers. The entire game rides on these powers. They untether her and let her bound effortlessly and joyously through its world. They glimmer and adorn Frey with golden motes in a dull, drab world. It’s one of the few points of light fun in an otherwise grim, serious game

The magic parkour, which the game calls the “Flow” ability, unlocks early in Frey’s adventure, while she’s fleeing from several monstrous bears. From the get-go, the mechanic feels fluid and intuitive. All you have to do is hold a button as you run, and the DualSense controller pulsates with each leap and bound as Frey effortlessly scales up and around walls and other barriers. Even Frey, who is normally very skeptical of every encounter in Athia, says, “OK, this is awesome. I am catching some serious air.”

Forspoken has proven divisive these last few weeks — I myself have found fault in its script — but the Flow is nothing short of wonderful. It’s practical, and allows you explore the open world quickly and easily from the start — no mounts or special upgrades needed. It can also be used to escape enemies and gives you a rather generous dodge in a fight. Frey sort of floats a bit as she does it, too, so you can chain together attacks in the air. As you use the skill, magic adorns Frey’s tattered sneakers with a glimmering gold that becomes a visual highlight of the game. It feels great and looks great, providing a visual flourish in a rather dull world.

The mechanic also folds perfectly into Frey’s larger story. At the very beginning, you get a character who wants to escape from the circumstances she was born into. At one point in the intro, you play through a section where Frey runs away from gang members, scaling several fences and walls in the process. Frey mounts these hurdles with relative ease. (It seems like this isn’t Frey’s first time on the run.) But even then, these leaps and bounds are a stark contrast to the things she can accomplish with the Flow. With the magic parkour, perhaps for the first time since entering Athia, Frey truly escapes the corrupt world she left behind.