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Forspoken Interview – Combatting Open-World Fatigue And Petting Cats

We spoke to Takeshi Aramaki, Takefumi Terada and Raio Mitsuno about Luminous' upcoming open-world action RPG

Having gone hands-on to preview the early chapters of Forspoken, I was invited to sit down with some of the team from Luminous Productions to discuss the game. With me was Takeshi Aramaki, Head Of Studio & Forspoken Director, Takefumi Terada, Forspoken’s Co-Director, and Raio Mitsuno, Forspoken’s Creative Producer.

What I’d played in the morning had reassured me that I, like my colleagues who’d previously demoed the game, would enjoy it upon release, despite delays and an awkwardly narrated trailer leaving me worried.

Of course, I still had some pressing questions to ask…

forspoken interview

I want to start with the most important question first, if I may. And that is – can you pet the cats? I’ve come across two and couldn’t pet either of them?

Takeshi Aramaki: You can. For the cats, we started first and foremost with the sort of scenario in the story setting where Frey is a character who loves cats. 

But we know there are a lot of players out there who love cats as well. So we’ve put lots of little things in for them to enjoy as well. And you’ll be able to find some of those kinds of features out in the open world. So we hope that you’ll explore and discover lots of those.

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Amazing, I’m glad. The last time you spoke to a colleague of mine at Press Start, you mentioned a few things the delays have enabled you to complete. How are you now feeling about the polish of the game, and its imminent release?

Raio Mitsuno: So we’re pre-master. Obviously, the games coming out on January 24th. So we’re very close to it. We’re still going through the final tweaks and polishes. But I think we’re at a state where we’re very comfortable. And we’re happy with what we’ve been able to do.

And I know fans have been waiting for a little bit longer than we were initially hoping that we’d have to wait, but we’re very happy with where we’re at. And yeah, we’re just going to keep on going until that final date.

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Was there anything strategic to the release window? I sense there was an effort made to avoid coming out alongside any kind of existing properties being it’s a new IP?

TA: So the delay from October to January was actually decided in conversation with other titles and games in terms of our lineup. So that one was less about sort of the polishing time and more sort of about that conversation with that release schedule.

As much as I love open-world games they can often be hard to fill with things to do. What have you added to ensure there’s always something to occupy the player in the open world?

Takefumi Terada: Obviously we’ve looked into many different kinds of open-world games on our side as well, researching titles like GTA, Ghosts of Tsushima, and Spider-Man, but really what we think of as the defining characteristic of the open world of Forspoken is the magic parkour. 

So we really used the element of that as the basis for creating Athia, whether that’s the speed of the fast pace of movement, or the height of which Frey can jump. That was really the concept we wanted to hone in on – the world being a playground to experience magic parkour. 

And those capabilities were what informed us on sort of the density of content and the placement, and generally a whole scale of the world.

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I’ve only got a taste of the side quests so far, but I take it there are a fair few of them. Are there tangible benefits to completing those other quests? Are there spells you won’t unlock unless you get the XP that’s available in those side quests?

TT: So what we’re really focusing on for the side quests is the experience of interacting with the NPCs and the other characters living within Cipal, and learning more about their story.

The main story is Frey’s adventure of course, and this was something you know that we’ve relied on the scenario written by the team outside of Japan for. 

On the other side of things, for the side quests we really wanted to focus on the world around her; a world that’s on the brink of destruction. And the NPCs living in the world – what they’re struggling with, the friendship that evolves there and developing the world.

And there aren’t any spells that I would say you can’t get unless you compete side quests. There’ll be enough points out there for you to unlock that by exploring the world. 

But in the same way, you can grow through side quests. So depending on the player, some people may want to put more focus on exploration. Some people may want to put more focus on becoming stronger through interactions with NPCs.

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forspoken interview

I came across one dialogue choice. Are those prevalent and do they impact a relationship with the characters at all?

TT: The story of Forspoken is the story of Frey’s adventure. So your dialogue choices aren’t going to dramatically alter the course of her journey, but they will alter the reaction of the NPC that you’re talking to. They might give you different information, they might respond to stuff very differently. So we hope that people will take care when choosing their responses and that it will maybe allow them to see a different side to some of the characters.

Another criticism I’ve levelled at a couple of open-world games in the last year is that they can be slow-paced at the start, and maybe take a while to get going. How do you engage the player early in the game, and make sure there’s enough early progression?

TT: I think one of the defining elements of Forspoken is the story where the character shifts from the modern real world — after a certain incident — into a fantasy world. And obviously, if someone from modern-day times and our current world, found themselves transported into a fantasy world, you’d have a lot of questions like: What is this world? What’s going on? Why am I here? 

And so I think that you can really create a lot of surprising situations for that character, whether that’s battling with monsters or just whatever they encounter. So we did keep in mind, the fact that we wanted to create lots of things to sort of keep the player engaged.

Forspoken Interview

Open-world games often scare off time-poor players as well, but Forspoken promises to be a narrative-focused game. How long do you expect it’ll take players to see out the story?

TT: Since it is an open-world, obviously the amount of play time can really wildly differ depending on how the individual player approaches it and how they, you know, play through the game. But if you were to sort of solely focus on the story, I think you’d be looking at 20 to 30 hours.

And upon completing the game, is there a New Game+ mode? If you wanted to go back into the world and continue exploring, could you do that?

RM: Frey’s journey doesn’t end at the end of the game; it continues on and she’s still trying to figure out how to save the world and all that stuff. So after you know you clear the main story, there’s still gameplay. 

There’s no new game plus, but yeah, there’s still more to do so if you haven’t explored every crevice of the world you’re still able to.

You can make sure you go back and pet the cats?

RM: And pet the cats!


Be it the Locked Labrinyths or the Combat Challenges, there looks like some parts of the game where some assistance from a friend would be a welcome opportunity. Was there ever a discussion, at least early on, to add any co-operative elements or have any life service elements to the game?

TA: This is a single-player experience from the very beginning. And at its core, this is a story about Frey’s journey and her experience. So having co-op or multiplayer, it’s something that might dilute that somewhat, but hearing your thoughts on that just now is very interesting. Something I’ll have to go away and think about.

I don’t want to throw a spanner in the works last minute.


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Lastly, in launching a new IP and creating this amazing world — I can see the lore that you’ve put in there — what do you hope for the future of Forspoken? Is there more of Athia you want to explore?

TA: At the moment actually, we’re also working on DLC that will sort of delve a bit more deeper into some of the aspects as well, alongside the main game of course. 

But we have created this new world of Athia, and we really want to sort of treasure that world, it’s really important to us. So if an opportunity presents itself in the future, there’s still a lot we’d like to explore.

And we’d like to put more cats in it.

Forspoken launches on January 24th 2023 for PS5 and PC. Press Start travelled to London upon the invitation of Square Enix to attend the preview.

Amazon currently has the game at a pre-order price of $84.99 with free shipping.