Forspoken launched to mixed reviews in early 2023, with particular criticisms levelled at the game’s narrative and dialogue. Many saw its story as ‘cringy’ and felt it didn’t service protagonist Frey Holland’s journey, painting her as annoying, rather than the noble hero she should’ve been. Now, one of the game’s original writers is speaking out about his involvement.
In an interview with game writer and journalist Alanah Pearce, Forspoken writer Gary Whitta, who worked on the excellent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, has claimed the released version of the game is ‘nothing like’ the original pitch he and his team of writers worked on. While Whitta is credited with developing the game’s narrative, he says it was only basic lore development that he contributed to the game.
‘I did some very, very early foundational world building lore stuff on Forspoken,’ he told Pearce. ‘I never wrote an actual line of dialogue.’
Read: Forspoken review – Take a leap of faith
According to Whitta, he was approached by Square Enix around five or six years ago, to flesh out the ‘germ of an idea’ that would become Forspoken. He worked on building a unique world, mythology and story that would captivate fans – and his initial pitch reportedly enticed the publisher, to the point where a full writer’s room treatment was requested.
This team of writers formed the basis of Forspoken, naming the magical world of the game ‘Athia’ (Whitta’s own suggestion), and conceptualising how magic functioned. But while their work was sound, it was reportedly erased as Square Enix eventually chose to reboot development, and start over with the story.
‘They came back to me and one of the other writers, and said “we’re going to start over to completely reboot the story, we want it to be this now”,’ Whitta explained. ‘The version that we did was nothing like that.’
While Whitta did not go in-depth about the original pitch he worked on, it was clearly very different from the Forspoken we got. As a result, Whitta is only credited for his work on the game’s ‘Original Concept’, while the prolific Amy Hennig – whose involvement sparked much excitement – is credited for the game’s ‘Story Concept’. In the end, it appears neither writer had much to do with Forspoken, only contributing to the game’s original pitch, which was ultimately overshadowed by rewrites and a near-total story reboot.
Given strict embargoes and non-disclosure agreements, it’s unlikely we’ll learn more about what exactly Forspoken was originally designed to be. Still, it’s exciting to think about a world where Whitta and Hennig’s creativity was allowed to thrive on its own merits.
You can hear more about the development of Forspoken, and the art of writing for games, in the latest episode of Alanah Pearce’s Video Game Writing 101 series.