On Monday, a trailer for Square Enix and Luminous Productions’ upcoming title forspoken was shared by the game’s Twitter account, and promptly went viral for less-than-flattering reasons. In the trailer, protagonist Frey moves fluidly through a fantasy setting, showing off her magic in combat against dragons and other creatures. She looks incredibly powerful, adventuring in a world that looks exciting to play around in. But here’s the catch — she also narrates through the entirety of the trailer in a “well, that just happened” style. In the trailer, Frey says:
“So, let me get this straight. I’m somewhere that’s not what I would call Earth… I’m seeing freaking dragons, and… oh yeah, I’m talking to a cuff. Yeah, okay, that’s something I do now. I do magic, kill jacked-up beasts — I’ll probably fly next.”
Twitter users took to the platform to parody the trailer’s ridiculous voiceover by using its tone to describe the plot of other popular games.
Who me? Yeah I’m a freakin GOD as it turns out. Shyeah I’m all about that ax life. That handsome devil next to me? Fam, that’s literally my BOY. He can thank me for his good looks AND formative trauma. It’s not easy fighting heCkin VIKINGS. But honestly? Being a parent ragnaroxx pic.twitter.com/CK1owzyzhM
— Nicholas Kole (@FromHappyRock) August 9, 2022
Wanna know my name? I’m Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima!…it sounded cooler in my head, sorry.
I’m always catching hands with the fiercest fighters in Japan, uncovering underworld conspiracies, and…(cut to Yakuza 2 baby substory)
yeah. That’s for me to tell my therapist. pic.twitter.com/oVFrxYarH6
— Wari FunniGuy (@Zari_Wari) August 9, 2022
In the past day, Joss Whedon, who is not involved in this project, began trending on Twitter as people pointed out the similarities between the trailer’s tone and Whedon’s tendency to pepper the dialogue he writes with quips.
It’s not uncommon for protagonists to talk to themselves in video games, whether it’s for wayfinding, story progression, or quest line purposes. It can range from annoying to unobtrusive and even useful. Aloy from the Horizon series, for example, tends to talk to herself about how to take down particular machine enemies. It’s true that people do not actually talk like this, but the dialogue offers valuable strategic intel that I’ve found helpful when playing those games.
forspoken‘s trailer…isn’t that. It feels like a bad TikTok voiceover, or the Marvel (we can also just say Big Disney Franchise) school of thought, with a protagonist mostly pointing out expository details that viewers can easily identify, instead of simply feeling things. It’s the difference between screaming “help, I am falling off of a building,” and “AAAAAHHHH” when you’ve been pushed off of a building.
“Is that a thing?”
*starts to do thing*
“I can’t believe I’m doing the thing!”
“I’m totally doing a thing!”
*thing was done*
“Yeah…that just happened.”
— Gamma Trap (@BrandonMcCamey) August 10, 2022
Polygon initially pointed out the overstuffed dialogue in our forspoken preview. According to the developers, these remarks are Frey’s way of coping with a traumatic experience. “It’s what most people do when things are hard or absurd,” writer Allison Rymer told Polygon. “You meet it with humor.” In fairness, comedic timing is difficult to nail, and it makes sense that the protagonist of a fish-out-of-water story would express continued disbelief. There’s no way to know how the final product will sound until we actually play the game. Dishonored 2‘s Heart made me a sucker for talking items, so I wonder what they’ll do with Frey’s cuff.
That said, during that preview, motion capture director Tom Keegan relied on troubling stereotypes to describe Frey, who is a Black woman. As reported by Kotaku, Keegan said her walk was “hip hoppy,” and described her as “being very,” and “on the verge of prison” before being transported angry to Athia. The report notes that Stephen Totilo, Axios reporter, followed with a question about whether there were Black developers or consultants involved in the project, but this question did not receive an answer during the preview. He later received an FAQ that included this statement from Square Enix: “We worked closely with a number of consultants from BIPOC backgrounds to help portray Frey’s character and tell the story from her perspective.”
forspoken is currently slated to be released on January 2023, following delays, and will be playable on PlayStation 5 and Windows PC.