Even though Lara Croft burst onto the gaming scene in 1996, ushering in expectations of more female leads in games, not a lot of ground has been made on the grand scale of things. Of course, many games let you create whatever kind of character you want or select from many, but the story-driven ones with a fixed cast are rather light in this regard.
Still, there isn’t any doubt that the leading ladies who have been supported by development companies have been able to endure, becoming faces of the industry. Very soon, another may make its way into the disc trays of gamers, with Square Enix’s ambitious new IP Forspoken, starring a young woman from New York City.
Can Frey and Forspoken make enough of an impact?
After a series of impressive trailers, Forspoken looked to be one of the biggest releases of 2022, until developers Luminous Productions announced the release date delay to January 24th, 2023. It’s not a huge delay, and it takes the vulnerable fresh IP out of competition with the annual autumn-winter releases as well as the juggernaut that will be God of War: Ragnarök.
From what we’ve seen, Forspoken seems to tick most of the boxes required to make it a hit. It has an interesting premise and is mostly set in the ever-popular fantasy setting with RPG elements. The gameplay mechanics look fluid, exciting, and novel. In the trailers, the graphics look superb. Finally, there looks to be a captivating story at the heart of this open-world romp.
Not a great deal is known about the protagonist, Frey Holland, though. Being transported from NYC into the fantasy land offers super scope for a fish-out-of-water character arc, particularly when RPG leveling up is included. However, based on a recent social post, she’s certainly in need of a dialogue pass. Hopefully, what was shown was just a promo reel and not taken from the game, but writing like that would quickly grate on players.
Exciting gameplay with great writing is needed
Even though the character has been a point of debate since her inception, few would deny the importance of Lara Croft in gaming. She broke new ground and proved that a female protagonist could sell incredibly well, despite the stereotypes around gaming’s audience.
Now, Tomb Raider is a massive brand, spanning everything from the Live Experience to online slot sites, which embrace both the classic and modern aesthetic of Lara in Secret of the Sword and Temples and Tombs. Here, the popularity of the character has even paved the way for other female leads in these games, such as in Isis, Agent Jane Blonde, and the official movie slot for Bridesmaids.
For the prime example of hoisting a new character into the upper echelons – regardless of sex – you only have to look to the Horizon games. As the protagonist, Aloy, you have to develop as an outsider, learn how to face the strange world alone, and unlock its many secrets to solve the story. In the second game, Horizon Forbidden West, you’re hampered by the responsibility of being a well-known hero and must rise to greater challenges.
Horizon Forbidden West was one of the most highly-anticipated games of 2022, but gamers are still clamoring for the return of other legendary female leads. Bayonetta 3 will launch with much fanfare on October 28th, and you won’t hear a more ravenous fan base for the next game than those of Metroid Prime 4. We might even see Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II join the tiny cohort of Xbox exclusives later this year.
Forspoken certainly seems epic and innovative enough to let it stand on its own two feet, and even inspire a strong following. For Frey Holland, as with characters across entertainment, it will all come down to the writing. It doesn’t matter who they are; if the character arc is weak or non-existent, people won’t take to her. Hopefully, this isn’t the case, as there’s so much potential in this upcoming fantasy RPG.