Here’s something a little different – I’m going to start today’s column with a quiz. Can you guess which of these dialogue lines are from 2023 action RPG Forspoken and which are from late ‘90s – early 2000s TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The answers are at the bottom of the page.
- “You’re that amped about Hell? Go there!”
- “Wow. You sound like a serial killer.”
- “It’s comforting to know that I lack the culinary finesse of a caveman.”
- “Well, in my defence, you don’t really look like a Lisa.”
- “What, and suck all the spontaneity out of being young and stupid? I’d rather live in the dark.”
- “It’s the pants, isn’t it? It’s okay. I couldn’t take me seriously in these things either.”
- “If you’re going to rhyme everything, then just kill me now.”
- “There’s no way I’m letting myself lose to this bitch.”
- “So you’re saying her superpower is a law degree and a bullshit radar?”
- “I feel the need for more sugar than the human body can handle.”
- “I am not requesting an audience with someone who enjoys dismembering people!”
- “That’ll put marzipan in your pie plate, bingo!”
It’s not as easy as it sounds, but my youthful exposure to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the reasons I’m absolutely fine with the much-maligned dialogue of Forspoken. I’d describe it as Whedonesque, but in the light of recent history, that could be taken entirely the wrong way.
If you’ve never watched Buffy, you’ve missed out on a treat. Yes, it has the same fuzzy ‘90s aesthetic as Highlander: The Series and Hercules: The Legendary Journey, but it eclipses both those shows. And CGI aside, it fares pretty well, even by today’s standards.
The show’s dialogue, however, is on an entirely different level. Technically it’s English, but it’s so ridiculously quippy that it doesn’t resemble actual human conversation. There are lines like, “I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be.”
Buffy’s writers were well aware of how the dialogue was received, and that didn’t stop them. The whole “That’ll put marzipan in your pie plate, bingo!” line was poking fun at how bizarre some of the lines were. But it had its own charm, and Forspoken puts me right back into that space.
So while some people were rolling their eyes at the trailer’s “That is something I do now. I do magic, talk to sentient cuffs, kill jacked-up beasts,” line, I was getting that Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe. And when I got my hands on Forspoken, when the Frey / Cuff banter started flying back and forth, I was feeling that ‘90s-era TV vibe.
Admittedly, there were a few moments where Frey’s utterances had me facepalming, despite Ella Balinska’s excellent voice acting. But it had nothing to do with the way they were phrased. For example, at one point Frey expresses astonishment that someone actually likes their parents. I understand that Frey’s had it rough, dumped as a baby in a tunnel and passing through various foster homes. But I don’t buy that a loving parent or parents is such an alien concept to her. Yes, it’s that I have a problem with — not Frey talking about her rap sheet as she murders a mutant deer.
And while it’s the Buffy the Vampire Slayer connection that helps sell me on the dialogue in Forspoken, it wouldn’t be entirely out of place in, say, a Marvel movie. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, for example, fires off cheesy dialogue like, “Hey, guys! The illegal weapons ferry deal was at 10:30. You missed it.” Is it funny? Yes. Is it in character for the superhero? Absolutely. Is that a sentence an actual human, outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, would ever utter? No.
One significant factor is that, while Spider-Man: Homecoming is all but universally loved, the same isn’t true of Forspoken. I’ve gotten a big kick out of the game, but it does have its issues — and it certainly wasn’t a good look when a pre-launch trailer made, shall we say, creative use of some quotes.
So, if Forspoken’s gameplay hasn’t grabbed you, that could be enough – Buffy fan or not – to have you cringing at Frey’s dialogue. Developer Luminous Productions apparently anticipated that not everyone would embrace the Frey / Cuff chatter, giving players the option to dial it right back.
But did it always? I suspect that particular feature was patched in after Forspoken’s other infamous “So Let Me Get This Straight” trailer came out, which went so far as to put Frey’s quips on screen in big letters. You know, just in case you missed it. That heavily memed trailer no doubt cemented a lot of people’s preconceptions about the game and its dialogue. The game itself isn’t wall-to-wall quippery, but that’s the impression it gives.
But I’m happy for Forspoken to drag me back into the Buffyzone, and as soon as I’m done with Dead Space, I can see myself paying a return visit to Sunnyda.. er, Athea. Now, if you’ll excuse me, this “Put Sarah Michelle Gellar in Starfield” petition isn’t going to post itself.
Those answers: 1. Buffy 2. Forspoken 3. Buffy 4. Forspoken 5. Buffy 6. Buffy 7. Forspoken 8. Forspoken 9. Forspoken 10. Buffy 11. Forspoken 12. Buffy