Review | F.I.S.T. Forged in Shadow Torch

Originally published at: Review | F.I.S.T. Forged in Shadow Torch - XboxEra

F.I.S.T., which stands for Forged in Shadow Torch is an action platformer releasing directly into Game Pass today.  Released to solid reviews two years ago on PlayStation, you are a little cute rabbit man who beats the shit out of robots.  Wielding the eponymous F.I.S.T., a floating gauntlet of pain on your back, you’ll punch, drill, whip, and jump your way through roughly 7 hours of excellent “Metroidvania” gameplay.  It’s a weird premise, looks fantastic (on pc where I was able to play), and has heart.  Is that enough to make it worth a download? 


F.I.S.T. takes place in a dystopian furry future, where robots known as the Iron Dogs have taken over a city populated by animals who walk and talk like people.  Coming by way of a Chinese dev, this game is a furry’s wet dream.  You are a rabbit with a dark past, and you’ll fight against it and the future’s grim outlook through anywhere between 5 and 10 hours.  There are a lot of cutscenes, nearly two hours of them, and if you watch ‘em all you’ll be treated to a cliché filled but well-told tale.  There is a Tanooki martial arts master, a bear who invents new items for you, and a sexy femme fatale fox(?) character.

Graphically the game looks fantastic, though I had a lot of performance issues on PC.  They were mostly tied to asset loading in and were a constant reminder that this is an Unreal Engine 4 title.  Randomly I would have one-second-long hitches while traversing.  It rarely happened in combat but it was frustrating nonetheless. The backdrops are gorgeous, featuring high-quality textures, great art style and a depth that few titles in this genre can match.  The game is played entirely on a 2d plane but the city behind you is bustling with layers of buildings, streets, and other beautiful scenery that is truly breathtaking at times.

Animation-wise the game is solid, with a focus on giving you control as often as possible over locking you into movements or attacks. Transitions into and out of cutscenes could be a bit janky at times, but the camera angles showcased the attention to detail in both the levels and character models off well.  Location variety is high, with some fantastic particle and water effects mixed into the middle and later sections.  Games like this are all about the gameplay though, and while it’s more of a mixed bag there it’s still damned fun.

Metroiding My Vania

F.I.S.T. features a mix of decent combat and good platforming.  Early on you’ll gain the ability to endlessly wall jump, which sets the tone for how movement works.  Combat starts off slowly though, and it took a while to click for me.  Reading enemy moves can be a bit tricky as I was unsure if my attacks would stun enemies out of hitting me or not for a while.  Once I learned how to read their harder hits it became a dance where I had to know which version of my attacks worked best while dodging and jumping around like a bunny on meth.

First up is your big old Hand. This gauntlet focuses on heavy attacks that juggle enemies. You have three meters in the game.  Health, items, and weapon energy.  The fist energy attacks are used for breaking through particular ceiling and floor tiles as well.  X is your main attack while Y is a heavy hit or an energy-using one if you hold a certain direction on the left stick. The second gauntlet mode is a drill that can also turn into a whirling blade. This one is trickier to use as it locks you into longer animations, but the damage potential is much higher.  Holding B while jumping with the drill equipped allows you to float, and even fly indefinitely when under a powerful fan.

The last gauntlet style is unlocked late and is a whip that I wasn’t a huge fan of.  It worked well for specific enemies but much like the drill I found it locking me into attacks too often where I would then get my ass handed to me.  I’m a fisty boy and loved walloping the various robotic enemies around with it whenever possible.  To unlock more abilities you’ll need a mix of currency, which enemies and various piggy banks around levels will drop.  Certain abilities require data disks, which you’ll find on the toughest of foes.

When enemies are low on HP and glowing orange you can press B to quickly finish them with a cool-looking animation. This rewards you with extra currency and occasionally health and item meter drops. The items are a health flask, automatic parry batons, and more. They are interesting but underpowered, so I rarely took off the health flask. The other upgrades available are for your health and energy meters.  Finding four of each upgrade item will award you with more meter, and it’s damned important that you max these out through exploration.  The city is huge and you’ll have a solid map and transport system to help you around it.

The Rest

The map is a stylized 2d one that automatically fills out as you explore.  For transport, there are specific areas you can travel to and from for free at any time.  Load times on PC were quick, and the number of fast travel spots felt just right.  There are main and side quests and the game does a good job of showing you where they are without making it too obvious how to reach them.  Floating exclamation points lead you in a direction but they don’t exist in the game world itself, so you’ll have to jump into and out of the map often.

The music in F.I.S.T. is decent enough, but not memorable.  It never got in the way and helped set the grim tone of things well.  The voice acting is a lot better than I was expecting for a non-native title and the writing is solid as well.  It is a weird furry-filled universe with a lot of tropes that get the job done well enough so as not to distract from the gameplay.

I had a few bugs in my Epic Games Store version of the title, as I was, unfortunately, unable to find a contact for the game’s publisher in time for the launch into Game Pass.  They were all graphical, with some odd textures on enemies and a few times where a door showed it was closed but in reality, it was open.  I will try to check out the Xbox port post-launch and update this section if possible.

In Conclusion

F.I.S.T. Forged in Shadow Torch is a well-made, beautiful action-focused Metroidvania.  The combat starts off slow but when it clicks it is excellent.  The traversal and platforming are top-notch, and even though I’m not too much of a furry I grew to enjoy the characters and story quickly.


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