F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch is an exploration action combat adventure from TiGames and published by Bilibili. Finally releasing on Xbox after initially dropping in 2021 on other platforms, let’s see if this rabbit can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the genre.
Have you ever wanted to play as an anthropomorphic rabbit with a giant robot arm attached to his back in a Metroidvania style adventure? Well then, strap yourself in my friends, this is the game you have been looking for.
F.I.S.T. sees you take control of the aforementioned rabbit – Rayton. Once one of the best pilots, now retired, it’s up to him to take on the mighty robotic Legion who have control of his hometown – Torch City. Now you may ask how a rabbit could take on a whole army, and normally I would ask the same question – surely a whole army would wipe it out instantly? But Rayton has a secret weapon; a giant robotic fist strapped to his back turns this rabbit into a formidable force, and possibly Torch City’s last hope.
Looking very much like an Abe’s Oddysee type adventure style wise, F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is a steam/diesel punk dystopian adventure. You must team up with the underground resistance, utilising their help in your one rabbit war against the invaders. Progressing through each stage will bring familiar tropes of the Metroidvania genre; platforms just out of reach, flashing or crumbled walls that are at first blocking your path, or even one of the many goliath sized mechanical contraptions throughout the world proving to be a roadblock.
In Metroidvanias (named after the fantastic Metroid and Castlevania franchises) you will face several points of backtracking. Normally, this would be an absolute slog in any other game type, but progressing and finding that one item that can blast open the doors or move the machinery leads to some oh-so-very-satisfying aha moments, giving sweet digital based endorphins that in turn make you want to explore more and more of the different worlds.
And this is where I have my first grumble with F.I.S.T.. Exploration and aimless wandering are part of the game loop, or at least they are supposed to be. F.I.S.T. however focuses on heavier story than other games of the genre; even the quite wonderful Ghost Song that I covered earlier this year. This leads to a lot of handholding and directing of the player in a genre where aimless exploration is a staple. It comes across as even more laborious when you are told that your journey to point X is pointless until you go back to point Z.
That’s not to say the story in F.I.S.T. is boring, it’s just a lot more present than in other Metroidvanias, and it doesn’t sit well here. On the other hand one area where F.I.S.T. shines – and even stands above its peers – is in its combat. Using a PIP Boy like menu to utilise the skill tree opens up a whole range of moves inspired by many fighting games and brawlers. This means you can customise your move set to suit just how you like to play.
Blasting through enemies with upper cuts, dash moves and slams is an absolute blast. In fact, it’s that which places F.I.S.T: Forged in Shadow Torch top of the class when it comes to fighting in this genre. It truly is a remarkably flexible system that, when combined with other upgrades, can allow you to create the best version of Rayton for your individual style. Countering this however, is the movement speed when exploring each area.
Rayton moves slowly. Painstakingly so as well. To be fair, he is a rabbit carrying an enormous robotic arm on his back, so I will cut him some slack. That said, walking around will have you spamming the dash button, especially when backtracking through empty areas to progress. During combat he moves quite swiftly but this game is 85% exploration so walking around fast becomes a drag.
Combat would be no fun without enemies to smash, and F.I.S.T. provides that in various shapes and sizes. From basic soldier grunts to giant bosses, each enemy type will require certain pattern recognitions to defeat. This gets more challenging with larger mobs on screen each requiring certain dodges or moves to be defeated. It can be quite overwhelming at times.
Bosses, while usually quite simple, can become repetitive as each one will remind you of the last one encountered. The enemy variety feels very much like fighting the same thing over and over again. Combine this with some on-screen hazards and you aren’t going to have the best of times. This isn’t to take anything away from the actual combat, it’s just a note for something to sort for a potential sequel.
Difficulty spikes, repetition of enemies and slow movement may put a lot of players off but I’d say give F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch a chance. It’s a really decent Metroidvania with a lot of potential for building upon. I truly hope this is the “original Assassins Creed” of the franchise, and we get to see the cast and combat shine in a far more refined sequel going forward.
F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is not the best Metroidvania out there, but in a sea full of them, this would definitely be swimming close to the top. That is all thanks to its fantastic combat, upgrade system and setting.