F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch (Review)

F.I.S.T. (or Forged in Shadow Torch) is one of those games that has little visibility but catches some people’s eyes (including mine) by way of appealing to a specific subgenre that has its core fans.  In this case, this game is a 2D Metroidvania that centers itself around animals, or as the game calls them, “furtizens”.  Was this what I needed to hold me off until Metroid Dread?


GAMEPLAY

If you treat this like a button masher, you’ll be punished…

There’s something very important you need to know that separates this game from other 2D platformers/Metroidvanias: the combat is more a brawler-fighter hybrid. Combos are necessary and can be rather lengthy. Thus I recommend the full training, and in that lies a surprisingly pleasant balance: it’s easy to pick up, yet hard to master.  If you treat this like a button masher, you’ll be punished and dying comes really easy.  Use the weapons and tools the game provides you or face the music.  That segues perfectly into the other part of this formula: the platforming.  The game makes sure that the platforming is also challenging, but just enough to get you flustered without causing you to stop trying.  In that also lies yet another surprisingly pleasant balance: there are definitely moments of difficulty, never enough to frustrate you, but just enough to get you off your ass.  With these two things in play, this game is balanced in a way I did not expect.  Between combat and platforming, I found myself continually adapting to the new ways the game would throw sequences at me, and while the diversity of enemies is relatively low, I never grew bored thanks to a surprisingly healthy moveset.  So while it might start to feel a bit formulaic with your gradually growing toolset for gaining access to new areas, it’s competently designed through-and-through.


CONTENT

…this game world is bigger than you think it is.

Coming in as a half price game, I figured I’d finish it pretty quickly.  Fortunately, I like being wrong: the game is a solid 10-12 hour adventure on its own.  I took extra time getting there as I’ve been doing more recently, and watched the credits roll around 13 hours.  Just one look at this map, and you’ll realize this game world is bigger than you think it is.  However, like most Metroidvanias, there isn’t much after the campaign, just going back for those collectibles, a.k.a. achievements.  Still, that’s a solid game length for the price even if most people will uninstall it once it’s beaten.


PRESENTATION

…a good-looking game on a budget.

It’s clear this game was built for the PS4 and does not make use of the PS5’s power.  But that doesn’t stop this from still being a good-looking game on a budget.  It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that Unreal Engine provides indie devs powerful tools, and while it can’t compete with AAA games, especially when it comes to the animation, it remains a competent visual presentation.  It slips up a bit with a few bugs that required me to restart the game, and lower quality cinematic attempts that would have required a much higher budget to animate better, but I once again understand this is a budget game.  The environments themselves also focus too much on the game’s aesthetic theme, so even though there are some changes of scenery, they lack that visual variety that keeps your retinas glued.  In terms of the story, though, is once again a balancing act.  This is also likely due to the budget, but there isn’t a ton of character nor story development, but it IS there in just enough form for you to recognize the world lore they’ve created.  But just, and it does seem like they would need a sequel for it to pan out, something the game sets up even if I’m unsure there’s going to be one.


CONCLUSION

…if you love Metroidvanias, you owe this game a chance.

I’ll put this as simple as possible: if you love Metroidvanias, you owe this game a chance.  I think there might be some anti-China subtleties to how people view this game, but I ignore politics around here.  If you do, you’ll find this game has a competent brawler-fighter hybrid combat system that just aches for you to get better at it, challenging platforming that nets you that single drop of sweat, and keeps you applying your skills dynamically.  And while its campaign lacks any replayability, it’s definitely a solid length for the price.  It’s unfortunate, then, that it makes no use of the PS5, and is held back by its budget when it comes to animations and environmental diversity.  That didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying it, though.

I give F.I.S.T...

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