THE REVIEW IN BRIEF
- A classic metroidvania, which is proposed with a rather elaborate combat system, without giving up exploration.
- The game world is well characterized and fascinating, even if it ends up slipping into a few clichés too many.
- The adventure flows well, without particular jolts, resting on a diligent structure, but without any ideas that can distinguish it from the crowd.
A rabbit. A veteran rabbit, too. When it comes to universes with anthropomorphic characters, the world of entertainment has always translated the idea that we usually associate with certain animals into very specific icons. Here, then, is the cunning fox, the brave lion or the devious snake. F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch, while not subverting this maxim to a large extent, it brings with it a notable exception: the brave and brave rabbit. Yes, the fearful animal par excellence becomes, in the game of TiGames, synonymous with strength and virtue, characteristics not only the prerogative of our hero, but of all Lagomorphs in general.
Raygon, a weary and disillusioned war veteran, lives in the suburbs of Torch City, in the shadow of hiding. While passively suffering the abuses of the regime that harasses them, the inhabitants of the town are slowly forming an internal force, a handful of rebels ready to change their destiny. Our rabbit, however, is reluctant to fight again, at least until a close friend of his (a bear named Urso) is kidnapped and events seem to take a completely unexpected turn.
Do you have a rabbit in your pocket?
F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch deliberately takes itself seriously, knowing that it has a funny and alienating effect. Seeing these anthropomorphic animals scrambling for a better life almost feels like a dystopian parody of a Disney fairy tale.. The game scenario, by the developers’ own admission, draws on dieselpunk – an offshoot of the best known steampunk – which stands out for certain retro-futuristic suggestions and aesthetic choices similar to those seen in the two world wars. Drowned in this kind of animal-like Midgar, the protagonists move in silence, among rotten wood kiosks, rickety neon, immense luminous towers and puffs of smoke.
The atmosphere is undoubtedly well rendered, although inevitably derivative, and the adventure immediately pushes the player into the heart of the story. F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch is a classic metroidvania, which sees us leave practically helpless, and then collect, one gear at a time, a whole series of gadgets that will make us an unstoppable fury. The nature of the game is immediately evident when we see platforms just above our reach or clearly “crumbly” ventilation ducts.
A one-piece rabbit
Raygon then lets himself be helped by the cornerstones of the resistance, which slowly provide him with the necessary tools to continue or the indications to find new tools of attack. First we will be able to give ourselves momentum using the walls, then we will find the classic double jump and so on. Where the developers put their signature is in the peculiarity of the clashes. Equipped with a gigantic extendable fist, the protagonist is produced in a series of shots, typical of action titles. Fast and powerful lunges alternate in small combos, destined to become more and more articulated thanks to the use of specific terminals, scattered throughout the city.
It is not easy to accumulate the credits necessary for these purchases, also because the most powerful moves require special magnetic discs in addition to the normal game currency. If there is one thing that F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch does very well is to carefully dose the implementation of new weapons. The protagonist’s fist will soon be accompanied by a gigantic auger and then by a darting whip. The strongest actions are linked to Skill Points, while the use of secondary items (such as carrot juice) to Energy Points. The synergy between final attacks and combos – which tend to fill the Skill bar – makes the clashes always lively and varied.
The offensive tools at our disposal, then, always have a further exploratory value: with the fist we can destroy manholes and cracked walls, the drill allows us to glide and exploit any “updrafts” to reach new places, while the whip hooks flying enemies, turning them into saving hooks upwards. The design of the town, summarized in a convenient map that can be consulted at any time, is always at the player’s service, with shortcuts, lifts and teleporters. The backtracking is not lacking, on the contrary, the first half of the game is characterized by considerable hikes. The fights are, on balance, one of the flagships of the production: the physicality of the clashes, the clanging of the metal, amidst clouds of sparks and smoke, is very well rendered.
Chaining the attacks in a fluid way is initially difficult (and partly precluded due to the lack of moves available), but over time it is possible to ring more than satisfactory combos. The problem is that the legibility of the action is not always very clear, with the camera being away to give us a total view of the playing area. If you add to this a very short invulnerability of the protagonist when he is hit, it is not uncommon to see the energy drop drastically without understanding what is happening.
The rabbit hill
The exploration and the combat, in any case, are dosed in abundance, between the common rabble, the mid-bosses and the more elaborate clashes. The graphics that outline the elements of the game are based on the classic diesel-steampunk styles and the developers have worked well to make the most of the continuous intermittent light sources, the “furry” effect of the protagonists and, in general, the rusty decay that describes each ravine. The power of the animations is always followed by light beams, slow motion effects and flickering particles. The game moves at sixty frames per second, with dynamic resolution up to 4K, at least on PlayStation 5. On PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro you have to go down to thirty frames per second with the former, and give up higher resolutions with the latter, which stops at 1080p and shows a framerate that is not always able to guarantee fluidity at 60fps.
It is certainly not the technical component, however, that denies the excellence of TiGames’ metroidvania. If the beginning of the game is almost galvanizing, the continuation often turns out to be academic. The developers, probably aware of the problem, have tried to vary the action to a minimum, inserting (tedious) stealth phases and other underwater or in-flight phases that I don’t want to tell you too much about. You find it interesting and clever, but not enough to turn the game upside down. F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch it is a more than discreet experience, ranging from galvanizing to conventional in a matter of hours. He has no obvious flaws or drops in rhythm; it simply, despite the clear and appreciated efforts of the developers, has nothing really insightful to give you a download, or leave you with anything. He is like a top student: he gives satisfaction at first, but then ends up getting boring in his chanting exposition.
Fun, crafted with obvious attention to detail and featuring a rewarding combat system, FIST: Forged In Shadow Torch is a game with a lot of heart and personality. The articulated level design, full of secrets and shortcuts, lets itself be explored in all its extension, slowly revealing itself and pushing us to peer into every nook and cranny. The fights are almost similar to those of modern action, putting aside the long-range weapons typical of the genre to bet everything on clashes with overwhelming physicality. Some fights are not exactly “spotless”, with the camera moving too far and the protagonist tending to blend in with the enemies. Fortunately, the legibility of the action is compromised only at times, resulting in a forgivable annoyance, rather than a serious defect. Thanks to a very punctual control system in the jumps and thanks to the organicity of the settings, rich in explorable ravines, the adventure flows very well, even without jolts. In the end, this is the biggest flaw of FIST: Forged In Shadow Torch: it is a pleasant and undeniably curated experience, but never able to really take flight. Formally devoid of gross flaws and unable to strike as hard as the protagonist’s fists, it is bound to slip away from your memories just after the credits.