It’s becoming harder to market your Metroidvania as more and more take inspiration from the genre. However, I feel like little is done to evolve these games as they simply boast an interconnected world with the promise of abilities to reach new areas. Well, developer TiGames isn’t going to settle on the basic definition of the genre for their new game F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch. So instead, we get a genuinely unique experience that no one would ever expect from anthropomorphic animals.
F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch begins after a former soldier named Rayton reflects on the good ol’ days with his buddies. Evidently, the timing of these conversations was convenient as the very next day, the Iron Dogs who control the city imprisoned one of Rayton’s friends. Not completely understanding the situation, Rayton didn’t waste time thinking and instead equipped his mechanical fist to take out the trash.
Rayton is eager to help those in need and fight against the oppression of the Iron Dogs and similar factions that loom over Torch City, but he also seems to understand his position. He’s just one person, but during his prison break mission, he discovers others out there who are willing to fight. Further, his past comes back from the grave, literally, and he’s forced to face his past and all the drama that comes with it.
The characters of this world are a massive part of the charm; I mean, you play as a bunny. Other animal friends help out your adventure in various ways as characters operate shops that provide goods to make your time in this dog-eat-dog world easier. Through these interactions, you realize just how much detail has been injected into the history of this game.
These characters all knew each other before the events of the game, but you rarely feel like the odd one out, thanks to the added context provided during dialogue. It feels natural, with an added benefit of an English and Japanese voice-over that really sells the character’s personalities. I will say that the translation is decent, but I feel like the localization could have been more creative during some moments of dialogue.
Being the soldier that he is, Rayton can kick some serious ass with the help of his fist. Through gameplay, players can not only upgrade this fine piece of machinery, but added passives, unlockable skills, and even new weapons are on the table. The weapons and abilities are the highlight of exploration as they allow you to get through doors and get to higher areas.
Double jumps and wall jumps will be used most of the time, but then the game throws in ways to hover and whip your way through levels. The evolution of exploration is paced well as you don’t learn everything all at once, and new weapons are woven into the narrative. This makes them more impactful to the mission at hand, and the fact that they open new ways of traversal makes them fit naturally in this world.
Combat is the accumulation of these new abilities and weapons, though, as it packages everything together for a very satisfying experience. Regular attacks build SP, which can then be used to execute powerful SP attacks. Further, EP can then be used to auto-parry, refill health, or even shoot a homing missile. It’s almost imperative that you learn how to chain these moves together while dashing and reading enemy telegraphs.
F.I.S.T. can be a challenging game because it hardly allows any downtime while you head to the mission marker. A typical enemy can easily take you out if you aren’t paying attention. This is further found in the bosses, who seem like mini-bosses most of the time, but they are all significantly entertaining to fight.
The difficulty can become overwhelming at times, though, as challenge rooms pit you against waves of enemies. The most significant problem is they you are melee-based, but the Iron Dogs can use guns, causing you to shift focus to take out ranged enemies, which may result in damage as the melee enemies charge at. However, there’s no lack of enemy design, which is notable and even extends to enemies met underwater.
The environment is another enemy with many puzzle-based sections and hazards throughout each area. Everything the player does is rewarded with new upgrades and possible abilities. Like other Metroidvania’s, the map begs to be completed, and F.I.S.T.’s map is enormous with different themed sections and obstacles.
There are moments of Stealth, swimming, and swinging that only add to the normal exploration. Everything is connected through a fast travel system that isn’t extremely helpful because there aren’t many areas to fast travel to. Still, it works for getting around if you’re trying to absolutely see everything.
All roads lead to the HUB town where you can spend money earned from fallen enemies. In addition, some collectibles can be delivered, such as plants and posters, to customize the color of your weaponry. Each character offers a range of items to help your journey, but you aren’t really forced to spend time here if you don’t want to.
Strangely, this area is really spread out, which causes a lot of back and forth while you interact with the many different characters. Regardless, I liked every one of them, but I feel like I postponed going back to the town because I knew it would take a large chunk of my time, and I’d rather progress through the mission.
F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch is a gorgeous Metroidvania that tells a much better story than any anthropomorphic narrative has a right to tell. It’s emotional and engaging during each scene brought together with challenging moments of action and puzzle-platforming. This game respects your time, but some moments can drag on due to limited fast travel and some confusing objectives. Who cares though, you’re a rabbit with a robotic fist attached to your back; how cool is that!?
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