F.I.S.T. Forged In Shadow Torch Review

Three things I like about this game, and two I don't

Forged in Shadow Torch

By Paul Hunter

Listen up Metroidvania fans, you gotta check out F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch, available now for PS5, PS4 and PC from developer TiGames and publisher bilibili. This PlayStation console exclusive also supports cross-buy, so if you pick up the PS4 version you can also snag the PS5 upgrade for free.

This game has everything Metroidvania gamers crave like a huge interconnected world map, more than a dozen areas with unique themes and level designs, arcade-style gameplay using an ever-growing arsenal of weapons, and a best-in-class story set in a visually stunning dieselpunk world. With that in mind, let's descend upon Torch City as I go over three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: The Badass Story of Friendship and Betrayal

While I primarily play Metroidvania games for the interconnected worlds and the constant acquisition of cool abilities, games like these with a great story is a nice bonus. F.I.S.T. does a bang up job in this department with an engaging narrative featuring anthropomorphic heroes like Rayton the rabbit (who you play as) and a mysterious cat named Lady Q who kicks off the story in dramatic fashion. Both of these characters and the many others you'll meet over this 15-hour journey have excellent English voice acting with distinct flairs that really help to flesh out their personalities.

What really stood out for me is the game's incredible and original dieselpunk setting that's inspired by early 20th century Shanghai. Graphically it reminds of Final Fantasy VII and it's exactly how I'd imagine a remake of that game to look if it stuck with the game's original game design. It's such a flavourful and inspired world that really does take on a life of its own, adding greatly to the game's story and overall vibe.

As for story itself, I really enjoyed the character interactions that ranges from unlikely friendships to unexpected betrayals. It's also awesome how the dialogue slowly unravels how the various factions within Torch City coexist in a rather fragile state and the larger mysteries that are introduced and finally explained. I was hooked on the story from the beginning all the to the very bittersweet end.

Liked: The Ever-Expanding Gameplay

F.I.S.T. absolutely excels in the gameplay department provided you give it a bit of time to fully reveal itself. Looking specifically at combat, initially only get a large and powerful robotic fist attached to your back. It can pound the evil Legion baddies to a pulp, but it's a pretty straightforward and rudimentary weapon compared to the many upgrades you'll acquire as you play.

Next you'll get a rather cool drill that can grind opponents to itty bitty pieces, while also allowing you to air glide after jumping and serving as a propeller in the many underwater regions. And then finally you'll get my favourite weapon of all—the ultra-fast long-range whip. Channeling your inner Indiana Jones, this weapons lets you attack enemies from a safer distance, which is incredibly useful considering the final few areas and bosses are super tough. The whip also lets you propel through swing nodes, reminiscent of a similar mechanic in Ori and the Will of the Wisps.

Gameplay greatly expands as you play, not only because you obtain new weapons but also because of the rather large skill tree with about ten upgrades per weapon. Soon you'll be performing supercharged uppercuts, drill-shredding twirls and enemy whip stuns—most of which can be combined into lengthy and devastating combos. Midway through the game you'll have such a large offensive arsenal combat even starts to feel as deep as a fighting game, a testament to F.I.S.T.'s incredible gameplay design.

Liked: The Countless Puzzles and Collectibles

Torch City is such a mesmerizing location to explore thanks to the many, many secrets it holds. Like any good Metroidvania game you'll often encounter rooms that require addition skills to unlock doors or access new areas. These of course will be marked on your map so you can revisit them after you've powered up later in the game. A lot of the secrets are in areas you'll naturally return to as the story progresses so there's not much backtracking needed to complete the game 100%.

As far as collectibles go, there are so many to find and all benefit you in various ways. For instance, there are HP, EP and SP extracts that will upgrade your health, energy and special abilities respectively. There are 50 plant seeds to find that can be given to an NPC called Pippin, who rewards you with money, items and upgrades. You can also discover around 30 posters that can be given to your buddy Urso in exchange for some rather cool weapon skins alt options.

When you also add in Data Disks, news issues and skeleton keys into the collectible mix, there's truly a huge amount to find in this game and it's quite fun to find them all (plus you get competition trophies, too boot!).

Didn't Like: The Limited Fast Travel

One element of F.I.S.T. I didn't particularly enjoy is the game's sparse fast travel options. Not long into the game you'll encounter a teleportation device that hilariously puts you in a hamster ball-type device that rolls you to select locations around the map. There's also a subway system with three destinations. The problem is there's just not enough of these fast-travel devices placed around the game's huge map, so occasionally you'll have a tiny bit of tedious backtracking to do.

Thankfully the developers have already recognized this issue and they've patched in a few more fast-travel spots, as well as moved around some existing travel spots to more convenient locations. It's really good to see and should make future runs through the game more enjoyable, plus it's great for new players to already have these patched-in conveniences.

Didn't Like: The Combo Training

As mentioned, F.I.S.T. has a rather extensive combo system using your three main weapons. You can even toggle between weapons mid-combo to extend them further, creating some truly devastating combos. To help you master these combos you'll meet a monk named Master Wu who will run you through training exercises of increasing difficulty.

While I'm the type to enjoy a satisfying challenge (Dark Souls fan here!), I quite frankly found the most advanced training sessions to be an utter pain in the neck to perform as you need to chain together a dozen plus moves with exact timing while also changing weapons. They're extremely hard to pull off correctly and it was an exercise in frustration more than it was fun. I eventually was able to complete the combos but it didn't feel particularly satisfying—I was just glad it was over so I could reap the in-game rewards and never have to attempt those dreadful combos again.

The Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch and highly recommend this game to all fans of Metroidvania games like Ori and the Blind Forest or Dead Cells. This game really does have it all: incredible graphics, exceptional gameplay, a deep and involved story, and a huge interconnected map to explore. It's one of the best PS5/PS4 games of the year so definitely check this one out!

Final Score: 8/10 - Great

F.I.S.T. Forged In Shadow Torch details

Platform: PS5, PS4, PC
Developer: TiGames
Publisher: Bilibili
Genre: Metroidvania
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)

A key was provided by the publisher.