The resistance is over. The Iron Dogs have triumphed and the furry residents of Torch City now live in fear of the iron fisted rule of the automated legion. When a former resistance member is arrested and taken to prison, a rabbit soldier is all that remains to bring hope of freedom to the people in Forged in Shadow Torch (FIST).
Forged in Shadow Torch, or FIST as it’s more affectionately known, is a metroidvania 2D platformer which utilises a 3D engine to bring both its character and world to life. Inspired by dieselpunk; Torch City (where the story is set) is steeped in a mechanical, engine driven industrial revolution style. An absolute opposite from the cold metal vibe of the sprawling metropolis however are the inhabitants of the city who are all furry animals. It’s the mix of the two that gives Forged in Shadow Torch its unique feel.
As a metroidvania-style platformer players can expect ability gates resolved by progression through the story or abilities hidden within the world and FIST doesn’t disappoint. Having only just taken in the initial story cinematic rendered with the game engine I’m already upgrading my rabbit avatar — Ray — with a wall jump. Not every upgrade is needed to complete the game but the joy for those who live & breathe the genre is in hunting down every last one and deploying them in conjunction with other skills to progress both efficiently and stylishly.
It’s also clear early into the game that some areas (although off-limits initially) could be accessed with the right usage of skills or moves essentially in sequence breaking the game. A move that will please speed-runners or those who want an alternative way of replying Forged in Shadow Torch.
Platforming is smooth and precise with more challenging or punishing areas usually hiding collectables, upgrades or shortcuts. Often it’s clear an ability or skill may be needed to access certain paths so most players won’t struggle unnecessarily in one area without realising it.
In addition to some smooth platforming, FISTs major draw is it’s combat system. light, heavy and special attacks can be combined to deliver a number of differing attack strings, each with their own speed and damage attributes and each useful in specific circumstances or against certain enemy types. It’s not all head on mindless button bashing though, enemy design is intelligent and varied enough that a frontal assault isn’t always possible and selecting the enemy to confront in any situation can make the difference between success and failure.
The stronger, boss-style enemies also yield data discs upon defeat which; along with the money you can scavenge and collect; can be used to unlock special moves extending Ray’s offensive repertoire. Each weapon has several combo moves to be purchased with cash alone but the more damaging (and visually impressive) attacks will require players to hunt down the discs and whilst most bosses are encountered as part of the story, some discs are hidden behind ability gates you won’t be able to access until later in the game.
Just like most Metroidvania style platformers; not only are you going to open up a bunch of useful upgrades and weapons as part of the main story but you can also expect a heavy amount of backtracking to collect a range of goodies including health and energy upgrades as well as completing a bunch of side missions for the furnizens (furry citizens) of Torch City. Even simple missions may require moves and abilities you don’t have yet so don’t be surprised when you hear about treasure early in the game but can’t get close until much much later.
Graphically, FIST is impressive. Not only does the dieselpunk inspiration shine through in the architecture of Torch City but in most of its inhabitants and your enemies. The metals used to construct the city and the Iron Dog Legion you face already looks like it’s covered in a layer of oil and grime adding to the aesthetic amidst all the rendered fur on your protagonist.
The mix of 3D models on the 2D plane is as effective as ever and FIST stands up with others in the genre such as Shadow Complex who first made the style popular. The streets and alleys of the city feel alive with NPCs scurrying into the background buildings, doors and streets as the action plays out in the foreground.
Despite how great it looks and how smooth it handles there’s some awkward pop in on-screen transition if you blaze through the levels, it’s not enough to ruin the pace or the experience as it’s only really textures but given how fast the PS5 SSD is it’s quite surprising to see. I’d expect some patching to resolve this as there is no slowdown at all.
A strong showing from TiGames, FIST is a great platformer with some unique mechanics, smooth platforming and interesting varied combat. Graphically the blend of styles feels good and helps set it apart from a field of 2d animated counterparts.
Forged in Shadow Torch is available now as a PlayStation Exclusive and is available as both a PS4 and a PS5 version but will also come to PC later in 2021.