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Saturday, October 23, 2021

F.I.S.T. in review: One of the best action games of 2021 comes unexpectedly

 

On the PS5, the platformer is already considered an insider tip. Now the PC version has been released with chic ray tracing graphics and turns out to be the best Metroid alternative for PC gamers at the moment.

A big steel fist lands with a vengeance on a robot skull. Sparks fly and the scraping squeaky sound of metal on metal is only drowned out by the explosions of homing missiles as three drones pluck them from the sky. In the midst of the din: two fuzzy and furry bunny ears of a grim-looking bunny. Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right: The action star with the giant mechanical fist of F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is a bad-tempered ex-soldier named Rayton, who is actually a bunny.

All the inhabitants of this gritty dieselpunk world are anthropomorphic animals suffering under the reign of terror of the so-called Iron Dogs, an evil robot army.

When they dismantle the bunny’s favourite ramen shop into its component parts, the retired soldier has had enough. With the help of his trusty friend, a slightly overweight mechanic bear, he reactivates parts of his wartime mech to stop the invaders.

This fits like a glove

The mechanical fist that gives the game its somewhat unwieldy name is not the only weapon in the arsenal of this liberation mission. Over the course of the roughly 25-hour adventure, you’ll upgrade Rayton’s mecha backpack with a pointy and fast-spinning drill head and an electrically charged whip.

You can switch between these three attack modes at any time at the touch of a button, allowing you to react flexibly to different enemy types and situations. You can break shields with the charged fist or use your hand to grab units and use them as projectiles.

The drill head’s whirl attack creates a small hurricane around you after several blows in a row, which whirls enemies around. With the whip you keep units at a distance or pull yourself towards them in a jerky manner. You can see how the fist looks in action in the trailer:

Four Rabbit’s Feet for a Hallelujah

At save points you can invest acquired coins and so-called data discs in three branching talent trees. This way, you unlock new punch combos, such as a powerful chin hook or automatic search missiles as combo finishers.

The combat system focuses on close combat and gives you plenty of freedom to experiment with combo chains and special attacks. Ranged weapons and shields are only available to enemies, which you can avoid with well-timed dashes and the obligatory double jump.

Those who like to play defensively will cut their teeth on F.I.S.T. at first. It’s not until about the second third of the game that the bunny even learns the ability to parry. By then, however, you will have already got used to the fact that there is no block function and will probably have resigned yourself to it – or already given up in frustration.

A soldier bunny with a giant mechanical fist in a dystopia influenced by Chinese culture. F.I.S.T is fascinatingly refreshing!
A soldier bunny with a giant mechanical fist in a dystopia influenced by Chinese culture. F.I.S.T is fascinatingly refreshing!

After all, the makers have reacted to the feedback regarding the rather high difficulty level of the console version and patched in an optional easy mode. This way, you will miss one or two frustrating spots. If one of the many challenging boss fights gets on your nerves, you can change the difficulty level for a short time.

Mechanical sumo wrestlers & laser piranhas

The rather large distances between the fast travel stations were not improved in the time between PS5 release and Steam launch. You can only switch between areas at very few, sparsely distributed stations, which sometimes leads to slightly longer walks than necessary. The minimap tracks all your exploration tours, but only offers a very rough overview.

The Chinese development studio has visibly let off steam creatively and incorporated many ideas and cultural influences. The world offers a completely new, refreshing look and is technically of a very high standard.

The story, while relatively predictable, is beautifully and plausibly told. All dialogue is fully dubbed with good English voice acting (with German subtitles), and there are plenty of emotional, dramatic as well as quiet and humorous scenes that skillfully break up the action.

Nice ray tracing & great world design

In keeping with the tradition of the great genre role models, you will repeatedly encounter doors and obstacles on your tours that you can only reach or open at a later point in time when the corresponding upgrade is available to you.

The level design is not very innovative, but it is varied. It is great fun to explore the thematically different areas of this animal world. So you run through old factories where your drill head serves as a propeller to sail upwards in streams of warm air, swing up to a military complex with your electric whip on surveillance drones or enjoy the view over the rooftops of the old city centre of Torch City, and look down into alleys where neon lights are reflected in the puddles of water.

Almost all dialogue with NPCs is fully dubbed and features very good, professional English voice actors.
Almost all dialogue with NPCs is fully dubbed and features very good, professional English voice actors.

Apropos mirroring: Based on the screenshots you should not have missed how outrageously good F.I.S.T. looks. TiGames from Shanghai has managed to pull off a really great feat here, which really doesn’t have to fear comparison with the current, big competitor game Metroid Dread from Nintendo.

Apart from the chic graphics and the fantastic lighting effects, the models and animations of the figures and enemies are also great to look at and the fascinating world invites you to explore. F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is thus an absolute recommendation for all friends of puzzle-heavy action platformers.

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