F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is a new action-adventure game that has already started making waves for its unique and beautiful visual style. Tapping into our natural fascination with sprawling dystopian landscapes, the team behind the game have incorporated an idiosyncratic dieselpunk style into the immersive location of Torch City.
Undoubtedly inspired by a wide range of unusual influences, the result is a city that feels lived-in and organic, full of character and life. But how did the developers make their game world stand so far out of the ordinary? We had a chat with them to find out.
When first discussing what kind of game F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch would be, the developers found that they all shared a common interest in the Metroidvania genre. They decided to stick with what they knew, a decision which allowed them to be more creative and focus on the finer details of the game, making decisions that allowed Torch City to become somewhere uniquely identifiable.
“We meant to build a unique new environment,” they told us when we asked about their starting points. “We avoided presenting the American and Japanese urban landscape at the end of the 20th century, as cyberpunk works usually do”. Instead, they turned their attention to Eastern cities, citing Hong Kong and Shanghai as major influences.
They also paid tribute to games like Wolfenstien and BioShock, which the developers claim were two of very few games to truly utilise the dieselpunk style. Given that complete visual influences were scant, the team took to developing their own ethos around F.I.S.T.’s technological presentation, which later informed the design of Torch City as a whole. They decided on a skeuomorphic design template, meaning that futuristic items in the game would retain decorative flourishes that resembled their counterpart technology in the current day, thus making these new objects immediately familiar to audiences without the need for heavy exposition. “The MCI Radio that Rayton brings is a remarkable expression of the idea,” they explain, as its user interface makes immediate sense to a modern day audience.
The team used this method of visual communication to enhance the architecture of the game, but were also aware of the need for a vertical city to emphasise the Metroidvania qualities of F.I.S.T. “We combined the architecture of Shanghai with the layered structure of Chongqing, another city in China, to build our unique artistic style,” the developers explain. However, it wasn’t just technological advancement that inspired the city, as the developers have also included some smaller touches in homage to the places that inspired them: “You may notice the laundry poles protruding from the windows that you can only see in Shanghai, and the primitive toilets on the street from the old age.”
The animal element of the game was also a balance the developers had to get right, as they had to incorporate a futuristic, machinery-led world while retaining the identifiably animal qualities of the characters and world. The team say that they used animal-like traits to emphasise the power of the enemies in fights, saying the player “will feel the power of the characters from how many metal parts are on their bodies. This method is widely used in the game. As a contrast, we also gave many enemies, especially bosses, animal-like looks, like boars and snakes, to express their danger and the pressure on the protagonist.”
On top of that, the team chose to stick to physicality and melee weapons over guns, to ensure that fights still felt animalistic. “In the design of weapons and enemies, we reduced the proportion of firearms to fit the overall concept,” the team tells us.. “Most of the boss fights are trying to express the power of mechanics instead of firearms.”
The final key aspect of such a quick-fire game is to ensure that the main character stands out. The developers took a colour theory approach to this, using yellow for protagonist Rayton, but omitting it from most other areas. They also kept the camera focused on him and used creative lighting to distinguish Rayton from the surrounding darkness, telling us that “we set an independent group of lights so that he’ll never merge in darkness”.
In further detail, the team explained that “for the relationship between characters and environment, we keep the foreground dark, which makes the outline of the level clear. We try to emphasize Rayton by using special effects with a clear outline when he performs attacking actions, which makes Rayton always stand out of the environment without being ignored or confused by players.” In short, every element of F.I.S.T. has been thought through and given a consistent aesthetic in line with the development teams’ vision of Torch City, all while ensuring players can keep track of the fast-paced, combat-heavy action.
F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch can be purchased now from Steam, with the recently released PC version supporting ray tracing and Nvidia’s DLSS and Reflex technology, making it a true visual treat for Metroidvania fans.