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About the Story
Fighting is all that matters now.
102nd Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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I'm not sure if this is intentional or unintentional, but this was a darkly funny game.
So, I trained my way up to the Olympics, got a silver medal at the Olympics at age 18, became a pro in Nigeria, and on my first pro fight, died. RIP Sakura. She never had the chance to retire and breed :(
This game can be painfully slow sometimes, with a lot of timed text, and grinding by repeatedly reading generic inspirational quotes by everyone from Mahatma Gandhi to Chairman Mao (you have to wait until the stat upgrade flies in or it won't change your stats). Not getting into the disturbing implications of grinding endurance and "rockstar juice" via "booty calls" (you start at age 15), but it is a thing that happens, and it is your only interaction with other people besides combat and training for combat. Yeah. Beneath the hood, there are a lot of stats, grouped into "mind" and "body". Somehow, these stats affect your chance of victory in fights. The larger the numbers, the better, of course. Victory also probably has a random component. I've noticed that the longer the bar is, the more likely I am to win, but I don't know how the bar is determined.
The main form of entertainment in this game is to watch numbers go up. This is the heart of all management games, and with interactive fiction, you can see game mechanics distilled down to their very essence. It is almost impossible to strategize about where to click because of the opacity of the mechanics. But the more you click, the more numbers go up. The more numbers go up, the more you win. The more you win... well, I don't know what comes next because Sakura died, and I'm not going to replay this to see.
I am not convinced this is not a joke.
Fight Forever is a maximalist MMA simulator, and it leans hard into every dudebro cliché you can imagine. You play an up-and-coming fighter, who gets to pick a name, a mentor, and a style, from a dozen or so options for each (I opted to name my – I think guy? – Frankie, hoping that I’d eventually be able to take a trip to Hollywood. No dice, but pre-fight my trainer did tell me to “Relax”, so I got my win after all). The heart of the gameplay is preparing for, then engaging in, a series of amateur and ultimately professional fights.
It is hard to overstate how authentically meatheaded this all feels. Your options in between fights include three different versions of training (“Train,” “Spar,” and “Fight Camp”), and one catch-all category labeled “Life”, with sub-menus for “Travel,” “Social,” “Sports,” “Stuff,” and “Master Class.” Master Class lets you get inspirational quotes from e.g. Margaret Thatcher. The others have like 15 grayed-out options and only one that works; for Social, predictably, it’s Booty Calls (Family, Philanthropy, Date, Read, Teach, and, endearingly, Tabletop Games, all either need to be unlocked or haven’t been implemented yet. You’ll also eventually be able to purchase Real State).
Training is the main focus of the game, as far as I could tell. It allows you to increase an incredible array of stats, both primary and derived. You can focus on “Boxing” or “TKD” or “Sambo” (erm) or for that matter “Awesomeness” or “Strategy” at Fight Camp, while Training lets you choose from a bunch of different exercises that seem to relate indirectly to this flurry of statistics. At one point I was told my “measurable takedown level” was 0 – seems bad! There’s no way I could see to actually access these all on one screen, though the Sparring option I think allows you to reveal a single one per mainline fight.
Speaking of those fights, there’s much less here than you might think. You click “fight”, you get some text, a mysterious gauge shows up, and you win or you lose, with no indication of why. There are sometimes previews of who you’ll be up against next, but these are beyond cryptic: the most clear one I got was a flag that the next opponent was very durable, but beats me whether that meant I should be focusing on endurance to be able to last in the ring with him, or power to break through his defenses (I tried endurance, and I lost. Or maybe my rockstar juice level wasn’t high enough? Yes, that’s a real stat). Heaven only knows what one’s meant to do to prepare to fight “well-educated boxers” (distract them with some Keats, perhaps?). And I thrilled to the mental image of going up against an “orthodox” fighter (I am picturing the hat, sideburns, and tallit).
Surprisingly, this is actually pretty fun! Kieron Gillen has some line, I think in a review of Diablo or one of its progeny, that a dirty secret of video games is that sometimes it’s enough to just watch a number go up. FF has a bunch of numbers and they go up – what more do you need? The bloom started to come off the rose once I got silver in the Olympics and then transitioned from amateur to pro, though. I found these bouts much harder, and suddenly training cost money. I also kept getting concussed and told I should see a doctor, but couldn’t find that option. Losing interest, I decided to explore the game’s legacy mechanic, where you can have a kid and shift to guiding their journey through martial arts. Once I clicked to confirm this is what I wanted to do (with the cheapest option, because apparently you’re paying for your sperm/egg donor?) I got this sequence of text:
"Frankie is succesfully having sexual intercourse with Busting Beaver, and viceversa…
Name your gamebred:
[blank to fill in name]
I swear I’m not making any of that up.
Anyway the game restarted except now I’m 14 and unable to compete in fights (good?) but I’m still able to engage in booty calls (NOPE). My age is stuck at 14.203846153846153 and I’m not sure how to advance time to the point that I can get back in the game, so I’m calling it here: goodnight sweet prince, and may your days be filled with the wisdom of the Iron Lady and getting ready to fight an opponent “who throws punches and punches”.
Fight Forever is a martial-arts RPG that focuses primarily on stat-building - you’re trying to train a character who will be capable of taking on your opponents. The game has all the bones of a fairly expansive RPG, but from what I’ve seen, it appears to be unfinished. There are many greyed-out options that don’t seem like they can be unlocked at present, perhaps teasers for future content?
The writing is terse but effective, and it intrigued me. I wanted to explore more of this game, see what different options are available, and experiment with different ways of building a character. Unfortunately, this proved very difficult, because the way stats are handled is extremely opaque. Unless I’m missing something, there’s no way to see a comprehensive summary of all your character’s stats at once - instead, you have to rely on occasional notifications that you’ve increased x stat to y level. At no point did I ever come across a listing of what all the stats even are, much less what they’re supposed to do. There’s no obvious way of telling what the numbers mean. Within a few fights, I had increased my mindset to 3000 while my heart was 52 and my kicking was 2… but I couldn’t figure out how to tell what effect any of those had, or how they compare to my opponents’ stats.
I found the fights to be frustrating for three reasons. They occur through infernally slow timed text that can’t be skipped. They are narrated in a very spare and repetitive manner. And, most importantly, they give no actionable feedback. I was left with no clue why I was winning or losing! Was it chance? Was it because of my scores in some crucial stat(s)?
The system intrigued me enough that I wanted to keep playing and exploring - maybe, with time, I would figure out things that weren’t immediately apparent? But my plans were cut short when I decided to retire and try playing as my 14-year-old scion. That didn’t work, because a 14-year-old can’t enter fights, so I’d have to wait for time to advance… but after exhausting a few training options that can only be done once between each fight, I was left with no obvious way to make time advance. I was stuck at 14. Oops. Game over for me.
Should you try Fight Forever in its current state? Maybe. There’s definitely some interesting mechanics here, even if they are hidden behind a totally opaque presentation. Maybe you’ll be clever enough to figure out things that I missed? I had some fun trying, so hopefully you will too.
As the schematic for an amazing fighting game, this looks great. As an actual game to be enjoyed by players, it needs a lot of work.
The training choices that you make outside the ring determine your fate in the matches. (The fights themselves involve no input from the player.) But I was unable to find anything like a tutorial, or tooltips, or a meaningful discussion of what each choice meant.
The in-game walkthrough makes the following claim:
"As much as this is a fighting game, it's a word game. The further you get into it, the more cumbersome it is to take note of opponents' styles, fighter traits, strategies, and techniques. Take notes."
Right now, the burden of creating an entertaining experience rests entirely on the player.