Way of the Passive Fist isn’t your bog-standard brawler. Swapping senseless brutalities, à la Golden Axe, for something much more structured, à la For Honor, is about as close as a comparison as I could summarize. It’s a valiant effort on Household Games’ part, but Way of the Passive Fist can prove to be quite lacking. Nevertheless, and before we continue, it has to be said that more developers need to be as brave and as daring as HG, especially in an age in which gaming seems to be so focused on rehashed mechanics. With that in mind, this game is certainly refreshing at first, but it struggles to maintain that initial excitement.
The game throws you into the role of The Wanderer, a mysterious wayfarer that travels across the baron wastelands of planet Zircon V. This planet, once a mineral rich land, is now staring death in the face underneath its dying star. To be completely honest, the story never really takes it up a beat, and this entire post-apocalyptic theme has been tried and tested time and time again. However, it’s intriguing enough to warrant a pass, despite being far from original. It serves as more of a backbone to hold the gameplay together above all else, and on that score, it succeeds. Just don’t come into this expecting to be blown away by the story, because you wont be.
As aforementioned, combat is much more structured here in comparison to other brawlers. Instead of smashing your opponents to pieces by desperately button mashing, you’ll be required to carefully pay attention to your foes movements, parrying and dodging their attacks until they bite the dust from exhaustion. The Wanderer knows the art of the Passive Fist, a Mr. Miyagi-esque fighting style that relies heavily on defense, rather than offense, ultimately enabling The Wanderer to utilize the energies of his enemies, more over his own. It all seems very interesting on paper, but the reality, unfortunately, is that Way of the Passive Fist becomes overly repetitive before long.
The game does offer up a decent portion of different enemy types, but many of these tend to feel cut-and-paste. Enemies come with their own attack patterns that you need to suss out and keep track of, and as you do so, you’ll learn exactly how powerful this fighting style is. Parrying and dodging can be just as forceful as a well timed blow, and seemingly takes less effort, if this fighting style is to be believed. The more you successfully parry and dodge, the more your meter will build, which grants you the ability to utilize some devastating move-sets. Still, even when this game is at its most ‘kick-ass’ moment, the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired in the long run.
That sense of reward you feel during the initial stages of play slowly wears off, leaving you with no satisfaction outside of feeling accomplished for mere muscle memory. This can also be a downside at times. The game, by and large, is a memory game. Turn the game off to play something else for a while, and you run the risk of forgetting the attack patterns of each of the various enemies within. Indeed, this is a small gripe, but one that I felt compelled to bypass by playing the game in large chunks. I wish I could say that repetitive gameplay and lack of excitement were the only problems within, but there’s a few more issues that this game has tucked under its proverbial belt.
Movement itself isn’t so much of a problem, but trying to keep inline with enemies while dishing out your offensive attacks can be tedious. Mercifully this isn’t a dominant issue, but it does pop up from time to time. Boss battles on the other hand I really enjoyed, and it’s here where the game shines at its brightest. The issue regarding staying inline with attacks can often be present, but these unique fight sequences stood out above all else for me. I have to commend the game for its vast array of customization options. Way of the Passive Fist’s difficulty can be adjusted across four difficulty settings, as well as a generous serving of additional game changing features.
These features allow you to customize the game exactly how you want it to play out, and the options within are by no means exhaustive. Speaking of the game’s visuals, this is another high point for me. The locations tend to vary quite well, and the character models equally as such. The details could have been somewhat better, but looking at this as a throwback to the arcade era of days gone by, it does the trick and hits the right mark. On the topic of Arcade, Way of the Passive Fist offers up an Arcade Mode once the story has been completed, but this is the same as the campaign, albeit swapping checkpoints for lives. Still, it adds to the longevity for those that seek extra length, though for me, I felt like one run was more than enough.
Way of the Passive Fist is fun to begin with, and indeed offers a unique twist to the typical brawler formula. That being said it rapidly becomes repetitive, and the lack of content outside of the campaign leaves much to be desired. It’s a one-and-done sort of experience, one that doesn’t particularly go to great lengths to intrigue or innovate.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.