After nearly three years since its announcement, the first AEW video game is here in AEW Fight Forever. An homage to the wrestling games of yesteryear, AEW Fight Forever relies heavily on the arcade style of gameplay to stand out against the more well-known WWE 2K franchise. But while the gameplay is accessible and has its fun moments, there’s just not enough around it to keep you coming back even as a dedicated fan.
The 2000s Called…
Compared from the get-go to games like 2001’s WWF No Mercy, AEW Fight Forever makes sure anyone can get on the controls and play. There are strong and light grapples, single button running, and everything is easy to remember. Hell, my five-year-old was able to pick everything up in about three matches or so.
With the design, people were quick to judge the look of the game, but I really think it helps it stand out. The character models all have this “action figure” look and feel to them, which I really enjoy. It’s clearly not for everyone, but I very much like it.
Match types include singles matches, tag teams, triple threats, fatal four ways, ladder matches, the Casino Battle Royale, and an Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch. All of which have their pros and cons.
The biggest gameplay problem is that there can only be a max of four wrestlers on the screen at once, something that we haven’t seen from wrestling games in about 15 years or so. Because of that limitation, Battle Royales feel slow if wrestlers aren’t eliminated in fast order. It also means there are no Trios matches despite being regular events on AEW TV.
There are also a number of bugs that appear that immediately ruin your immersion. From wrestlers getting stuck in the ring to t-posing at the start of replays, there are just too many quality-of-life issues.
It’s also frustrating that you can only have one-on-one ladder matches. That said, they are extremely fun matches to play. Also fun are the Lights Out Matches, which is the game’s version of a hardcore match. The number of weapons you can get make for some fun action, and the ability to break the entranceway LED board is something that will give you a laugh when you are playing with friends.
Exploding Barbed Wire Death Matches are also over-the-top fun. The match gives you two minutes to play before the right “explodes”, hurting both wrestlers involved. From there, you can continue the matches and throw your opponents into the ropes causing explosions or even launching them through barbed wire-wrapped tables.
It feels arcadey like old-school titles, but that’s what makes it stand out and fun in the ring.
Fight Forever also offers 15 mini-games, 12 of which you unlock as you play through the game’s shop, that are all more fun playing with friends or online than playing alone vs the CPU. From basic trivia to a memory game, there’s plenty there with more to come via DLC later on.
Online play provided a smooth experience aside from a couple of small hiccups which were expected around launch. Every match mostly felt as though I was playing locally with friends. Online is going to be a big way to keep people coming back to the game, and I think AEW Fight Forever passed that test.
On The Road Again
Road to Elite is Fight Forever’s main game mode. The mode sees players take a wrestler – created or real – through a “year” in AEW. I use “year” lightly because you go through a full pay-per-view (PPV) cycle in each run, but because AEW only has four PPVs, it’s more like four months.
The mode is pretty straightforward forward with you starting out with your chance to appear at Double or Nothing as a participant in the Casino Battle Royale. This, however, is where my first annoyance in the mode comes in. Despite giving you a sense of randomness with your card selection, you will always draw the two of spades and be the first entrant in the match. Just say the player is entering first, don’t give that false sense of unpredictability.
From there, you begin the real meat of the story mode. Each build-up to a PPV spans over four weeks of Dynamite telling one of three potential stories for each block. For example, the first one you go through, called “Unlikely Partnership”, sees you teaming up with someone you came toe-to-toe with in the Casino Battle Royale. Of course, you find out they’ve been stealing your belongings this whole time leading to a match between the two.
There are other blocks throughout the mode that involves the Dark Order, interacting with The Inner Circle, capping a feud with an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, and more. Aside from the stories themselves, each week you can do different activities such as sightseeing, fan meet & greets, going out to eat, working out, and more. Each thing you do either gives you rewards or energy drains. You can even get injured simply by training, which happened to me quite a bit during a run with Christian Cage.
One of the things you can earn is skill points. While well and good, they’re only useful if you are using a created wrestler. If you are using an active AEW wrestler, skill points mean absolutely nothing because “AEW Wrestlers cannot earn new skills”.
If you’re a fan of women’s wrestling, like myself, Road to Elite will leave you disappointed. Only the first block has you in a female-centric storyline. From there, you’ll have to go through the same stories against the male wrestlers in the game. It’s disappointing, to say the least.
Creation Suite Without The Creativity
Throughout the development of the game, stories would come out about the limited creation suite AEW Fight Forever had.
Limited is putting it nicely.
There are only eight men’s or four women’s faces to choose from for your created wrestler; there are just 17 different men’s and 12 women’s hairstyles. Attire options are limited, and there is no face or body morphing that the older games would offer. With where character creation is in almost every other game – sports or not – it feels insulting to have a $60 game be this limited in what it offers.
On the plus side, there is a Create An Arena option that might be the deepest part of the game’s creation suite. There are hundreds of options for your arena, but you can’t have custom designs of any sort. You are still limited to the list of options.
The roster of the game feels outdated with gimmicks not seen in over a year making their way into the final product. Even arenas like Dynamite aren’t accurate to what’s used right now, though that is expected to be updated later on in the game’s lifecycle.
Speaking of the roster, it’s not that large. There are 36 men and 13 women to play as in the game. FTR is available as DLC right at launch for an extra $12, which makes it all the more frustrating they weren’t included on the main roster. And while more are coming via DLC like Hook and Keith Lee, some big omissions remain such as The Acclaimed, Claudio Castagnoli, Wheeler Yuta, and Samoa Joe. It’s also strange that Jeff Hardy, who debuted in 2021, is on the launch roster yet Matt Hardy, who joined a year prior, is a preorder bonus or $5 DLC purchase.
Needed More Time In Developmental
I wanted to really love AEW Fight Forever. I love the promotion, travel to the shows, and would’ve loved a great game to go along with that fandom. Unfortunately, this just isn’t it right now.
AEW Fight Forever does have its moments, and it’s a game that AEW and wrestling fans will enjoy in the ring for its fast-paced feel and over-the-top action. That said, there’s not much that will keep you coming back after a while.
Road to Elite is ok during its first few playthroughs but quickly gets repetitive. If anything, the minigames are the best part when you play with others.
It’s clear there’s a foundation here of a great game, but, at this point, AEW Fight Forever needed more time in developmental before hitting the main roster. Hopefully, the planned post-launch support will turn this game into one that makes fans actually want to fight forever.
Recommendation: Wait for a sale/future updates
For more Insider Gaming, see what game is apparently in development right now.
*A copy of AEW Fight Forever was provided to Insider Gaming for the purposes of this review*