Image via THQ

One year later, is AEW: Fight Forever still worth playing?

Is it still worth stepping in the ring, or should you hang up your boots for good?

On January 1, 2019, the professional wrestling world was shaken up with the introduction of a new promotion: All Elite Wrestling. The company, spearheaded by Tony Khan, promised audiences an alternative to the longstanding WWE, with top-notch production, a stacked talent roster, engaging storylines, and, of course, world-class in-ring competition.

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Of course, along with all of this, plans were in place for AEW to merchandise itself. First came a litany of t-shirts, followed by a partnership with Jazwares to produce AEW action figures, and, at long last, a video game.

AEW: Fight Forever, from developer Yukes and publisher THQ Nordic, was announced in 2020, promising gamers an experience similar to beloved titles like 2000’s WWF No Mercy. The game eventually made it to store shelves on June 29, 2023, but did it manage to live up to such a high standard?

Upon release, Fight Forever proved a mixed bag. It earned praise for its fast-paced, fun-focused style, which was a welcomed contrast to WWE’s slower, simulation-based 2K games. Fans also loved its strong roster and unique match types. Still, Fight Forever left a lot to be desired. Character customization is limited, and the story mode, Road to Elite, lacks depth. The graphics (chiefly wrestler likenesses) are hit-or-miss and, like seemingly every new game these days, there were some gameplay bugs in need of patches. Overall, though, it seemed a solid first outing for AEW in the gaming realm.

With the one-year anniversary of the release of Fight Forever right around the corner, one has to ask, is the game still worth playing all this time later? Here’s the breakdown.

Image via THQ

Fight Forever still has a lot to offer one year in

As a whole, there’s still a lot to love about Fight Forever, especially if you’re looking for a fun wrestling game to play with friends. Though the combat is simple, it’s easy to pick up and makes for an enjoyable in-match experience. The match types present are all solid, with unique ones like the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch making Fight Forever a must-play.

Thankfully, through the power of patches, most of the big issues plaguing the game around launch time have since been taken care of. Throughout its year in existence, Fight Forever has been greatly enhanced through post-launch content, too. First and foremost is the Stadium Stampede mode, where up to 30 players can wreak havoc in a massive arena in a battle royale-style experience. Other mini-games and the fighting game-esque Beat the Elite mode have also added replay value.

Then there are all of the roster additions that make the game feel a bit more current, as much of the base roster feels stuck in the 2020-2022 timeframe. Popular names like Samoa Joe, FTR, Swerve Strickland, Toni Storm, and Adam Copeland have joined the game, as have a host of others through paid DLC. New skins, arenas, customization options, and more have also come along.

Though it’s unfortunate that it had to come through paid DLC, Fight Forever has become a more well-rounded, replayable package in its first year. There are more game modes and wrestlers to try out than at launch, assuming you want to pay for them, and patches have enhanced the overall quality of each playthrough. A year in, Fight Forever is more than worth picking up and playing, but it still has room to improve.

Image via THQ

How Fight Forever can improve in year two and beyond

Despite all this, Fight Forever isn’t perfect. The Road to Elite story mode is still a short, shallow affair, and the online player base has dropped significantly, especially on Steam, so online play is a challenge for most players. This makes it particularly difficult to enjoy Stadium Stampede, as without players around to fill out those lobbies, wait times skyrocket, assuming you can find a game at all.

Of course, with AEW constantly making new talent acquisitions there are some major names still missing from the roster, including Will Ospreay and Mercedes Moné. Preexisting Fight Forever characters like Toni Storm and the Young Bucks could also use new looks to match their current on-screen gimmicks.

So, with all of that said, what should the folks behind Fight Forever focus on in the game’s second year and beyond? Adding onto Road to Elite in some way, or adding another story mode through DLC, would be a major plus. The same could be said for keeping up with the roster additions to keep the game feeling as fresh and current as possible.

Sadly, the developer cannot do much about the diminished online player counts aside from trying to entice players to pick up the game again. However, adding bots to Stadium Stampede to fill out lobbies could be smart, if for no other reason than to keep the mode playable for those who want it.

At the end of the day, Fight Forever still has a lot to offer gamers a year after its release. It has improved in more ways than one, amounting to one of the most fun modern wrestling games on the market. If you haven’t played it in a while or haven’t yet given it a shot, if you’re a wrestling fan, you owe it to yourself to get in on it. At the same time, there’s still plenty the minds behind it can improve upon. Should they do so, Fight Forever can and will go from great to truly elite.

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Shane O'Neill
Destructoid Contributor - Shane has been a fan of all things pop culture and entertainment since childhood. Come 2019, he decided to take his fandom to the Internet, becoming a freelance writer for various publications. This professional journey led him to join the Destructoid team in 2024