Ironcast-Header

(Disclosure: The re­view­er pur­chased his copy of the game. Ironcast is avail­able from Steam here. Also some un­marked spoil­ers are present.)

 

ironcast
Tales of Gunfire and Busted Movement Drives

Tales of Gunfire and Busted Movement Drives

Created by Dreadbits, and fund­ed ini­tial­ly by Kickstarter, this game came run­ning out of the gates with a hum­ble £10,183 (Or rough­ly $15,601 for the non-Brits in our au­di­ence), meet­ing their £10,000 goal. This also ap­pears to be the first game from Dreadbits — which is lead in an ad-hoc fash­ion by Daniel Leaver, who is a vet­er­an of pri­or projects. He has brought to­geth­er de­vel­op­ers and artists in­ter­est­ed only in de­velp­ment of this par­tic­u­lar game. Despite this, they have man­aged to cre­ate a rather re­ward­ing, chal­leng­ing, and aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ant game.

Steampunk Storylines

Ironcast is set in the 1886s, dur­ing a war gone mad and hav­ing gone on for near­ly a decade be­tween the English and the French. The play­er con­trols one of the epony­mous Ironcast: a ma­chine of war rough­ly 20 feet tall, and cov­ered with all man­ner of pro­jec­tile and en­er­gy weapons. Powered by Voltite, (an in-universe su­per en­er­gy) they were the lat­est in­no­va­tion in a war orig­i­nal­ly dom­i­nat­ed by ar­tillery. They were cre­at­ed by the Consortium of Merit, an or­der of sci­en­tif­ic ladies and gen­tle­men tired of the war, and they took to the field in these Ironcast. The game picks up with Aeres Powell af­ter the French de­scend­ed on the English shore­line in hun­dreds of air­ships, and their own Ironcast. Becoming the only sur­vivor of this French at­tack, your pi­lot moves to de­fend England, for Queen and coun­try.

Gameplay and Giant Mechs

 

After a short tu­to­r­i­al, you are thrust into a mod­ern, steam­punk in­spired bat­tle­field — orig­i­nal­ly as Aeres Powell but with the abil­i­ty to un­lock four oth­er pi­lots. As well char­ac­ter choice, you are able to use four Ironcast suits. But these, like the pi­lots, must be un­locked. The four mechs of­fer a va­ri­ety of heavy roles to as­sist in the the bat­tle­fields of England.

mech

Ironcast opens with Aeres Powell and the Dunraven as she awak­ens from a bomb in­duced un­con­scious state. The French are bomb­ing the sea lanes in prepa­ra­tion for a prop­er as­sault on the English shores, and you are tasked by your com­man­der to get out of the area as quick­ly as your pneu­mat­ic legs can car­ry you — but not be­fore a sim­ple test of the com­bat sys­tem.

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Gameplay

The ma­jor­i­ty of the game­play lies in a Match Three sys­tem mar­ried to RPG as­pects, ala Puzzle Quest. The play­er is giv­en the means to ef­fect nu­mer­ous ac­tions across a sin­gle turn, with com­bat be­ing the sim­plest to af­fect. With dri­ve speed and shield pow­er which in­creas­es your mech’s chances of dodg­ing a shot, and also in­creas­ing your mech’s chance to sur­vive an oth­er­wise killing blow, re­spec­tive­ly. The fi­nal de­fault ac­tion is to af­fect re­pairs from the Ironcast’s sup­plies, to re­turn to func­tion a weapon or sys­tem that was dam­aged by en­e­my fire or oth­er cir­cum­stances. Combat is one of the sim­pler as­pects, as you mere­ly choose which weapons to fire and the game ran­dom­ly de­ter­mines whether you hit de­pend­ing on how fast your opponent’s ve­hi­cle is run­ning, and how much dam­age you do de­pend­ing again on the shield lay­ers they have pow­ered.

However, sur­vival in the field is not so easy, as you are tasked with main­tain­ing the Ironcast’s vi­tal sys­tem, am­mu­ni­tion, pow­er, cool­ing, and re­pair stor­age by col­lect­ing them from the sup­ply grid. Each of the mech’s ac­tions re­quires some com­bi­na­tion of these re­sources in or­der to act, and while you can do each ac­tion al­most in­def­i­nite­ly, you will need to col­lect as shred­ly as you can.  You only have three chances per turn to gath­er re­sources, be­fore your op­po­nent (of­ten an­oth­er mech, but some­times a steam­tank or the end­boss) gets a chance to act and gath­er re­sources un­seen, while also act­ing in the same ways you are able to.

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Linking each re­source on the grid is a sim­ple af­fair and can — as long as the re­sources are touch­ing — make an al­most end­less chain. This is need­ed for ex­pe­ri­ence bonus­es, and also to make each of the pi­lots’ spe­cial abil­i­ties to func­tion. This also helps when col­lect­ing scrap, which is need­ed to pur­chase new up­grades and abil­i­ties once you re­turn back to the base.

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At the base, you are pro­vid­ed a mo­ment to rest, re­cu­per­ate, and re­pair the Ironcast. A chance to re­view which weapons you have equipped, dri­ves to in­crease your mech’s speed, swap­ping out your mech’s fields, and choos­ing which pieces get var­i­ous abil­i­ties and up­grades as your pi­lot lev­els up be­tween match­es. Once this is done, you can head onto the map.

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You are giv­en a few days no­tice, of a mas­sive French in­va­sion be­ing lead by an ex­treme­ly large Ironcast mech with four legs While the English are do­ing their damnedest to keep it back, it will slaugh­ter every­one it can on its way to Westminster. To pre­vent these un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stances from oc­cur­ring, you are to choose one of three to four mis­sions a turn. Orange mis­sions ap­pear to be the de­fault dif­fi­cul­ty, with red some of the more trick­i­er mis­sions.

Win or lose — And you will lose a lot — you are re­ward­ed be­tween games with ex­pe­ri­ence that is used to un­lock the lat­er pi­lots (who are some of the most di­verse char­ac­ters this re­view­er has seen), and the oth­er mechs. You are also giv­en mech up­grades for your per­sis­tence which will stay be­tween games, and ef­fect fur­ther playthroughs. Death is not the end for a play­er. The mech and pi­lot on that time­line, per­haps, but not for the play­er.

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Should the play­er sur­vive, one will even­tu­al­ly have to come to terms with the main in­vad­er of England and face him in the flesh… err… steel, fight­ing him in the streets and pray­ing to God and Country that the men you have col­lect­ed will have been enough to bring him down to your lev­el. A one for one ex­change of men to the boss’ fi­nal health will oc­cur dur­ing this fi­nal mis­sion, rep­re­sent­ing them do­ing their damn­d­est to slow him down.

From this fight, it is a mat­ter of luck, parts, skill, and prayers to the Random Number God, that you will sur­vive. A num­bers game, where the bat­tles are bru­tal. But it seems as though there are none so bru­tal as this boss who is armed to the teeth and ar­moured straight to the gills. Your wins pri­or to this are cru­cial to your sur­vival.

Ye Olde Fancy Music & Sound

The mu­sic has a charm­ing qual­i­ty to it, with a va­ri­ety of clas­si­cal pieces done with a bit of flare. The men­ac­ing ver­sion of La Marseillaise dur­ing the first boss sent up chills along my spine. Numerous oth­er pieces en­sure that your ears are not over­ly bored by rep­e­ti­tion. Warm horns and vi­o­lins fill out the score, with drums here and there re­mind­ing the play­er of the thun­der of war, with cym­bals crash­ing punc­tu­ate the suc­cess of the mis­sion.

The sound de­sign of the stompy Ironcast mechs them­selves is ap­pro­pri­ate, and the var­i­ous weapons avail­able are sat­is­fy­ing as they ex­plode, shoot, can­non, plas­ma fire, launch rock­ets and un­leash light­ning hell on your op­po­nents. The whis­tle of a steam tank as it ap­proach­es its death and oth­er bits of sound add to re­al­ly round out the at­mos­phere of the game.

Technical Bits & Settings

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There aren’t, for such a sim­ple game, much in the way of set­tings and there haven’t — for the time played (8+ hours as of time of writ­ing) — been any ma­jor bugs ei­ther. Dreadbits runs an ex­cel­lent ship, with the game run­ning quite well, and at a fair speed with­out slow­downs.

Final Thoughts

For a turn-based, match 3, rogue-lite RPG, Ironcast is a rather un­for­giv­ing game. This is tem­pered, how­ev­er, by the fact that the game saves be­tween mis­sions. It is an easy game to get ab­sorbed in but also to pick up and leave as you have time. It is also one of those games where it’s easy to in­dulge in One More Mission syn­drome. Unfortunately, it can get frus­trat­ing for those who are not used to the fick­le na­ture of the ran­dom num­ber god, with some playthroughs be­ing lost only by a run of bad luck. Even high skill play­ers are not ex­empt from the wrath of ran­dom num­bers.

Though the game is is dif­fi­cult, that is one of its sell­ing points. But it is a fine wine of dif­fi­cul­ty. One that can be ex­cep­tion­al­ly bit­ter, and is not meant for all tastes. In fact, I have yet to de­feat the first boss as of this writ­ing. That does not mean I will not keep try­ing. I look for­ward to more from Dreadbits; Ironcast is an ex­cel­lent­ly made and dif­fi­cult puz­zler.

You can see the orig­i­nal Kickstarter trail­er here.

Buy this game if: You are look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent out of the match 3 genre and is a chal­lenge to com­plete

Buy this game at a dis­count if: You aren’t fond of match 3, or can get reg­u­lar­ly frus­trat­ed by los­ing.

Do not buy this game if: You do not care for match 3, and get turned off by the need for per­sis­tence.

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Michael Campbell
My name is Michael Campbell. I am a bud­ding writer, pro­duc­er, and the content-manager for off-site opin­ion pieces. I fo­cus on Early Access Game Reviews, Traditional Games Media (Primarily Pen & Paper Role-playing Games), Steam Games, Origin, and Indie Titles. My in­ter­ests in­clude draw­ing re­al­ly ter­ri­bly, run­ning far too many RPG games a week and hor­ri­fy­ing my co-workers and friends. I also get re­al­ly an­gry on Twitter at in­jus­tice. I am also like­ly go­ing to be­come a fix­ture in the ed­i­to­r­i­al sec­tion of this site, due to the above anger. You can reach me at M.Campbell@supernerdland.com if you have ques­tions or com­ments; As well, you can reach me @EvilBobDALMYT on Twitter to see some of that anger in mo­tion.
Michael Campbell

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