For those of you who followed my adventures on the Mature Gamer Podcast you will remember how much I enjoyed Steve’s ongoing failure to complete FTL, the space-set Rogue-like adventure. His seemingly misguided determination to triumph over adversity turned it into the Cool Runnings of video game podcast experiences. I didn’t understand why he would keep trying and failing.
You see for the last couple of weeks I have been playing Ironcast, in its shiny new Xbox One version (after hitting Steam following a successful Kickstarter campaign). In essence Ironcast and FTL are cut from the same cloth, but while FTL is cut from a bit of science fiction fabric – maybe something black and shiny – Ironcast is cut from leather, brass and steam infused material. Also it has more puzzle elements. I won’t go into material based comparatives for that, you can have fun on your own time thinking of something amazing.
Another important comparison is Puzzle Quest, the Match 3 RPG game that I was obsessed with for ages on the Xbox 360. Its blend of puzzle elements, strategy and combat reminded me fondly of Super Puzzle Fighter, and this was a great thing. Ironcast takes what Puzzle Quest started, jumps onto the back of FTL and hurtles towards being my most played game of 2016 by continually kicking me in the arse.
It is not a fair game.
It is not an easy game.
But by god I want to stop the French army in their fleet of armoured mechanical machines.
The story for Ironcast is pretty much Steampunk 101, rich people funding a private army to defend Jolly Ole England from the rampaging hordes of foreigners (a bit like the Daily Mail, only far less militant) in giant walking machines called Ironcasts. After being damaged in battle and losing a commander you – taking the role of a feisty Welsh woman – have to dust yourself off, fix up your walker and take on the French army (along with business folk, more on that later) led by the smarmy and overly polite Commandant René Durant.
Missions are laid out on a map of Southern England and a timer is provided with a deadline before the army reaches London. This time limit hugely impacts decision making as you franticly attempt to gather resources to use in battle.
The main mission type is straight forward combat. With your Ironcast having four areas to power up, Two Weapons, Shields and Movement, you have to make connections in the puzzle grid to power up there areas and their level of repair. What this handily does is force you to not go on the all-out attack as you may quickly find yourself out of coolant and then as a result taking damage internally when attempting to manoeuvre or attack. Similarly if you concentrate on defensive strategies, with lots of repairing and the raising of shields you run the risk of the turn timers expiring before you take the fight to the enemy.
What helps turn the tide are the upgrades, perks and abilities that you can unlock and purchase through progress in the game. This also comes with a decision to make. Do you concentrate on metal resources to allow for upgrades, or do you concentrate on raising an army to help take energy from the final boss(es)? At the time of writing I still don’t know what the best strategy is as I have consistently failed to win the fight against Durant. It’s not for the lack of trying, however, as I have logged about 60 hours in-game and I am showing no signs of fatigue. I appreciate that some will find the RNG elements a frustration, and those who despair at permadeath will find no comfort in Ironcast but for those seeking a simple pick up and play type affair with an incredibly deep level of strategy Ironcast is perfection itself.
It is worth pointing out that the game did crash a few times while playing, but as I was on a preview version I wouldn’t want to hold it against the game in the days of Day one patches. I never lost a lot of progress, but it did happen.
Anyway, Ironcast is available today on PSN and is available on Friday on the Xbox One.
Follow developers Dreadbit on Twitter.