It took me some time to come up with this review, which was to include a review video to bring new life to the YouTube channel. After a lot of screwing around, the website has finally gotten back on the game review horse with this look at Ironcast, a British indie game that looks like a classier alternative to HuniePop in a few ways (I may or may not review it). At first, I couldn’t keep gnawing at its faults, but I’ve since had so much fun with it that I had to bump its score up a bit.
Ironcast is a bunch of different genres jammed into a rogue-lite game. Some have come out to say that it’s one of those games that is not playing fair, but that’s what happens when RNG is very involved in such a game, but that doesn’t mean skill isn’t a factor in the gameplay. If you’re one of those people who seems susceptible to gambler’s fallacy, then maybe you would want to step back a bit and take a deep breath before playing this game.
NOTE: Since this is a full review of the game, there are some spoilers below. You have been warned.
The year is 1886; the British Empire is at war with France over a new energy source called Voltite, which has resulted in vast technological advancements, including the walking mechanical beasts of war known as Ironcasts, created by group of wealthy English magnates known as the Consortium of Merit in order to break the stalemate of the war.
Sensing the threat, the French have decided to push forth with a relentless aerial assault on England. With chaos reigning the streets and the British Army in shambles, the only hope left for them is a group of private companies with their war machines. Having to rely on private companies for the security of the nature, the military elite must be kicking themselves and each other at this point.
Since the enemies here are the French, you can make faux French accents ala-Monty Python while playing this if you want to. Aside from that, the plot actually has some possibilities, and it would be great if it gets expanded upon in a future release. But of course, the publisher has to be willing to make further use of the material in the first place.
The steampunk theme and the excellent soundtrack make for a nice thematic atmosphere that is not too frenetic but not sleep-inducing either. One of the tracks in particular is quite interesting in how it seems to foreshadow the presence of another enemy.
After killing the first boss, he tells you that Paris is no more and a bigger enemy looms and threatening to take over England next. The game continues from there and you have to prepare for the final boss that is neither French nor of this world.
The interface is not so elaborate that it overwhelms the players with too many fancy fonts and squiggly lines on top of gears and bolts that make up the old industrial motif, but just enough to show off the steampunk theme while still being clear and comprehensible. The use of different corresponding colors for each node and resource type is also tactful.
You do missions to earn experience points, scrap, and war assets in preparation for boss fights. To do so, you must master this combat system, obtain the right skills, and make your Ironcast stronger with upgrades. Unfortunately, the skills and items you get to have are randomized in every game, but at least they’re not too many that you may never get the ones you may want within a few playthroughs.
The different mission types have their own challenges, and you have to prepare for the parameters of the one you’re getting into in order to actually succeed, which includes having to change components to suit the situation. If you disregard this like bringing weapons with all splash damage in a salvage mission, for example, then you’ll just fail it outright.
Battles are turn-based and lets you take your time and match up the resource you need at the moment. By the way, remember that you can match diagonally. You have four resources — ammo, energy, coolant, and repair. All four are equally important; ignoring coolant will only cause you to cannibalize your ironcast.
One thing I don’t like about it is the absence of additional hotkeys to make gameplay more efficient like in FTL: Faster Than Light. At least in that game, you can do almost anything and pull out every menu with hotkeys. But in this game, the only hotkeys are QWER for your ironcast’s four active skills and nothing else.
It would be nice to have a hotkey to pull out the enemy’s components menu or to end the turn, but you need to do everything with the mouse. For players who like doing things quick, having no hotkeys to speed things up is indeed tedious. But then again, it shouldn’t be too big of a deal since mouse controls are hard to screw up anyway.
Despite what many people would say about this game, there is no conspiracy against you and the AI is not cheating. Since a lot of the gameplay elements are randomized, chance and probability can unfortunately go against you. If you start smelling that familiar fishy stench of the game having been deliberately designed to be not winnable, that’s just gambler’s fallacy working its way through your brain.
But still, not having a less random selection of skills takes away from the strategy portion of this game. It will take several playthroughs in order to get the whole gist of the general winning strategy. Perhaps the silver lining there is that you can max out your profile level and get every global unlock while you’re at it. In any case, that does give this game a good bit of replay value, whether it’s cheap or not.
- Steampunk theme
- Easy-to-understand interface
- Good soundtrack
- Solid mix of turn-based strategy RPG and match-3 puzzle in a rogue-lite package
- Challenging enemies and overall gameplay
- Additional characters and ironcasts, as well as global unlocks, add replay value
- Frustrating difficulty due to randomized elements and AI
- Not enough hotkeys
- Different characters have same dialogue
Despite some chinks in its armor, Ironcast is quite solid on its own. If you're into match-three puzzles and turn-based games, then Ironcast is a fair choice. But if you're a pillar of salt who rages at games like Hearthstone, out of all things, then it may not be recommended for you.
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