Produced after a successful crowd funding campaign, Ironcast has finally made its way from PC to console. Was it worth the wait? Ironcast is an intriguing and absorbing combination of ideas. On the one hand, it is a steampunk mech title set in an alternative version of Victorian England. In this world combat is dominated by huge seven-meter tall bipedal destruction machines known as Ironcasts. But also the game, which is heavily inspired by science fiction writers such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, borrows much of its gameplay mechanics from colour matching titles such as Jewel Frenzy and Bejeweled.
The twist here is that in Ironcast you match five different coloured nodes to load your tank up with various resources. The nodes are orange nodes for energy, purple nodes give you ammo, blue nodes take care of your coolant which keeps your systems running smoothly while green nodes repair your Ironcast. Yellow nodes provide scrap which is the currency of the game. There are also nodes that allow you to link colours together so you can, theoretically at least, pick up two or three different types of nodes at the same time which give you a huge advantage in battle.
It is how and when you match these nodes that makes Ironcast a challenging, sometimes frustrating and always rewarding gaming experience. During battle you have to anticipate your enemies moves and counteract them as quickly as possible. Think rock, paper, scissors but with tanks and you’re half way there. If you suspect the enemy is going to try to repair his or her system, you might want to unleash your big guns as quickly as possible. However, if they’re likely to be aiming for your damaged Ironcast on the next go, it might be an idea to raise your shields and head for the hills.
Wisely the developer, Dreadbit Games, has included a facility that makes losing a game slightly easier to stomach. If your mech is destroyed at the end of a game any enhancements that have been unlocked using the Commendation Marks you earn will carry over to the next playthrough. Brilliant. In practice this means that, after you’ve failed a few times, your Ironcast will be born again hard and you’ll be able to wipe the floor with most of your enemies through the early games. Sweet. The boss battles are much more demanding however, and you really have to be on top of your game to make your way past them.
In between levels you are returned to the hanger where you can repair your damaged Ironcast and if you have any currency (scrap) left over, you can purchase upgrades on your weapons and shields.
Ironcast’s hand drawn art style represents nothing less than a visual treat. The characters look amazing and each has its own personality and intriguing back story. After just a short while playing the game you find yourself sucked into its alternative vision of southeast Victorian England and promising yourself that you’ll have just one more go before hitting the sack. And then your alarm goes off and you realize that you’ve been playing through the night.
If we had any gripes at all with this game, it would be with the decision to have text-based dialogue rather than actors providing voice overs. With a game like this that boasts such high production values, voice acting would have been the icing on the cake.
Ironcast offers a unique turn based gaming experience unlike anything we’ve played before. Yes, its tough and can be a little frustrating. But, boy is it fun. If you enjoy games that force you to think and plan while also leaving a role for luck to play, this has to be on your gaming list.
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