Ironcast is a console port from a popular indie game on Steam. The game began on Kickstarter and quickly gained popularity. When I first downloaded it I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it was going to be a simple puzzle game, but once I started playing I learned that this game is far more complex.
At a glance this game looks like a simple match three game, much like many of the mobile games out today that are simply copied and pasted onto different themes. As I dove in it was clear that this game requires much more strategy than any other matching game and offers a lot more.
The year is 1886 and you are a British Commander of a steam punk style mech suit called an Ironcast defending your country against an invasion by the French. In the story the British government couldn’t afford to produce the Ironcasts for military use so they were built by the wealthy upper class militant group known as the Consortium of Merit.
I began the tutorial which first explained the different types of nodes and what happens when you match them. Purple is ammo, required to fire at the enemy. Orange is energy, required to power your shields and movement. Blue is coolant, which prevents your systems from overheating. Green are repair nodes used to fix weapons, shields, or drivers (the mech suit’s legs). Yellow nodes don’t show up as often and represent bonus scrap you can pick up. I began making matches when suddenly the tutorial dropped off entirely, without warning, and I was left to fend for myself. I did fine until the campaign progressed to the next level of difficulty. I then failed swiftly and miserably. I was booted back to the start menu where I had to start all over. I hit “new game” and opted in to the tutorial but this time it didn’t start at all. It took another try to get it started over again and to get all the way through it. Once I was able to finish it the game made a lot more sense, but that is a pretty big glitch.
Ironcast became even more complex when it added the ability to chose which of the enemy’s systems to target, explained that each turn only allows three matches, and intricacies like passive abilities and special nodes like the power core, bonus node, and chain.
While you can only make three matches per turn, you can take as many actions as you can afford to do every turn. Ammo, energy, coolant, and repair all max out at a certain number which can be increased by leveling up and purchasing upgrades. Your actions are to fire (you have 2 weapons), raise your shield, or drive forward, which decreases the enemy’s chance to hit you. Each of the four systems can be repaired by using repair nodes you have collected to regain hit points. It is pretty simple in the beginning to raise your shields and movement to two (out of three max) and fire three times. Versus the weaker French Ironcasts you can even destroy your opponent in one turn, given you have enough matches and resources. As the difficulty increases so does the game’s generosity with the nodes you need and the ability to make long chains.
Passive abilities are activated at any time during your turn and have a turn count cool down. The abilities include missiles and other special attacks and abilities to turn nodes in to power nodes that can give you bonuses or allow you to link two node chains together for two matches in one.
After battle you are taken back to the workshop where you can repair your Ironcast to full health before the next battle and purchase upgrades for your weapons, different weapons, Commanders, Ironcast types, and other passive abilities that act more like perks called augmentations. These can boost your HP and give you other permanent bonuses. All of this is done by spending scrap or special tokens earned with every mission.
When you’re ready for the next mission you are taken to a map screen with a few different missions to choose from. The game offers battle missions as well as survival, collection, trade, and salvage. Battle is defeating one or more Ironcast (or is it Ironcasts?) by any means necessary. In survival you are tasked with surviving a certain number of turns while being bombarded by enemy Ironcast(s). There are three different types of collection; collecting a specific amount of scrap within a time limit, collecting as much scrap as you can within a time limit, and collecting salvage while destroying your opponent. If you the mission requires you salvage and defeat your enemy you can only attack one of the Ironcast’s systems or you will not be able to salvage enough. Boss battles complete the map and take you to the next part of the campaign. A big drawback of the game is that it does not save any of my progress until the boss battle is defeated. This is a major flaw as you have to complete two medium difficulty missions and one hard difficulty mission before the boss battle, which is the highest difficulty mission, and some of them pit you against more than one Ironcast. That is a lot of work that can easily be lost if you don’t get enough of the right nodes, miss shots, or make one mistake.
The story is all text and dialog between your character and a member of the Consortium of Merit telling you what to do next and even includes a few missions that give you a choice between what to do next, which Ironcast you’d rather battle, things like that, in text based adventure fashion. If you are not a story gamer you have the ability to skip it all (except the ones where you have to chose something). The writing for the game is decent and stays true to the up-turned nose British noble vocabulary you would expect from British people who call themselves a consortium of merit. It gives the game a bit of a silly feel that adds to the fun. The music in the game is mediocre background music that doesn’t really give or take away anything from the game.
All in all this game is fun but it definitely needs a lot more work. Ironcast is definitely a great concept that does not seem to have been ported to console well. Still, a few patches and this game would be amazing.
The Final Verdict: 6/10
+ Fun dialog
+ Intricate gameplay
– Tutorial glitch
– Save points are few and far between