Ironcast (Xbox One Review)
If Chromehounds and Puzzle Quest merged together to form a strangely compatible whole, then Ironcast would be the outcome of this unnatural matrimony. Chromehounds may not have been the best example to use, but there are giant robots fighting, so it’s close enough. Having invested several hours into Ironcast and came out the other end worse for wear, it’s safe to say this mechanical battlefield isn’t suited for those who aren’t up for a challenge. Developer Dreadbit has combined all the elements of Mech-combat, Arcade Puzzlers, and Roguelikes into their latest steampunk installment.
Set during the Second Industrial Revolution amidst Queen Victoria’s rule, the British and French armies are at war with one another over a valuable and precious mineral called Voltite. Voltite is used to power large foreboding destructive war machines known as “Ironcasts”, developed by a individual third party organisation called the “Consortium of Merit”, a group of elegantly dressed men and women that desire to end this elongated war between the British and the French. Ironcast starts after a carpet bombing orchestrated by the French to thin down the bulk of Britain’s forces and, you guessed it, you’re one of the last few surviving Ironcasts left to fight back against the French. The whole premise now is to gather enough war assets and resources within the next 9 days to stop the impending invasion of the French with one last valiant push.
As the forces of the French draw closer it is up to the player to ready themselves for the final conflict. A single day passes once the player takes action during the game, be it jumping into battle, arranging a trade agreement or going on a salvage mission. If the player is to fail at any point within these 9 days then their campaign progress is wiped and they must start over with whatever commendations (Ironcasts’ unlock currency) they’ve accumulated to unlock new characters and Ironcasts.
The meat of Ironcast is played out like an arcade puzzle game where you must match the same coloured tiles to earn points, or in this case energy to power your Ironcast to fight back against the opposition. The varied colours of tiles represent the sort of energy they give to your Ironcast; ammunition, fuel reserves, coolant and repair parts. Battling opponents is a tricky business as you’ll constantly have to micromanage your Ironcasts’ resources to maximise potential damage output and defensive capabilities within the amount of turns given. Opting to attack the enemy uses up ammunition and coolant which once drained, harms your Ironcast as it starts to overheat, however upping your defenses also uses coolant, so understanding when to go on the defense and when to attack is imperative to success.
After every successful mission you’ll be granted a bountiful collection of XP to level up and scrap metal which can be used to purchase new parts or repair your Ironcast. The downfall however is that the amount of scrap needed to repair your Ironcast after every battle is almost the total of what you made so upgrading your Ironcast is a bit of a pipedream unless your are an incredibly strategic and skillful player. Luckily you do get some free augmentations every time you level up to help combat the negative effect repairing your Ironcast has on your in-game currency. These upgrades are simple buffs and abilities that modify the tile board by increasing the occurrence of rare tiles or giving your Ironcast additional firepower.
The real challenge though is perseverance. You will fail a lot, and there is no question about it, as it is necessary for you’re inevitable progression to unlocking better; mechs, characters, abilities, and even some boosters to help you last longer in a fight or earn more scrap over time. As there isn’t much else to the game, this will be your primary focus. Repetitively trying to better yourself every time you fall, hoping to get a little further each time.
Ironcast is a neatly compiled amalgamation of various video game genres and is fairly intuitive to boot. It’s easy enough to boot up and jump straight in without much handholding, but don’t expect much from Ironcast unless you wish to pack a good few hours into it. The pay off after every battle is satisfying as you narrowly claim victory, but that sense of fulfillment is cut short as your resources are quickly squandered by your Ironcasts’ need for constant repairs. Ironcast is for those who have fortitude and not for those looking for walk through the park.