Ironcast is a new game coming to Nintendo Switch next week from developer Dreadbit and published by Ripstone. Here’s a little excerpt from the press release to give you a preview:
Ironcast is a turn-based strategy game set in an alternative Victorian history; where refined men and women command gigantic mechanised war machines, laying waste to enemies of the British Empire. As Commanders of the Consortium of Merit, players take control of their own 7 metre tall walking Ironcast to defend 1880’s Victorian England from an invading force of enemy Ironcast.
What I found most interesting about Ironcast is that while it is a turn-based strategy game, it’s not as simple as I fire and then they fire. It combines normal turn-based play with the ever popular icon matching mechanic found in popular titles like Candy Crush and Futurama: Game of Drones. Ironcast includes several different items or icons. Some provide ammo for weapons, others provide power for defensive measures. A third is a coolant that helps keep your systems from overheating. There’s an item for repair work and finally scrap that can be used for upgrades between missions. There are special nodes that pop up from time to time that either boost your matches or allow linking, which is really cool when it lands in the right spot. Linking allows you to, for example, match three ammo then the link and then four power. Since you only get two matches per turn, the links can really help boost your nodes in a time of need.
To be honest, I’ve never really been a fan of these matching style games and have tried to get on the bandwagon each time a new one hits big. With that said, using this as simply a mechanic in a larger game is a lot of fun and provides a unique twist on standard turn-based strategy games. My girlfriend compares Ironcast to Puzzle Quest and says a lot of the basic mechanics are similar.
You’re given 9 days before the big bad is available to encounter. In those days missions are randomly made available to you. Some are as straight forward as attack and destroy an enemy Ironcast. Others are more complicated, asking you to retrieve certain items or to hold out for a certain number of days. The varying mission types keep the game play fresh. Additionally, you always have options. You’re basically provided three mission options on any given day. They are color coded, some medium difficulty, others hard.
Once the time runs out, you must face the final mission. I’ll be straight with you, my first time around was not successful. I failed one mission because I damaged an enemy Ironcast’s part that I was meant to salvage (more on that in a minute) and then I died during the final battle. Dying is a BIG deal in this game. Death is permanent. Once you die, you’re dead and the game is over. Now items and other unlocked things carry over. It’s as if your people have gained this technology and knowledge and you are stepping in as a new Ironcast pilot the next time around. Think of it like getting all your stuff back from your zombie self in ZombiU but you don’t have to kill your old body.
Now, I do want to complain, for a second, about the missions where you have to retrieve a particular component from an enemy Ironcast. My first time doing this, I had the shields targeted and wanted to harvest the drive. Somehow, even though I was targeting the shields, my weapon hit the drive and damaged it. Mission failed. Just like that. A failed mission results in far fewer rewards, making it harder to repair your Ironcast and essentially wastes a day. Since it was random chance and not a mistake of my own doing, this was pretty frustrating. But hey, if that’s my big complaint, I think we’re ahead.
Anyway, after each mission, you return to base where you can repair your mech and perform upgrades. Upgrades include new weapons, new shields, new armor, etc. Essentially, if it’s something you can use or have damaged during a mission, you can upgrade it at some point. Upgrades are handled via blueprints that are earned at the end of successful missions. They are random, so you might not get the ones you want right out of the gate. Aside from straight upgrades, you can also earn abilities. Some are passive while others are used in battle and take a certain number of turns to recharge. Abilities might include a bonus on your first attack or interfering with the enemy’s ability to repair on their next turn.
Finally, after completing a game (whether you’ve died or won… though let’s just say winning has some unique advantages) you will receive commendations that can be used to unlock new features like new pilots and even new Ironcasts. These new features combined with the randomly generated missions provides for a unique and fresh experience each time you start a new game.
Overall, Ironcast is a fresh take on the simple matching games. The late-1800s steampunk aesthetic is a cool and unique atmosphere that doesn’t feel old or repetitive. While I would have preferred some voice acting since the game is text heavy, the game brings you back to the action quickly. Even though you might start the game feeling a bit cocky and overly confident, it will throw wrenches at you (pun intended), making you pause and think twice before committing your next move.
Ironcast hits Nintendo Switch next week and is currently available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One but playing it on Nintendo Switch provides for several options including a fully touch-enabled experience using the Switch tablet and nothing else. Personally, I played it in TV and handheld modes.
I give the game 4 destroyed mechs out of 5.
(Updated 4:52PM EST Aug 8th 2017)