As many of you may or may not know: I am not the biggest fan of Kickstarter games. Occasionally, though very rarely, a game may come along that stands out to me on the platform. When a project does interest me, they tend to fall through eventually. But then comes along Ironcast. Personally I never heard or saw of this game before and poof, it’s in my inbox: a steampunk roguelike puzzle RPG out on the Nintendo Switch? I had to dive in.
Platform: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Release Date: March 26, 2015(PC), March 1, 2016(PS4/Xbox) August 10, 2017(Switch)
Price: $14.99 (PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One) $12.99 (Switch)
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review above, or read the full review of the game below.
Ironcast has a slightly different visual approach to the general concept of steampunk. While you will see a familiar Victorian era infulence, it is presented a bit cleaner than typical games in the genre. There is also a bit of future tech mixed into the design, such as laser weapons or characters with items such as robotic arms holding a laser fan.
The various design choices are interesting and blend well together: though they are budgeted and if there was more money in this project, it would have been really interesting to see where the developers could of taken the game.
Layout of the hud seems more complex than it actually is, so new players may be a bit confused in the beginning. But by the nature of the game, players will get used to it the more they play.
The gameplay is a mix of RPG, roguelike, and puzzle game. This mix is surprisingly amazing and refreshing. The game seems extremely hard at first, but the game is actually designed for you to die and try again: making advances through its Commendation Mark system, which gives you buffs, new characters, mechs and abilities. Commendation Marks are gained through puzzles rarely, leaving the majority to be earned on death where you total exp is converted into marks.
Puzzle mechanics are simple and easy to use, but there is an element of resource management in the mix. While it is tempting to go for those massive chain combos, it might end up being counter productive as your resources are caped depending on your mech type and how much you have leveled that specific resource capacity. This is an interesting mix of puzzle elements that will make players think 3 steps ahead if they want to survive.
Skills and attacks can be used freely on your turn, as long as you have the resources for them. This allows players to unleash a devastating set off attacks on their turn if they made the proper preparations. This is probably the most satisfying set of things about the game, especially when it pays off with some big damage.
After missions you will be able to unlock types of gear from your fallen foe, which you can then buy and equip to your mech, giving a variety of bonuses and styles of attack, shields, etc. Drops are never the same, but are rather balanced to progression.
The only real drawback to gameplay is that the game is extremely short, even with its replay-ability and character unlocks taken into account. It would have been nice to have at least five major mission arcs and bosses, but instead we only get two. Once again this is more of a budget constraint, but it should be noted.
The sound and music arrangement of Ironcast is extremely well done and reflects the themes of the universe as a whole. The overall tone is heavy and fits the 1886 aesthetic, which the game is going for, perfectly and is one of the most polished aspects of the game.
Ironcast’s story is a mixture of war and philosophy. The story is straightforward in the beginning and does a major twist midway through. This actually helps to establish the world more and explain the greater ideas the game is trying to convey. This is a literary rarity: as plot twists tend to be used as an opertunity to throw the player / viewer’s preconceived notions of the world out the window.
While the story is enjoyable, it is extremely preachy. This also bleeds into the character archetypes of the game: four women and three men, tied to a private corporation which acts as a PMC (Private Military Company). In their effort to establish the non-historically accurate diversity of England they skip over more interesting topics of the time in which these characters exist. This might turn off some players who are coming into the game thinking they are going to see a story that reflects 1886 England in any real capacity with steampunk tech.
Ironcast is a fun game with great mechanics, set in an interesting world. The game really does not reflect the time frame, but is enjoyable none the less when you move past some of the story and setup elements. Game is a bit short but for the price tag, it’s worth picking up.
Ironcast was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy received from Ripstone. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 8
- Interesting world.
- Great Gameplay.
- Music and Sound design is on point.
- Game is a bit short.
- Can be a bit preachy.