The Switch library keeps on growing. While the big AAA titles seem a little lacking, the indie, or Nindie, support is phenomenal. Ironcast is the newest addition to that Nindies library, offering a game genre I’m sure we’ll see more of. Of course, the developers Dreadbit’s take on the puzzle genre is certainly not typical; in fact, it’s one of the most interesting takes on the genre I’ve played.
Dreadbit describes Ironcast as a turned-based strategy game, but I don’t know if I’d call it that exactly. Sure, it involves thinking and strategy, but it acts more like a match-three puzzle with strategic and RPG elements. However, that’s not to say it’s a bad game. Aside from a few omissions, Ironcast offers a thrilling Steampunk experience that Bejeweled lovers will enjoy.
Britain: “The French are Invading!” Me: “Hold My Tea.”
In Ironcast’s steampunk influenced world, the French are invading Britain, taking away their land, rations, and tea. The British are recovering from the initial invasion, relying on brave men and women to protect the country and save the Queen. But, the enemy has equally skilled pilots operating Mechs known as Ironcast. It’s up to you to pilot your own Ironcast, gathering supplies and troops, preparing for the inevitable battle with France’s strongest force.
Combat is relatively simple, once you grasp all the possible moves in a single turn. There are four puzzle pieces (nodes) essential to powering your steam-powered Mech. By matching two or more of the same node, you add that much ammo, energy, coolant, or repair to your tank. With this fuel, you can raise your defense and evasion, repair your Mech, or fire missiles. The longer the streak you match, the more experience points and other bonuses you get. However, you only have two tries each turn to match nodes. This requires thinking ahead to what you’ll need and what could happen on your opponent’s next turn.
The game also has an RPG element to it as you upgrade your Ironcast from resources gained in battle. Weapons, defense, evasion, and the hull itself are all capable of being upgraded if you have the money. That, plus the previous mentioned turn-based combat, gives the game greater depth than the vast majority of puzzle games on the market. You really are preparing for the upcoming battle for Britain.
Permadeath is Real. Very Real.
When I figuratively first sat down in my Ironcast, I found myself blowing through some of the first missions easily. Confidently, I started the next mission thinking I was prepared for anything. A few turns later, the enemy completely wiped the floor with my Mech, and the dreaded Game Over sign fell onto the screen. It’s at that point I remembered the words of the publishers Ripstone, “Permadeath is real!”
After getting a Game Over, whether from exploding into pieces or quitting the mission, you lose everything from that campaign. You start from the very beginning; although, you can skip the tutorial entirely, which is a welcomed feature. HOWEVER, dying does have its benefits. When you finish or end a campaign, the game awards you with Commendation Marks for every 5,000 points of experience you’ve collected. These tokens are exchanged for new commanders, Ironcasts, and other upgrades to benefit your next campaign.
Oddly enough, this actually added to my experience overall. But, not at first. The first few times, I was livid. I spent all that time taking out the French and stealing back the tea, yet the game just took it all away from me. You’re colder than the iron used to build Mechs, game. However, I gained valuable assets from ending the campaign, which made completing future missions possible. This system gives Ironcast replayability and a higher level of strategy it would otherwise lack.
The Steampunk World of Ironcast
Steampunk culture, in general, has always fascinated my imagination. Although I’m not an enthusiast, I like the style and aesthetics associated with the theme. Ironcast delivers on that steampunk feel for the most part. The menus and battles systems are beautifully stylized with metalwork and machinery. Likewise, the Mechs breathe steam-powered fashion into the game.
There are, however, some places where it could’ve used a little more art direction. For example, some of the characters you interact with don’t have their own art, like Lord Butler. Butler guides you through the tutorial, so his role isn’t huge, but characters like that still deserve their own face. The same goes for certain enemies and allies. Of course, knowing the price of the game, I understand not having art for every NPC, but a little more would add a lot more to the experience.
I Say, You’re Ironcast Looks Smashing!
The Switch version of Ironcast doesn’t differ too much from previous versions. It does add some improvements that make for an overall better campaign, and the developers thankfully included previous DLC. Yet, what makes this version shine from the rest is the Switch.
Let me explain. Playing Ironcast wherever, whenever is fantastic. It’s great for a relaxing train ride or a quiet night at home. The versatility in how you play is fantastic as well. Even the touchscreen acts as a completely viable way to play. This version of Ironcast fits the needs and play style of most individuals. Of course, you could credit the Switch itself, but I think Dreadbit did a fantastic job making their game work in every way on the Switch.
Although, there is one thing I wish I saw. Throughout my playthrough, I couldn’t help but think how great it would be to take my Ironcast online and battle. Unfortunately, a multiplayer mode of any kind is absent, and this is true for all versions. Multiplayer isn’t everything, I know, but pitting my Mech against other players just sounds fun. Of course, adding an online mode would create new challenges for Dreadbit, and a single player experience was most definitely their focus.
Ironcast stands out from any puzzle game on the Switch with its strategic gameplay and unique replayability. Going through the pains of permadeath may be difficult, but like metal thrown into the refiner’s fire, it molds you into a better player and is well worth it. Ironcast is a great addition to any puzzle lovers Switch library.