Ironcast Review: Everything is Better with Mechs

February 27th, 2016 -

Ironcast is one of those games that started out as a Kickstarter and actually came to fruition. Funded October 3rd, 2014, the game made its debut on PCs March 26th, 2015, and it was announced that day that the game would be crossing over to consoles later that year. While it didn’t make it in 2015, it has surfaced just short of a year after the PC version.

Ironcast PS4 Screenshot (2)

This may look like a Match-3 game on its surface, but it actually is quite a bit more than that. If you had to compare it to a single game, it’s most like something in the Puzzle Quest series. The nodes that you’ll be matching are a way of building experience, and more importantly, resources. Resources in a mission are necessary to perform actions, such as raising defenses, repairing damaged components, or attacking. The size of the node chain determines how many resources you’ll collect, although there is a cap for each one that keeps the game from becoming easy.

The game appears to do a lot in fours: resources, augments, characters, ironcasts, ironcast parts… By no means a bad thing as it offers variation for each playthrough you’ll be doing. After all, this was made with the intent of being a roguelike (read: you’ll die a lot). A campaign consists of 14 days (14 missions) before being faced with the game’s boss. Your goal is to be as well suited with your Ironcast as possible prior to this fight, in addition to gaining enough war assets to lower the initial health of said boss. If it helps, think of FTL. You choose which mission you’ll face on a map, each with a list of rewards and the situation, as well as difficulty. After you choose, the left over missions are no longer available, so you have to make decisions such as upgrading your hull or boosting your assets – which will ultimately be more helpful?

Ironcast PS4 Screenshot (4)

So let’s talk about the meat of the game. A mission can play out a few different ways – it can be a straight up battle, a survival mission, or item collection – there are some more intricacies to each of these, but in broad terms, that’s what you’ll be doing. So if you’re just starting the game, you can expect this to be true: matching nodes to fill your resource pools while bolstering your defenses (assuming you aren’t going for the achievement of not using defense). Your weapons charge your first time around, but you can use an ability that your Ironcast has equipped which fires rockets if you want to start things off in your favor. So after matching nodes for energy (orange), you’ll utilize them and your coolant (blue) to begin evasive maneuvers and/or put up shields. Unlike the other things in the game, you can only boost these three times instead of four, and they drop a level each turn, so you need to continue pouring resources into them. During your second turn your weapons will be done charging and ready for use, so if you don’t have them already, now would be a good time to get some ammo (purple). It’s worth noting that if you have some already, you can go into your second turn guns blazing, and then get more for a second wave. Take heed that using your weapons also uses coolant, and if you go too low, you’ll end up damaging yourself with every action. You’re not limited to the resource collection at any point of your turn – you are allowed node matching three times per turn, and when you have exhausted your moves for the turn, you will forfeit control over to the AI. If the enemy manages to do enough damage to either of your weapons, your drive, or your shields, you can make use of the repair nodes (green). These will bring you back in the fight if something destroyed was vital to the battle. This process will continue until you win or lose based on health, turns, or items collected in the node matching.

Following a mission you’ll be rewarded with scrap (the game’s currency) and experience. Leveling up will result in more health as well as three augments to choose from, which will either be passive, equipment based, or an ability for your Ironcast. These can sway the battle from a borderline win to a most triumphant win. Other potential drops from a battle will include schematics for gear that the enemy possessed. You can choose to make that gear using the scrap you obtain from matching scrap nodes and from the mission spoils. Naturally, some of these items will be better than others. The likelihood of the gear being better after a hard mission opposed to a medium difficulty mission is obviously much higher. And as you have probably become accustomed to, colors correspond to the rarity of each item, often making the item better than the more common gear.

Ironcast PS4 Screenshot (5)

When you die, you are faced with starting a new campaign. Of course, in this day and age of roguelikes, there isn’t a whole lot of incentive to try again without incentive. So of course there is some carry over, the most notable being tokens that let you buy things from the main menu, such as a new commander, augments, and new Ironcasts. After doing this, you can look forward to getting further in the campaign than the last time having learned from your past mistakes. Be warned though, it takes quite some time before the game can be called “easy.” Time and luck with drops play heavily in this game.

Ironcast takes the popular Match-3 genre and adds quite a bit of depth to it. While the game looks and feels like it would fit best on a mobile or portable device, it plays well on the console. The story is negligible for the most part, with the dialogue attempting humor (if you play it, just wait until you do the tea mission) by poking fun of itself. The gameplay is solid, assuming you are into this kind of gameplay. I know the thought of tactics and mechs may make you think of Ring of Red or Front Mission, and while this isn’t one of those, it does a good job of what it wants to be. Looking back at the kickstarter campaign, the PS4 version of the game accomplished what it set out to do, and that’s something Dreadbit should be proud of with the backlash of Kickstarter games and their publicised failures.

BUY

Pros

  • Surprisingly In-Depth
  • Difficult but Fair
  • Innovative Use of Match-3

Cons

  • Tired Story/Dialogue
  • Mission “Variety”

Ironcast was developed by Dreadbit and published by Ripstone. The game launched on PC March 26, 2015, and will be available on PS4 March 1st, 2016, and X1 March 4th, 2016 for $14.99. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Ironcast, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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