by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Tally-ho, old chap
Victorian Era England has been feuding with the French over a valuable mineral known as Voltite, with which mech-like weapons known as Ironcasts were made. Since the British had stolen some of the French supply, the French have retaliated by invading England. It is then up to you in your Ironcast to defend Queen and Country in this alternative reality war.
Gameplay in Ironcast is basically made up of two parts. You start by fitting out your Ironcast with various weapons and shields, and select (if any) which augmentations – more on this later – you wish to employ in the next battle. Then, it is off to the battlefield to complete the chosen mission suited up in your metallic steampunk version of a Star Wars AT-AT.
Fire up the engine
The battlefield has two Ironcasts facing off against each other in one on one battles (although you could actually do battle with more than one enemy over the course of a particular mission). Using the weapons and shields at your disposal, gamers take turns in attempting to destroy the opposing mech, repairing their damaged parts or shoring up their defences before the next wave of destruction. Unfortunately, resources are limited and this is where the gem matching comes in.
The four resources, Ammo, Energy, Coolant and Repair make up the small grid of gems in the centre of the screen. Linking three or more of the same coloured gem (each of the four resources is colour coded) vertically, horizontally or diagonally adds that amount to the resource bar for that type. The more you link, the more that gets added to the resource meters. Each turn only allows for up to three matches, so some strategy comes into working out whether you choose to join a small amount of a required resource or to join more resource gems of a lesser needed resource.
The grid is reasonably small being only 6x6, so there aren’t too many chances for massive links of gems, especially since there are the four coloured resource gems. This is probably just as well though, because the storage reserves for the various resources are quite small. For example, the repair resource has a storage capacity of ten, so matching more than ten gems is largely useless (although bonus XP is awarded for larger chains). There are however a number of specialty gems that enable gamers to link different coloured gems, one that applies an ‘overdrive’ function to the battle and special scrap gems that are used to help gain upgrades.
Once an Ironcast’s hull has been reduced to zero, the match is often over, although some missions require you to survive for a certain number of turns or to defeat an enemy without destroying one of the four parts: weapon A, weapon B, Drive Unit and Shield. At the end of a battle, players are awarded XP, Scrap and upgrade blueprints depending on their performance. XP goes towards levelling up, which in turn grants a passive (personal) augmentation for your character, an Ironcast ability for your current machine or a systems augmentation. The bonus scrap combined with the scrap collected during the battle allows for Ironcast upgrades to be purchased for the four previously mention sections, as well as boosting the hull or creating larger storage reserves for collecting the resources.
Once your Ironcast has been destroyed, the game is over and all the XP you have gained through the missions gains global augmentations, unlocking new characters and Ironcast types.
Visually, Ironcast isn’t anything to write home about. Sure, the Ironcasts have a wonderful steampunk design, but the backgrounds are dreary and lifeless and the game board, although bright and colourful, is still somewhat staid. The background music, on the other hand is actually quite good. The dramatic score is one that you would hear from a superhero movie as the hero is about to dispose of the threat to humanity. Other sound effects are fairly standard though.
Ironcast certainly is a little bit of fun, initially. But as you grind your way through mundane turn based battles, one mission feels like the next. Certainly, the goal may be slightly different from one mission to the next, but it is simply match gems and then use them to attack the enemy Ironcast. Rinse and repeat. The narrative doesn’t do much to make things interesting either, especially after the first playthrough. The upgrades and unlocks do add something to the game, but I found that the Ironcast and character you begin with were most suited to my play style anyway. And although the dramatic music does set the heroic scene nicely, there is never the urge to want to continue the alternate reality war for longer than necessary.
Nice take on gem matching games
Story is not very deep, gameplay is unexciting