Ironcast has proved once again that ports are nothing but a plus for Nintendo Switch. The FingerGuns Review;
Ironcast appearing on Nintendo Switch was something that I had imagined when I was throwing together an article of games I’d love to see on the system. This was an article for a site which no longer exists so I sadly can’t throw a link in, but Dreadbit must have obviously read it from start to finish because here we are, a cracker of a game when released on PC and then PS4, Ironcast is one of those games that’s an obvious choice for Nintendo’s handheld hybrid.
I’ll get it out the way right at the top and say this is probably the definitive version of an already great game, and it’s mainly because it’s on the Switch. I have been able to break out Ironcast anywhere the past few days, whether it be on the bus or the train and build up my bad-ass British mechs to take down those pesky French to ensure we keep our mitts on the valuable Voltite, a substance which has been the cause of this particular war. It’s almost as if the game has been waiting patiently to make its move to handheld and with the Switch found its perfect companion. Its portability and the use of the touch screen (perhaps the best so far on the system), ensures this is the ultimate way to win this very Victorian war.
So what is it about Ironcast that makes it so appealing? In a mobile sense, you’re going to notice a very familiar gameplay aesthetic. Bang in the middle of the screen is a grid full of ‘nodes’, each have a different colour. It’s up to you to match at least three nodes of the same colour to earn resources you can use to boost your weaponry, defenses, energy and a cooling system, the latter of which you’ll want to keep topped up throughout lest your Mech overheats.
There are also link nodes where you can link up two different types of nodes, along with overdrive nodes that can boost up your inner systems and scrap nodes which is essentially your currently, allowing you to trade them for upgrades and extra defenses.
Ironcast requires some rather on the spot critical thinking, something I’ve learned to be better at whilst playing this game. You only have so much you can take into battle so you really need to think fast whilst in the field what you’re going to use and what you’re going to sacrifice. Offensively you have a primary weapon (less damage, more shots), a secondary weapon (more damage, shoots once), a walking movement which can increase the likelihood of your enemy missing their attacks. Defensively you have a shield which can absorb attacks. You have little to choose from and the deplete quickly, so you have to hit the grid with some forward thinking, ensuring that you balance out every aspect of your mech’s machinery to its fullest whilst not letting anything else run out. It’s bonkers, and at times feels a little overwhelming, especially at first. There’s a good tutorial but it’s all over rather quickly and then you’re left completely to your own devices. It can look a little bit like a spreadsheet with a steampunk theme splashed on top, but don’t let it put you off, everything on the screen is there to help you and so long as you can work out where you need to boost and when best to utilise your weaponry and defenses, you shouldn’t have too much trouble cracking through the first few battles. Once you’ve got through them it becomes second nature and your Ironcast will become a straight up saviour of the British empire in no time.
Scrap is a very important part of the overall gameplay, and depending on how good your gear is, it’s going to be consumed rather quickly by the coolant and energy, along with the ammo which can disappear rather rapidly if you’re focusing too much on defense. I learned this very quickly back in the days when I played it on PS4, other plays may be different but at least for me defense was the best offense, and the longer you can hold out the attacks from your enemy, by the end you’ll have enough ammo to destroy and have a cup of tea back at base with your fellow comrades before you’re back out in the field again. All four of the systems within your Ironcast can all take damage, so with your limited options you’ll need to take stock of what you really need from the get go. You have to think tactically in Ironcast, rather than just hit the ground running with your primary weapons. You are hugely vulnerable pretty much all the way through, so every decision you make hugely affects whether or not you’re going to win or lose.
Another gun in your arsenal is being able to choose which your opponents systems you can aim for. Aiming at their weapons naturally means they’ll be able to do less damage, or fire to their defenses mean they’re more vulnerable to your offense. Yeah, Ironcast is not easy, it’s tactical strategy at its most unforgiving but it’s so rewarding when it all goes to plan. It may take a while to get it straight in your head – at least it did for me, I sucked at this game for a long time until it all just clicked – but once it does there’s little out there which can match its victorious feeling. Just don’t throw your Switch in the air which I nearly did, those damn things are expensive.
Ironcast is tough as balls then, but you shouldn’t let that intimidate you. The game itself isn’t particularly long, you have around nine missions to coincide with the narrative of the French arriving on your shores in nine days. You can choose your missions in whatever order you like, and everything you need to know before heading in is available to you. You have these ‘nine days’ to boost up your almighty Ironcast for the end battle in London town. Just don’t bother taking on French war machine straight away. I mean, unless you like pain. In which case, go right ahead.
Naturally with the Switch you have the option to play the game in a variety of different ways, namely on the big screen, on handheld or here with the touch screen, and interestingly enough it’s the latter where I’ve found the game to be most comfortable. With the controllers away I’ve found myself walking around with the Switch system and playing without the use of controllers. Any way you choose to play is fine, but it’s nice to see Dreadbit taking the leap and utilising the touch screen, because it’s actually a great way to play Ironcast, and feels very natural.
Visually the game is great on the Switch and particularly pops off the screen. It can be a little tricky at times to read text and button prompts do look a tad small but once you’re in the game controls are second nature anyway. With the Victorian Steampunk aesthetic and some great voice-over, technically it all runs as smooth as you would imagine it would, I’m not sure how much pressure it’s putting on the inner workings of the Switch but it certainly moves along with no hiccups whatsoever. As you battle with your Ironcast across the southern border of Britain you’ll notice different landscaps in the background and whilst they’re all pretty straightforward, there are nice touches and the rather basic colour palette is offset by the grid in the centre, with bright hues used to easily pin point nodes and which ones you should be connecting together. There’s a light-heartedness to the writing too which is welcome, and if you pretend to do the voices yourself you can have some fun. Well, at least I did back in the day when I did the Let’s Play for our old website.
Ironcast has found it’s rightful home on the Switch. It’s tough and can be extremely frustrating but most of that comes from learning how the game operates. It’s unlike most puzzlers out there and will test your patience and skill with aplomb, something Dreadbit is particularly good at. If you’ve played Seraph you would attest to this also.
The game is such an enjoyably taxing and pleasurable romp that it’s easy to lose entire afternoons to it without even noticing. Just ensure you don’t miss your stop if you’re battling the French on the train.
Ironcast is available on 10/08/2017 for £12.99 on Nintendo Switch. It’s available now on PS4, PC and Xbox One.
Publisher: Ripstone Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with an advanced review code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.