Set in an alternate steampunk version of 1800’s Victorian England, a war has broken out between England and France. A powerful new type of energy called Voltite has been discovered by the French, who refuse to share this amazing revolutionary discovery with the British. Not to be deterred, Britain steals samples of it so they can also have access to this new source of energy. After refusing to return the samples, France declares war on the British Empire. After years of waging war and eventually reaching a stalemate, there was a technological breakthrough that led to the creation of the Ironcast: 7-meter tall bipedal tanks powered by Voltite. They were created by a group of wealthy private citizens who call themselves The Consortium of Merit. The aristocratic commanders of The Consortium now fight in their Ironcasts alongside the British Army to help break the stalemate and end the war once and for all. I think that it is an interesting story, considering that it is essentially a matchmaking game. I’m more than a little biased, though, since I love the Victorian steampunk genre.
Failing a mission by not completing the given objectives or by running out of time doesn’t mean that its game over for you, it simply means that you will have wasted a valuable day and you will not receive any of the completion rewards. Ironcast does have a permadeath feature, however, so if your Ironcast is destroyed in battle say bye-bye to your progression. There is a persistent reward system in place that makes Ironcast worth playing over and over again without making you feel like you’re wasting your time, which I feel is very important when featuring permadeath in any videogame. During a playthrough, you can earn commendations. These can be found rarely on the grid during battles. The only other way to get them is when you do eventually get game over, you are rewarded with one commendation for every 10,000 experience points that you’ve earned during your run. You can spend your hard earned commendations in the main menu on a bunch of useful things, such as permanent bonuses to scrap and experience earned new augmentations and abilities to be found during the campaign, and new Ironcast and Ironcast commanders to play as. I thought having to restart the game over and over again would be a pain in the ass, but thanks to easily skippable dialogue you can get right back into the action quickly.
The garage is where you prepare yourself in between missions, and the only place where you can save your game. You can pay scrap to restore the hull health of your Ironcaast (it doesn’t automatically replenish after a mission), as well as purchase and equip new parts. You can also equip any special abilities or augments that you have unlocked through leveling up. Once you gain enough experience to level up, you get to choose one of three random upgrades. These can be either special abilities to be used in battle, general augments for your Ironcast, or special augments that can be attached to your weapons and defensive systems to give them bonuses. It adds a cool customization element to the game, but I really don’t like the randomness of the upgrades. It can be frustrating to level up and have nothing decent to choose from.
I have to admit, Ironcast surprised me. When I first heard about it being a roguelike matchmaking game with permadeath, I thought it sounded ridiculous. As it turns out, ridiculous is exactly what I was looking for. The battles are surprisingly addictive and kept me coming back for more, even after getting whupped and having to restart the campaign and the randomized mission structure helps keep things fresh. If you want a fun little puzzle game that’s great on the go, grab yourself a copy of Ironcast.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.
+Great for quick gaming sessions on the go
-The permadeath feature may be a turn-off for some players