Kickstarter-funded project Ironcast is a turn-based match-3 game set in an alternate steampunk Victorian era in which Britain and France are duking it out in large iron mechs over the development of a new power source. The game takes the match-3 puzzle formula and blends it with RPG elements such as levelling and permadeath.
Ironcast is a turn-based match-3 game in which you use the Bejewelled-like grid system to generate consumables for your mech, including Ammunition for your weapons, energy to power your defences, coolant to cool down offensive and defensive systems and tools for repair. Special tiles such as the Link nodes to grab multiple resources and Overdrive nodes for critical successes making your collections more efficient and overall make the connect-3 gameplay all the more addictive. While the gameplay is turn-based you can continue to perform actions as long as you possess enough resources and with 3 attempts to collect tiles each turn so there’s a good amount of strategic depth. An added strategic element is being able to target specific enemy components so if there’s a particular weapon causing you problems you can take it out with a couple of rounds forcing the enemy to use resources repairing system, of course this also applies to your mech which is where the tool resources come in.
The Hanger is the main hub of the game here you can spend scrap to repair yourself before the next brawl and build improved weaponry and defences from blueprints gathered as mission rewards for your mech. The game also throws RPG elements into the mix; each mission rewards you with experience points and you can gather even more by connecting up more resources in the puzzle grid. Levelling up can net you augmentations for your character and Ironcast which can be checked and switched out within the hanger. Mission rewards and levelling rewards are random so each run sees you taking a different approach which can mean that success on a certain run comes down to simple luck.
Permadeath plays a big role in the game. If you are destroyed before repelling the invasion you have to start over from day one. Having all of the progress you made lost can be a real downer, however you gain experience after each run which can result in new characters, Ironcasts and permanent stat boosts so you are constantly getting stronger despite dying. Still, the worst feeling with starting over is if you’ve gone out because of an unlucky turn in which the puzzle didn’t provide enough of a certain resource. It does offer a good challenge with 9 days (equivalent of 9 missions) to try and survive against the waves of enemies and reach the boss encounter in London which can seem like a monumental task in the early few attempts. But it doesn’t finish there as once you have cleared the main objective you are then presented with an additional 6 days to fend off another batch of enemies.
Each mission is procedurally generated with various objectives including surviving for a set amount of turns, defeating the enemy without damaging a certain component to gain added rewards, and collecting information or supplies such as Tea Leaves through connecting new icons in the Bejewelled grid. The battles are all essentially the same thing but this change does add a bit more diversity to the gameplay. With each mission being random each time you restart with different rewards and levelling bonuses you can never really approach the game the same way each time. Each run gives you a different set of priorities to focus on whether that is offensive or defensive play, obtaining a higher number of man power to reduce level difficulties or better balancing your augmentations to complement each other.
Overall the game’s presentation is rather dull; the 2D backgrounds are rather bland with little variation between environments. Characters consist of just static portraits during cutscenes and even the mechs, while slightly more complex and detailed, are boring to look at.
Ironcast’s match-3 gameplay is incredibly addictive and the RPG elements mixed with random rewards allow you to choose different priorities to keep the game moving and stop it from becoming stale. The basic presentation of the game leaves something to be desired and the luck based element can at times be rather frustrating, but the amount of strategic possibilities coupled with after death rewards make this a highly addictive puzzle game.
This review is based off a review code of Ironcast provided by Dreadbit
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.