Ironcast has previously released onto other platforms from developer Dreadbit and publisher Ripstone, but now it is the game’s turn on the Nintendo Switch. This game is a perfect fit for this handheld console, as it looks and runs beautifully all the same compared to its other console counterparts. The best addition to the game is that no controllers are required, as you can play the game entirely with the Switch’s touchscreen. Now, Ironcast is equal parts a match-3 as it is a strategy game, and it’s a gem all its own to be more than a clone. Ironcast is difficult, but is a challenge worth undertaking.
The setup for the goings on in Ironcast is that a new material has been discovered on Earth, and England and France are at war over it. The war reached a stalemate, until the Ironcasts came along. Now there are only 9 days to save London from annihilation. This has renewed the war flame in the 1880s, and this Victorian Steampunk setting is all you need for some hot mech on mech match-3 fighting. With London aflame in the backdrop, the game appears to be like Puzzle Quest, except it is a much deeper game that you learn more about by simply playing. This is a roguelike, with elements of persistence and permanent unlocks, but you will die often.
You get three matches per turn, and can match multiples of Repair, Weapon Ammo, Energy, and Coolant gems. They are all pretty explanatory, and this is where the strategic element of the game comes into play. Learning what to try to match up in what order is the key to survival and success. Sometimes a turn has to go by where you repair yourself instead. Modifiers of link nodes let you mix and match two to three types of gems together to get all systems ready. In addition, matching also nets you XP for unlocking abilities. Once you’ve done all you can do, it is time to end your turn and let the enemy retaliate or buff themselves before attacking or taking more damage from you.
There are some defensive capabilities, provided you have enough energy can enable. For instance, you have three speeds at which you can walk, and the faster you move, the less chance the enemy has to hit you. You can also raise shields this way, and any damage you do sustain is reduced and lasts longer the more you invest in it. Weapons will change often throughout your playthroughs, but the primary and secondary weapons can be fired provided you have enough charged ammo, and the secondary weapon is best against shields, while the primary weapon is best for exposed metal and can really take down an enemy’s health.
This is a tactical game, and while it seems frantic at times, during the time where you’re matching gems, you have all the time to do so and aren’t restricted in making a proper decision. Missions aren’t very different from one another. You’ll either be tasked to take out one to two mechs in a given fight, or been in a survival mission where you have to hold out for arbitrary period of time until it is time to evacuate. These missions are the most stressful as everything is on the line as resources and health is dwindling.
The game has active or passive abilities when you level up, these help you during your play session. Any damage sustained must be repaired in the bay of the workshop after a mission is completed. This is also the only place the game saves. So the time to exit out is here. The workshop is where you’ll use blueprints you’ve gathered to unlock new weapons or parts. If you die, you have a cumulative XP that’s earned for your “account”, and will earn commendation marks to buy buffs for your character that are permanent. It is here where you’ll unlock new pilots and Ironcasts to be used in the game over the defaults, as there are unique bonuses and traits to each.
Ironcast is governed by luck most of the time, and can feel a bit unforgiving. The first missions which serves as the tutorial gives a false sense of security. The difficulty is set to easy, but all subsequent ones are medium, and you never feel like you become strong enough, fast enough. So it is where you’ll grind alot of early missions to build out your starting buffs to XP, health, and armor. There are moments throughout the game where you have choices in dialogue, but you can sometimes miss them if you go too fast (sometimes the dialogue while entertaining is repeated or you’re just ready for some action). This is perhaps a personal problem, but these choices matter and you can instantly fail a mission by picking the wrong option, so I wish those confirmations should have been relegated to a different button instead of the one that advances the dialogue. But that’s a small issue in what is such a great game.
Ironcast is simply perfect for the Nintendo Switch. It’s great hooking it up to a TV, it’s great on the go, and the performance never falters. The use of the touchscreen without the need to use the controllers is so smart and an underutilized option in other games. Ironcast‘s difficulty shouldn’t be off-putting, and the game is as deep as the Earth’s crust. That is to say that it’s not impenetrable, but there’s a lot going on underneath the surface. What you’ll find is an enjoyable and rewarding game over time.
A pre-release Nintendo Switch eShop code was provided by the publisher for review purposes