I remember once hearing that people wrote utopian stories during the bad times, when people needed a unified vision of the kind of world they wanted to be in. Conversely, people wrote dystopian stories during the good times so that we would never forget how bad things could get. I don’t know if any of that is true, but, more importantly, I want to know why people write weird alternate histories with massive diesel powered mechs, because I want more of that.
The long awaited, Kickstarter fueled Iron Harvest has released with all of the stompy, rusty mechs you could want in your real time strategy adventures. Not only that, but it also packs some far fleshier units and some interesting tactical mechanics in as well.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept here, Iron Harvest takes place in the 1920+ universe, offering 3 faction campaigns with some differences between the two. 1920+ is fairly similar to our own history except instead pf building tanks, mankind took the less practical but far cooler option of building big, diesel powered, bipedal war machines. It’s the same universe as the popular board game Scythe or a plethora of art you might stumble across on the internet. It’s certainly an interesting fiction and I always enjoy a good alternate history.
You would think that with such an interesting setting that the story of Iron Harvest would be front and center. While what there is is perfectly enjoyable, the game doesn’t really go to any new or exciting places with its narrative. With three different factions there are stories about an uprising in the oppressed working class, cruel occupiers seeking to keep that uprising down, and huge powers seeking to expand. All fine stories, truth told, but certainly nothing particularly ground-breaking and certainly not anything taking full advantage of the novel universe.
One might think that with the narrative being so standard that the focus of Iron Harvest is likely in the gameplay, and that seems to be the intention here. Iron Harvest keeps its inspirations pretty clear, and fans of the Company of Heroes games will certainly feel at home here. Human units are cheap and versatile, and can easily change classes by picking up a different weapon from a downed soldier or supply cache, opening up new strategies or abilities. That and the ability to stack against cover or inside buildings, brings up some interesting tactical plays that can really turn the tides in any battle. Unfortunately, that’s about as complex as any one exchange of gunfire gets. With the right equipment and the right positioning any fight is going to be fairly straight forward, even if your opponent brought their big bad battle bots to a gun fight. The enemy’s AI certainly won’t do much to save them, often leaving their units out of cover and unprotected, which can leave battles feeling a little anticlimactic.
Truly, the stars of this game are the big oil drinking robots. These building destroying hunks of rusting metal look absolutely lovely and the power that they command can really be awe inspiring. While their presence can certainly turn the tides of any given fight, they are not the impenetrable walking fortresses that they appear to be as good positioning can be a devastating blow to any slow, bulky monstrosity.
I know that I’m coming off extremely negative towards Iron Harvest¸ but in honesty I really do enjoy the game. Missions are focused, fast (At least for an RTS), and full of interesting tactical decisions. The game does not really muck around with much in the way of base building or resource management, with most of your valuable good coming from controlling points, and it leads to a much more focused, blitz style approach.
Iron Harvest’s developers have even continued to support the game after release, adding more multiplayer maps and whatnot to the game. This seems to be the approach KING will continue to take with the game, with seasonal rewards and various unlockable goodies throughout. Unfortunately, with so much more coming the game currently feels a bit like it was rushed to release and that the product suffered for it; ironically, a poor strategy to employ in a strategy heavy game.
I genuinely like Iron Harvest, but it’s hard not to think about the game that it could have been. What is here is plenty fun, but, unless future support really changes things up or improves the dim-witted AI, I worry that these lovely murder machines might sit on the sidelines to gather even more rust.