Thursday, July 27

Nindie Preview: Ironcast

For people who love a challenge the Nintendo Switch has already delivered quite a lot in its growing library to satisfy. With the release of Ironcast there’ll be yet another added to the pile, but to boot it likely plays differently than anything you’ve tried before. Combining a gem-matching core with heavily strategic gameplay and quite a lot of resource management Ironcast has set itself apart from the pack and created something new well beyond its steampunk aesthetics.

While at a glance it may be reminiscent of the classic Puzzle Quest series, it is a very different animal and amps up the difficulty quite a bit. Early on, while you’re learning the nuances of the strategy and becoming familiar with how best to manage your resources, you’re simply going to lose a lot and probably relatively quickly. The good thing is that even when you lose the experience you’re gaining will slowly contribute to global unlocks that include new pilots and mechs, as well as new potential enhancements so no effort is necessarily wasted. The difference these new unlocks can make is quite substantial and as you go you should be able to find combinations that will better suit your style of playing.

For each round you’ll be given a mission screen with 3 choices to pick from. Not only will some of these missions vary in difficulty but the nature of the mission is also quite vital. To start all of your options are typically for a Battle, pitting you against another mech. If you’re strapped for “cash” you can look for a Trade mission, though you’ll likely need to make a sacrifice in troops that will come back to haunt you in the boss battle. Collection missions will introduce a new resource type to try to match as you play, all while fighting mechs along the way. Once you finally collect enough of that resource the mission will end. Salvage missions can be tricky depending on your weapons loadout since a key part of the mission will be ensuring that you don’t damage one of the enemy mech’s systems… so you’ll want to use targeted shots and weapons only! Finally, there are Survival missions which I've generally come to regard as being ones to avoid since the few I've done have been brutal, trying to simply last a fair number of rounds against formidable opposition.

Within the missions the meat and potatoes of the game is keeping your resources up and looking for either large combos to boost your XP and to clear the board or strategic plays that will set you up for a future combo. You’ll have to manage your ammo, energy, coolant, and repair bars, each of which have different maximum capacities that vary per mech. You’ll need to keep an eye on your 2 weapons systems, your shields, and your drive that lets your mech keep moving. You’ll have to decide whether to focus on getting up your defenses or trying to attack. If you’re attacking, what enemy system are you trying to focus on? If the enemy has their shields up which of your weapons is more appropriate to attack with? Battles will be won and lost by the decisions and plays you make for each turn, and often planning is crucial to success.

As you complete each mission you’ll return having hopefully leveled up (allowing you to pick one of three perks to use), you’ll want to make repairs, and then you’ll need to decide how to spend your accumulated scrap to improve your mech. Will you invest in a better weapon? But which one, a new energy weapon or that single-shot artillery weapon that can punch through shields? Will you raise the capacity on one of your resources? Again, all of the decisions that you can make here can have significant influence on what you’ll be able to do in future missions and could either help or hurt you depending on the enemies you could face.

All of these preliminary fights ultimately lead, then, to boss battles where hopefully you’ve prepared well because you’ll need every perk and advantage you can get to fight these much more formidable opponents. While, at the time, the trade you’d made on an earlier mission got you some scrap to purchase that nice new weapon the troops you’d had to give up to do so would have been helpful in reducing the boss’s often substantial health… so as always with roguelikes nothing is for “free”.

Look for Ironcast to arrive on the Nintendo Switch August 10th!