Blockbuster Gaming – Ironcast
Ironcast is a nice download title that manages to mix together the elements of gem-matching, mech battles and rogue-like meta-unlocks to keep you playing far beyond your first, second or even third perma-death.
At first, everything seems a bit complicated. You’ve got a central board filled with gems/symbols and each of these is linked to your mech’s systems, which in turn help you to both attack and defend against aggressive mech’s as you take on missions. It only takes a few missions to work out that your most important focus is on gaining enough orange symbols to raise your shields and get your mech moving (giving it an evade bonus). Then it’s just a matter of matching enough purple symbols to gain ammo and use one of your two weapons to blow the crap out of your enemies. You get two matching turns per round, and there are also bonus symbols that gain you extra-powered attacks. Also thrown into the mix are link symbols that let you combine chains of two different types so that you can effectively have two turns in one go.
Everything you do consumes coolant (blue symbols) and you must collect green repair symbols to repair damage to your systems. So yes, there’s a fair bit to manage. However, it doesn’t take long for a bit of a rhythm to become your standard approach to things: raise your shields, get moving, fire off a few pot shots, pray the enemy doesn’t land a direct hit on your shield systems.
What is most interesting is how the game is fundamentally stacked against you, so that when you are defeated, you die permanently. This is going to happen to you a lot. I’ve gone through about seven “lives” and each time I’ve punched just a little bit further into the game’s main missions. I’m still a long way from feeling confident enough to take on the optional “hard” missions, let alone worry about the creeping countdown of the ultimate end mission (you’re given a set of days in which to get strong enough to face the showdown – I haven’t gotten close to it yet).
You’d think this would become frustrating, but the game is positioned to make perma-death but a small inconvenience. When you die, your total XP is tallied and you’re awarded special commendation points that can be spent before you start a new game. There are heaps of different perks to spend these on, such as permanent XP, health and damage boosts, as well as brand new (more powerful) mechs and new starting commanders, who each have their own perks. For example, I just unlocked a commander for 10 commendation points that repairs my weakest system by 15% whenever I match six or more symbols. It’s these combinations of perks, commanders and mechs that compel you to start over again, even though you know you’ll likely end up at the splash page before long.
Combat is quite exciting, especially once you’ve unlocked a few passive and active powers from levelling up. I did, however, find the constant difficulty a bit frustrating, in terms of needing to spend most of my earnings on healing my mech after each battle, which left me constantly struggling to buy better weapons and shields. It’s also hard to escape the feeling that the AI is cheating a bit, particularly because you can only see your own board and have no idea what options they have “off-screen”. It would be far more tactical to see you enemy’s options so that you could weigh up whether to take a breather and repair or if you need to shove everything into your shields. Even just the ability to flip the board around to see your opposition’s options would have worked.
I’ve found Ironcast to be an addictive title that keeps me coming back for more, even up against all the other fun titles vying for my time on the Switch. The price point of just over $20 AUD is reasonable. I’ve gotten a good five or six hours so far out of it and can see myself coming back for more.