by Kenneth Kok
previewed on PC
A new Great War
What if scientists had invented mechs in the early 20th century? We will get to explore this very concept in Iron Harvest. The game takes place just after the Great War of 1914-1918 in an alternative Europe created by artist Jakub Ró?alski, with a specific focus on the region around Germany, Poland and Russia. Fascinated by technology, humankind invents walking machines (mechs) which then play a decisive role in ending the Great War. A few years after, secret forces work to destabilize Europe once again. Another war erupts, giving new purpose to the walking machines.
The Saxony Empire is based on Germany and the most industrious country after the Great War. As the losers of the Great War, they suffer from demoralization due to the many concessions and reparations they had to make, and are still making. Elites and aristocrats, humiliated by the defeat, are plotting the downfall of the Emperor. Saxony has the most advanced mechs but they come at a high price. The Polania Republic faction is situated between the other two powers and has an agricultural economy. Polania struggles to stay alive, is still partially occupied by Rusviet and are feverishly trying to modernize their army. They rely mostly on guerilla fighting, stealth combat, and hit & run tactics. Due to a high freedom morale they find it easier to reinforce their lines. The Rusviet are the largest faction with seemingly the most industrial power. Tired and worn out by the longevity of the previous war, the power of the Tsar is weakening due to a frustrated population. Rusviet relies on slow but heavily armored close combat mechs, combined with an endless stream of cheap recruits.
The demo I played at Gamescom felt fresh and exciting. The game draws inspiration from Company of Heroes which clearly came through in the Polania mission that we got to play. Our hero for the day was Anna, a young female sniper who is accompanied by a bear named Wojtek. Before we started, we were warned multiple times that they key to winning was cover and to make good use of the various squad types. Soldiers are very vulnerable and it proved possible to have a squad being wiped out before I could say “what happened?”. Flanking is equally important, as it does much more damage, and is essential against mechs that have heavy front armor. Rifle squads excel in this and are best used for long range combat against anything except mechs until you find grenades or any other kind of anti-armor weapons. Giving them grenades allows them to keep their rifles as well, giving them hand cannons will make them drop their rifles and move slower. You’ll find heavy equipment too - we encountered cannons and mortars on the map which were very powerful but very slow to move and each of these took a couple seconds to set up.
Maps are large, detailed and very realistic looking - in fact, the game looks amazing. Our mission map played with different heights, had buildings that blew up in pieces, and mechs showed incredible detail. Walking on legs instead of moving around on tracks, they feel as clunky as they should. Under pressure, they stagger, fall over, and have pieces being shot off or blown up. The level of animation is good too, and unit movement especially is very smooth. Soldiers within a squad run, take cover, go prone, or crawl individually. And the special effects don’t stay behind either - explosions, bullet trails, smoke (trails) - they make every battle look and feel like a real battle.
War, not parades
I really liked the design of the mechs. These mechs are from the early 20th century, a time in which it did not matter too much how things looked. There are no smooth curves or shiny surfaces - they are big, heavy tin cans that are raw and and sturdy and meant for battle, not parading.
I can see how Company of Heroes has been an inspiration, but Iron Harvest’s incredible setting really sets it apart from any previous RTS. KING Art Games want to deliver a classic RTS experience but are making it look and feel as modern as any game. Iron Harvest is set to be released on the 1st of September 2020 (1.9.20 - see what they did there?) so we still have to wait a bit.