by Johnathan Irwin
previewed on PC
Inject That RTS Goodness Into My Veins
Those who know me, know that I love most genres of gaming. Thereís very few types of games I wonít play, and those are mostly regulated to Tetris clones. One genre that has become increasingly neglected over the years though, is the real time strategy genre. Meeting its peak in the early 2000s, real time strategy games have never quite had the same foothold as other genres, and among the many that released thereís only a handful that ever became household names. Warcraft, StarCraft, Command and Conquer are likely the ones youíll hear tossed your way. But even now in 2020, there are still some trickling out and some look to pave a way for themselves by taking the formula and applying a new coat of paint to it. I recently got to sit down and take a brief look inside the upcoming Iron Harvest game, and while Iím going to save the majority of my thoughts for the official review I wanted to talk about my first few hours hands-on with the title. Iron Harvest is a crowdfunded RTS that came to be published by Deep Silver, and itís set within the same 1920+ Universe as the tabletop game Scythe.
The 1920+ Universe ponders a first World War that never truly ended, and with industrial revolutions that landed much harder, itís a time of great innovation and incredible peril. One of the bloodiest conflicts known to man in the 20th century has reignited, and joining the infantry on the field this time are massive machines that stand as obelisks of terror on the horizon. Intriguing premise yes? A dieselpunk extension of the WWI era is definitely an idea that is at the very least eye catching. But how does it play?
Back To Basics
Leading up to my own sitdown with the game, Iíd read a small number of outlets as well as YouTube gaming personalities felt a bit underwhelmed by the mechanics of Iron Harvest. As I watched the footage, I wasnít entirely sure what they meant but when I went hands-on I saw the problem; or rather, I saw the problem with their perception. While everyone has different tastes and preferences, Iíve personally enjoyed my time with the game so far. Iron Harvest is heading back to basics, at its core it is a game that centres more around fun than a perfection of the meta. As such, any units that take the field are viable in their own ways - once you get the hang of them. Yes, even in a game where giant mechs take the battlefield, your infantry will not go to waste. Theyíre not just fodder for the slaughter.
If you want to see exactly what I mean, there is an open beta going on right now that will let you dabble in the Polanian side of the campaign as well as try the 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 modes. I highly suggest you take a look inside the campaign missions offered during the open beta to get a feel for the gameplay before heading online, and more importantly prepare yourself for a number of defeats. Itís a learning experience, and as previously mentioned this is a game that goes back to the basic fundamentals and encourages diversity of strategy. You may bring a monolithic Tur onto the battlefield, only to be swarmed by troops on the ground equipped with the means to bring you down from the backside before youíre able to swing around.
Overall itís a fun time, but there are a few concerns I have that are worth noting. At times, unit pathing can become frustrating, particularly on larger units or hordes of smaller units. Sometimes what seems like a hill or a stream that should be easily traversable for a large mech is actually just an inconvenience because youíll have to go around the same way infantry will have to. The result is less player agency in movement, and more potential to find yourself in a bottleneck scenario. Cover for infantry also seems to be hit and miss, as there were several times my troops would get on the wrong side of cover, basically putting their backs to the enemy instead of a stone wall or fence line in between them and their targets. While the latter is something I think can be tweaked, the former may not be as easy of a thing to tackle. Perhaps thatís by design, perhaps the goal is for more bottleneck scenarios so that the might of two forces are thrown against each other as brutally as possible.
Only The Beginning
Iíve enjoyed my time with Iron Harvest so far, indulging both in the content available in the Open Beta as well as first glances at the Saxony Empire part of the campaign that Iíve dabbled in. This wonít be a hallmark of competitive gaming, but I can already tell itís going to be a very welcome installment into the genre for its narrative driven campaign, its fun back-to-basics gameplay, and most importantly its very unique take on a tried but true early age of warfare.
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