by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
Nearly everything in human history has begun as a what if question. What if we put a man on the moon? What if the world is round? What if one of the bloodiest eras of human history also had mechs involved? That last question gave way to the universe of the World of 1920+ which includes the tabletop game Scythe, and the newly released Iron Harvest. Iron Harvest is a PC RTS game set after the events of WWI where a new conflict is brewing in an alternate history Europe.
I had the chance to preview the game shortly before its launch and was fairly impressed with what it had to offer, although I did have a few minor concerns in regards to unit pathing and the like. So with the full game released, how much have my thoughts changed for the better or for the worse? Letís climb into the pilotís seat and march off to war, and see just what Iron Harvest is all about.
A Narrative Push
Most people play RTS games for multiplayer encounters, and make no mistake weíll get to that. You know what I play RTS games for? The campaigns. Some of them have become timeless classics talked about even today. Starcraft, Command and Conquer, Company of Heroes and many more have come and gone over the years, and even when the multiplayer components die off with time these epic campaigns keep us coming back for more. Iron Harvest is very much a game focused on delivering RTS action in a beautiful wrapped narrative package.
Over the course of a lengthy campaign, players will view this new conflict across Europe from the perspectives of the forces of Polania, Saxony, and Rusvia all inspired by regions of the age. A tentative peace is completely upheaved with these factions once again raising their weapons once again, but in truth the war is far from just a straightforward conflict as an unknown force seeks to destabilize Europe and reignite the fires of war once again. Running a little over two dozen hours (give or take depending on your RTS skills) itís an awesome ride all the way through, with a finale thatís pretty shocking in all the best ways.
From the infantry to the massive mechs, Iron Harvest gives you tons of units within each army to play with. Whether moving street to street with a group of soldiers or towering over the battlefield in an buffet of gargantuan mechs there is no wrong way to play Iron Harvest, which is both a strength and a weakness. After taking them through the campaign, take your tactics online and see how it all pans out against human players. The game is still young enough that I havenít encountered any definite meta army builds, so right now player creativity in the tactics still seems to be fully on the table. Whether that holds up over time or not remains to be seen, but right now at least itís a fresh multiplayer experience.
A Bit Simple
As I mentioned in my preview of Iron Harvest, this is a title that takes things on a back to basics route. Despite the creative coat of paint, thereís nothing too complicated in the mechanics of the game and after a fairly small learning curve youíre left to your own devices where fun trumps meta (but in singleplayer and multiplayer) and if you ask me, itís all the better for it. Games where all army makeups are viable keeps things from becoming too samey and as a result it keeps infantry just as important in any major battle as the mechs that tower over them.
With that simplicity in gameplay though, some of my concerns pre-launch still linger. Large groups of units as well as some of the larger individual units suffer pathing issues, lack proper use of cover mechanics, and sometimes these stumbles break up the otherwise fast paced gameplay with unintentional bottlenecks in the map designs that turn encounters into moments of attrition rather than firepower and unit placement. Itís not a game killer, but it is inconvenient to say the least.
Having A Blast
Do I think Iron Harvest has the makings of legends? Not exactly. But I do think it offers a unique enough flavor for anyone looking to sate their RTS appetite will find a good offering here. You wonít see it headlining any major esports events, but not every game needs to be the next big thing to be worth it. Sometimes just being different and relatively well made makes it worth checking out.
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Awesome setting, fun over meta gameplay, intense campaign and fun multiplayer.
Unit pathing remains problematic, as does iffy cover systems.