Iron Harvest Review
Long gone is the golden era of RTS games where games such as Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Starcraft and Company of Heroes all dominated the gaming scene. In fact, some would argue that the genre is dead but this isn’t entirely true… In reality, RTS has become a victim thanks to the rise of other strategy genres such as MOBAs, turn-based strategy and of course, 4X. RTS games have largely suffered from a lack of innovation and have relied on the tried-and-tested classic WW2 or space-themed games. This is where Iron Harvest breaks the mould and combines an alternative 1920 reality with steampunk-inspired mechs to produce one of the best RTS games in recent times.
Iron Harvest is set in an alternative 1920s reality where automotive technology has revolutionised the world and dieselpunk mechs dominate the battlefield. The Great War (effectively our World War I) is over, yet Europe is still suffering from its effects, in particular three fictional factions called Saxony, Rusvia, and Polania. You will experience the repercussions, emotion, politics, and of course, giant mechs associated with the war within the 1920+ world.
There are three campaigns in total that each focus on their respective faction and combines to tell an emotional story of the war. Each campaign features a main protagonist and focuses on their involvement in the war. Developer King Art Games have done a great job of interlacing each of the character’s stories with not only their faction but also with the Great War. Each campaign will make you feel invested in the character on an emotional level thanks to some excellent writing and dramatic cutscenes filled with touching scenes, engaging story, and even a few plot twists to keep you on your toes.
RTS veterans will feel right at home with Iron Harvest as the core fundamentals of the game are similar to Company of Heroes. The majority of missions tend to focus on a specific character/hero rather than base building, but this doesn’t mean there is no turtling — Iron Harvest adopts the same resource focused objective gameplay as Company of Heroes uses by forcing players to focus on capturing and defending Iron and Oil resources. Soon enough, you begin to collect the resources available to beef up your firepower with infantry units and mechs to help complete the mission. As you progress through the campaign, the range of units available begins to increase, and soon enough, you realise the true potential of each faction.
Each campaign has enough variety in its missions to keep you engaged. You will come across a range of missions ranging from your basic find X, protect X from a counter-attack, and then proceed to Y, to protect a valuable asset as it’s in transport, to stealth missions where planning and execution are paramount. Personally, I am more of an old-school turtler and enjoy building a big, diverse army to simply overpower my enemies, but this isn’t Command & Conquer and sadly, there isn’t much of this in Iron Harvest. This means that you simply cannot overpower your enemy with sheer numbers and forces you to study your enemy. I actually enjoyed the challenge of learning each factions units, their strengths and weaknesses, and then coming up with the most effective option to overcome them.
There is nothing more satisfying than blowing up shit! Enemies, structures, in fact, anything on the bloody map! All of this is possible in Iron Harvest thanks to its amazing destructible environment. Honestly, what is the point in having giant mechs if you can’t blow everything up? King Art Games certainly think this and have made a large amount of each map totally destructible. This is nothing new for an RTS game but the detail involved in Iron Harvest is far superior to any other RTS game I have ever played.
Speaking of maps, there is enough variety to keep the majority of gamers engaged. There is nothing new for the genre with the majority of maps focusing on your traditional urban landscapes and rugged countrysides, along with the occasional trip to the mountains. There are a few missions that take place under the cover of night, but again, this is nothing new and simply mixes up the gameplay. I was impressed with the size of the majority of maps as there is plenty to explore, but as you progress through the campaigns the size of the map quickly becomes a negative. You will find yourself making a cup of coffee as you send your army of big, slow, and powerful mechs across the map for battle, only to sit back and wonder why there is no fast forward button.
Despite Iron Harvest’s main draw arguably being its focus on mech units, infantry units have a surprisingly deep level of complexity with them. There are a number of your traditional infantry units such as anti-infantry, flame units, etc., but infantry units in Iron Harvest have the ability to adapt to any situation. This means that infantry units are able to switch between any weapons or roles in the middle of the battlefield — Under heavy fire from a mech but only have a rifle? What about that anti-gunner you killed next to you; you can simply pick up his cannon and become an anti-armour unit! This works for all types of units — Grenades, flame, medkits, shovels, etc. This adds another layer of complexity as when your back is against the wall in certain circumstances, you can think outside the box and use your enemy’s strength against them.
As far as RTS games are concerned, Iron Harvest is GORGEOUS! I may be biased as I am particularly fond of the WWI era games and particularly steampunk, but the level of detail in the mechs and 1920+ world is impressive. As with the majority of RTS games, if you zoom in on any of the units (mechs/infirmary/buildings) you can pick flaws such as some low-res textures and low polygon counts, but from the standard viewing distance, King Art Games have done a great job with the overall design of the units. The same goes for each map; the detail involved in each of the maps is of a high standard and there is enough variety of terrains to make the majority of missions feel unique, even with some night effects to mix it up.
These graphics are backed up by some impressive cinematics, both in regard to quality and storytelling. The visual and sound production involved is a true highlight and of a standard that most AAA still cannot deliver. These cinematics are populated throughout each of the campaigns and helps drive the storytelling to new levels that I haven’t seen in RTS since the Command & Conquer FMVs.
RTS is back, baby! Despite drawing clear inspiration from Company of Heroes, Iron Harvest is able to create its own identity within the RTS genre by delivering an engaging story, great visuals, tactical gameplay, and the ability to blow shit up with giant mechs! In saying this, Iron Harvest is not the perfect RTS — Gameplay can be a bit slow and the shallow base building may put off some old school RTS enthusiasts, but don’t let this discourage you as the lengthy campaign (25+ hours), tonnes of multiplayer action, and the ability to control your own army of mechs is an experience any RTS fan simply has to play!
Iron Harvest Review
- GAMEPLAY - 84%84%
- GRAPHICS - 88%88%
- AUDIO - 71%71%
Iron Harvest proves that RTS is alive and well. Sure, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel but there is nothing more satisfying than blowing shit up with giant dieselpunk mechs and controlling the battlefield.
Iron Harvest Review
For more on Iron Harvest, check out our previous coverage.