Iron Harvest - review

There is one unshakable rule, as monumental as the laws of Newton or Kirchhoff. Giant walking robots make everything more powerful and unique.

Iron Harvest - review
Iron Harvest review - We are Russian, with us mechs!

There are no exceptions: whether it's pastoral landscapes of the Polish hinterland from paintings by Jakub Rosalski, the sequel to “Robocop”, the battle of Hoth from “Star Wars” or... a medium-sized clone of Company of Heroes. Vulgarly clanking and Smoking, they dragged Iron Harvest through the thorns of the Kickstarter campaign, allowing the most optimistic plans to collect a ringing “iron harvest” of $ 1.5 million to be fulfilled. It is hard to imagine that a strategy about the First world war without the remark “with walking robots” aroused such public interest. Therefore, we can only say: “Glory to the robots!".

The long and agonizing agony that real-time strategies have been in for at least a decade makes fans of the genre long for every flash of enlightenment. They are rare, but they happen. That Microsoft will break out expensive, but short Halo Wars 2 or a pleasant reissue of some Age of Empires, Relic will give out a brand-new Dawn of War, the Total War series will change clothes again... Iron Harvest attracted attention instantly. The setting of the alternative history of 1920, where the battlefields are trampled by monstrous puffing samovars, literally riveted the eyes. Iron Harvest was the first video game based on the universe of Polish artist Jakub Rosalski, which we described in detail in a separate article. And we hope it won't be the last.

King Art Games Studio is known for The quest series The Book of Unwritten Tales and The role-playing game The Dwarves about the everyday life (you won't believe it) of bearded dwarves. The team contacted the strategy genre for the first time, so we should immediately understand one fact - King Art Games is not Relic Entertainment, as much as they (and we) would not like it. The sources of inspiration for German enthusiasts are obvious from the first minutes - the ears of Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 stick out from under every bump. Here, too, the fuss with the construction of the base is reduced to a minimum, and infantry units are ready to obediently Crouch behind any fence or sit inside the building. When you hover the cursor over the shelter, we see the same yellow and green dots indicating the degree of protection and potential location of each squad member... even the ability to impose melee and the retreat button are present! 15 years ago, such a project would have been classified as a subgenre of “real-time tactics”, but on bezrybye and Iron Harvest “classic RTS". Tinkering with buildings, improvements, and resources is even less than in Relic games. There are only three main buildings: the headquarters, barracks, and workshop. The headquarters is needed to produce the simplest infantry, and also to inflame the nerves with the screen of "loss" in the event of its sudden destruction. The barracks give birth to infantrymen of various specializations, and brand-new mechs come out of the workshop impressively. The functions of Warcraft "farms" were taken over by the same barracks with a workshop, and the more of them, the more units can be released on the battlefield. Medics can also set up a field hospital to treat infantry, and engineers are always ready to plant a bunch of bunkers on the map, build a shelter out of bags, stretch the fence or poke mines.

There are almost no improvements, only one upgrade per barracks and workshop is available. The fight is mainly for the good old points that slowly generate two types of resources: steel and oil.

95% of the timekeeping is devoted to dirty positional warfare. It usually starts with sluggish infantry skirmishes, which are not very impressive. Again, this is not Relic Entertainment, in terms of human brawls on the level of animation, visual persuasiveness and overall vylizannosti creation of King Art Games can not compete even with the first Company of Heroes. Local soldiers are terribly stupid, sometimes you feel like a mother monkey from the legendary Soviet cartoon. A squad of 5 fighters sometimes can not fulfill an elementary order to attack: three will shoot honestly in the direction of the enemy, one will run into an obstacle, and the last one will stand and not understand what to do. Units have obvious problems finding the optimal route, and the scenery is sometimes difficult to read - sometimes you can't visually understand what is considered a shelter, and which of these puddles is an impassable obstacle. During the battle, you often see the famous scene from "Naked Gun 2", when the undefeated enemies are fiercely positioned shootout half a meter from each other. An interesting feature of the game is the ability to change the class of an infantryman in the field. They finished off a group of grenadiers and armed the engineers with grenades. Or they retrained the machine-gunners into flamethrowers, just picking up the equipment of the fallen squad.

But what do we all know about this poor sculpture? The true kings of the party here are forged in workshops. The brutal machines of war are rendered simply deliciously. They shake funny, emitting clouds of black smoke and gracefully grind the ground with heavy clumsy tread. At first, you just want to watch as a metal barrel minces on spider legs, watering the unfortunate soldiers with a machine-gun shower. And when the fields are super-units, like rusetskaja walk-city, experiencing the joy of children.

A separate line would like to mention the magnificent destructibility of the environment, emphasizing the greatness of combat vehicles. The scenery is literally blown to the last brick, shelters are blown to dust, and the most formidable cars can calmly pass through entire cities, leaving only ruins behind.

Looking at the collision of combat vehicles is damn nice, but from the point of view of gameplay, the robots are played too clumsily. These are just very thick units that are terribly lacking some interesting mechanics. And you don't need to go far for examples. The same customization of mechs with different weapons in the manner of dreadnoughts from Dawn of War clearly would not hurt. Or a feature of the long-legged colossi from StarCraft 2, which could pass inaccessible to the rest of the height differences... here, bellows with long legs can't pass a puddle or a hummock. There are no flying or floating fighters in the game, only slowly stomping. And it's a shame, because the main trump card of the game is worked out too casually. Well, bellows, well go, well break sheds, shoot like that, what else do you need? Replace the model of a Walker with a similar model of a tank-the essence will not change. Most robots have an analog of the equipment from the notorious Company of Heroes, except that the latter move on wheels and tracks. There is a conditional armored personnel carrier with a machine gun, there is a fire tank and an analog of "Katyusha"... Only in the Relic strategy tanks could damage the engine, shoot down the machine gunner or disable the tower, damage to the rear was taken into account, and the mechs from Iron Harvest do not have any chips. At least they would give you a hand with a gun to shoot or a pilot with a flamethrower to smoke out. It turns out that the super-strength of mechanical monsters is only that they look cool.

In the dry balance, the mechanics of Iron Harvest is an extremely simplified clone of Company of Heroes, which lacks balance and smoothness. No joke, but the creation of Canadians at the time and so many scolded for excessive simplicity, especially in the light of a direct competitor - “Behind enemy lines 2".

You simply don't want to cook in Iron Harvest multiplayer, and it's not even a ridiculous start with six maps. The attempts of the German Studio to keep the player online are shattered by the desire to re-install the second Company of Heroes, where the same mechanics are played out of example better and more thoroughly, the picture is more pleasant and does not bring your iron to its knees, and the units do not drag themselves along the map like sleepy teteri. Even in the statistics on online Steam, you can see how the old lady from Relic confidently bypasses the German novelty. I dare to assume that if Iron Harvest is waiting for an interesting online future, it will only be with the upcoming release on consoles, where there is almost no competition in the genre, and comprehensive simplification, coupled with slowness, can play into your hands. If only the port does not disappoint in terms of management and optimization. On a PC, the game significantly slows down even on top-end hardware, and on the recommended configuration, I would, sorry for the tautology, not recommend playing at all.

And now about the most delicious. As strange as it may sound for a game in the online-oriented RTS genre, it is the story campaign that is the main reason to get acquainted with Iron Harvest. In fact, this is the first production in the universe from the paintings of Jakub Rosalka. Here we will see the story of the transformation of the brisk Polanski girl Anna KOs into a legendary partisan, as well as observe the touching birth of her friendship with the bear Voitek. The company for Rusvet will also introduce the super-stylish spy Olga Romanova, who was at the epicenter of the viscous political intrigues between Tsar Nicholas, Rasputin and even Nikola Tesla. On behalf of Saxony, the old soldier Gunther von Duisburg stands with a pair of tame wolves. All these characters have long been present in the desktop, but we have not yet had to observe their stories in dynamics.

It should be immediately clear that Rosalsky, who helped in the development, is not a professional screenwriter or Director. And the team of German developers clearly did not have any. Plot twists and turns do not add up to an adult drama, and political infighting is unlikely to surprise a fan of “Game of thrones”. The characters are quite flat, you immediately realize that Tsar Nicholas is rather good, and the evil Rasputin has a bad influence on him. The main characters act like desperate saints, and the villains stink of villainy a mile away. But overall, it wasn't as bad as you might have thought. The air is filled with the spirit of a naive heroic adventure with breaks for the strategic part, which evokes warm nostalgic memories of Warcraft 3. The light smell of cranberries could not be avoided, sometimes the king gives something like “the world is under attack, and maybe the Empire!” but there is no question of any blackness. Both Saxony and Rusvet have their own bastards, but neither side of the conflict looks like an absolute evil Empire.

The videos turned out to be unexpectedly high-quality for a Kickstarter game. All scenes are made on the game engine, which gives the gameplay and story inserts uniformity, which is lacking in the same Halo Wars 2 and Starcraft 2, when expensive CG-video too much stood out against the background of the game graphics.

It's hard to find fault with music. Melodies when playing for each faction differ in mood, and the voices are good. Interestingly, the menu allows you to choose the original voice acting for each side, which makes the Polanski units speak pure Polish, the Saxon troops - in German, and Rusvet, which is a hybrid of the USSR and the Russian Empire, will please with quite good Russian voice acting.

The tasks themselves are quite diverse, although they do not compare with the flight of fantasy from Starcraft 2. Classic defense and maintenance of the train alternate with heroic local walks. It's a pity that the developers didn't hear the rule "don't push a hastily made stealth episode into the game for a change". I am sure that you will remember that very mission for Olga Romanova more than once with an unkind word. There are also simply boring episodes, like the tedious accompaniment of Brundelhild's heavy fur, but these are a minority.

Local history is decorated with the setting itself, the spirit of world mystery is in the air all the time, we are constantly faced with new and new mechanical wunderwafls, and terrifying cyborgs come on the scene every now and then. I want to find out who is behind what immediately. It's a pity that the answers are often banal…

Anyway, praise for King Art Games has to be constantly accompanied by remarks like "for the first strategy..." or "for a Kickstarter project...". Developers too often peeked into the cheat sheet of a neighbor on the Desk in the face of Relic Entertainment, which makes the game mechanics seem too mundane. With live online Company of Heroes 2, it is simply not clear why you need local multiplayer. However, a good story campaign, colorful setting and causing children's delight disassembly of huge walking samovars are worth it to give Iron Harvest a chance. At the very least, I would like to see a continuation of the local history in the form of a hypothetical DLC with the Crimean khanate faction, or even a full-fledged sequel.