I'm a big Puzzle Quest fan, but I can't say that I enjoy roguelikes - or the FTL model - very much. This made my relationship with Ironcast a bittersweet one; Some of its core mechanics are pretty fun, others are kinda infuriating, and there's this inevitability aspect that stresses you in time and reduces the number of actions you can do in a set game that leaves some of the fun aspects of puzzle RPGs behind.

Set on a backdrop of war in britain - where france is invading - using steampunk robots, you match ammo, coolant, energy and repairs in order to do various stuff and complete missions. Most missions have a similar structure of you killing everything, but some might throw a twist here and there, like the enemy trying to run away if you don't disable it's drives, or you needing to preserve their weapons intact. Sometimes your coolant reservoir will be damaged, adding the worry of your precious resources leaking away.

The core battle works by using different systems - weapons, drives and shields. The weapons have various attributes, deal a few big hits, a larger number of smaller hits, deal splash damage or not. The drives give you a chance to dodge attacks and the shields reduce the damage you take. Enemies have more or less the same systems and you can choose which ones you target. You need ammo and coolant to attack and energy is used to powerup the other systems. You can also upgrade all of that stuff but since this is a 'roguelike', if you die, it's game over and you restart from the beginning - with a few things you can unlock by doing so - but what I enjoy in puzzle rpgs is to become stronger and stronger, to build my character for a long while, not to lose my upgrades and restart.

Because much like in FTL, you're going to restart the first few times, even if you survive the mandatory ten days. There's a huge Ironcast at the end and while you reduce it's health by using a resource you're accumulating for the whole game, it's pretty difficult and you probably won't beat it on your first go. Weapons and upgrades are pretty expensive and you don't keep any of them, so there is a bit of your success that will ride on random numbers. You still have a few passive and active abilities you can unlock by leveling, and I like that you can choose between a few of them. It's still pretty tough to say what's the most useful, and you don't have a lot of time to pick and try a lot of options.

But still, the actual act of linking icons on a grid, combining two types of icons with Link and Overdrive icons, picking decisions in certain missions and using skills to disable your enemies is fun. Maybe I would've enjoyed Ironcast a bit more if it had been a straightforward puzzle rpg, but it's still a pretty solid game and I had some fun with it!

AuthorJérémie Tessier