France Macabre: Ironcast Impressions

I’ve spent some time this morning playing with a pre-alpha build of Ironcast, the Victorian steam-mech game that I hoped would be the successor to Puzzle Quest that I’ve craved for so long. It’s certainly a handsome game, with a great deal of attention lavished on the world and its characters. There are two commanders available in the build and mechs with various in-built abilities and equipment loadouts. Combat is tactically intricate in comparison to many Match 3 games, due to a reliance on gathering resources that are used to activate various pieces of equipment and weaponry, rather than simply aiming for victorious cascades. It’s a powerful tonic and still in need of a final funding push.

At the time of writing, just over £1,250 is required to hit the £10,000 target, with seven days of the campaign remaining. A £12,500 stretch goal will allow for the inclusion of a fourth commander.

The 4th playable Commander character will be Miss Halisi Adoyo, Master bridge engineer and Consortium member. Halisi joins the fight for the British Empire after emigrating from Kenya in 1885. Whilst she earned her reputation as a master engineer by helping to design and build the extensive rail network all across West Africa, it was her invention of a new way of fusing metals together that made earned Halisi her first million. She had devised a way of melding 2 metal surfaces together in seconds, with a bond that was in many ways stronger than the metal panels themselves.

Here’s a concept sketch showing two possible designs for Halisi.

The game is already solid, although lacking some features. Given that it falls in a genre that might be deemed ‘casual’, I’m quite pleased that combat is complex enough to have stumped me at first sight (the tutorial has not been implemented yet). Rather than seeing ‘gems’ drop from the top of the screen, fingers crossed that they will rest in satisfactory patterns, Ironcast presents resources that can be applied in various ways, in an attempt to counter an enemy’s equipment. Tactics appear to triumph over chance.

As for the world-building, it’s vaguely reminiscent of the absolutely splendid 80 Days, which is unfortunately only available on iOS at present. If it was to make an appearance on PC, you’d be hearing a lot more about it here.

11 Comments

  1. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Ooh, backed. I would love me some of this.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    Oh look, steam power has successfully removed the British Empire’s obsession with the racial superiority of white people. Isn’t steampunk tech amazing.

    (I applaud the inclusion of black female characters in games, but it remains the case that I’m reaaaaally uncomfortable with the way steampunk often papers over the nastiness of the era).

    • Yglorba says:

      It’s kind of a situation with no easy answer, isn’t it?

      If you portray history realistically and critically, you’re left forcing people who want to play black or female characters (which sometimes means “a character that looks like me”) to deal with that sort of prejudice.

      If you omit it, you’re whitewashing history, yeah.

      But I think that overall the second option is better. First, like I mentioned above, trying to portray historical racism properly in a setting like this leads to a problem where black players who want to play black characters are either just not allowed to or have to get a faceful of ‘racism sure was really nasty in the past, wasn’t it?’, constantly. Some people just want to play someone who looks like them kicking ass in a steampunk universe.

      Second , most players know the history, at least in the broad outlines — if you’re not really going to take the time to make your game about historical racism, and address it in depth, then including it risks coming across as a theme-park version of “man, the past sure sucked, didn’t it?” Which has its own problems…

      For instance, it encourages people to take an overly-rosy view of the modern world by comparison, and it obscures the fact that things weren’t the same shade of universally horrible everywhere. Just as an example for the latter — while Victorian Europe was hardly a bastion of racial equality, it would not have been as bad, generally, as the United States in the same era; if everybody is guilty, then nobody is guilty.

      If the son of a Jew could twice serve as Prime Minister of Britain in the Victorian era, it is not unthinkable that a black woman could raise to prominence in a steampunk setting.

    • xao says:

      Steampunk: not an actual era. It usually takes place in a rough analogue to an Earth era, but the creator is free to include or exclude any bits of realism they wish to, including the nasty ones.

    • AngoraFish says:

      I feel really uncomfortable about how, when I shoot people in the head in TF2, there’s no gore, the players immediately respawn, and nobody gets PTSD afterwards. It totally isn’t at all representative of the horrors of actual combat.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    This looks great. More Puzzle Quest clones, please.

    • ColCol says:

      Make one Jim, it could your company’s next project. I command you! (please)

  4. KDR_11k says:

    Steampunk mechs make me think of Zachtronics but he wouldn’t do something as simple as match three.

  5. Odiorne Point says:

    I’m surprised this isn’t drumming up more interest. It checks so many boxes for me:

    -Micro session gaming
    -Progression
    -Randomized loot, missions
    -Match three!
    -Some semblance of tactics/control/luck mitigation (Puzzle Quest Galactrix, I’m looking at you)
    -MECHS

    Quite a steal for 9 dollars. I’m more than confident it’ll get funded with a week left, but I’m really hoping for some of the tasty unlocks. For others on the fence — notice that they’re aiming to deliver it by the end of the year.

    • Yglorba says:

      The problem is that there have been so many bad Puzzle Quest clones out there.

      I’m a little worried that the picture only shows four activated abilities — part of what I’ve disliked about every would-be Puzzle Quest successor is that they haven’t given you enough options for customization.

  6. Lambchops says:

    I’m willing to try and help this over the line, haven’t backed a Kickstarter in ages and I do like me some Puzzle Quest style gaming.