I like doing these HYPs. Not just as a break from guides writing, but because it forces me to look at the games gathering dust in my Steam library. It prompts me to load up one of those games again for the first time in perhaps years, and to rediscover the joy of – for example – stomping across Southern England in my gargantuan but badly designed Steampunk mech, blasting slightly worse-designed French mechs with my laser cannons and cackling with wild abandon at their flaming twisted scrapheap corpses.
Such is the premise of Ironcast, a veritable cocktail of genres that has no right to work as well as it does. Think of it as FTL but with Steampunk mechs. And you control the mechs by doing a match-three game. You fire your weapon by matching purple bullets, for example, or flush coolant by matching blue snowflakes. In true FTL style, between missions you upgrade your mech and choose your next mission out of several choices, all while trying to build up the strength to repel an imminent French invasion.
With each new day, your foes become more formidable, and one slip-up may ruin your entire run. If you suddenly find yourself out of coolant, you’ll start to take damage whenever you power up your shields or fire a weapon. If you need to increase your chance to evade enemy fire, but can’t match three orange energy nodes to power it, you may find yourself on the wrong end of a superweapon you can’t dodge. As you might imagine, there’s an awful lot of RNG in this game, and I confess I’ve yet to complete a run. It’s a bit like Darkest Dungeon in that regard. Punishing, perhaps unfairly so at times, but I just can’t bring myself to get angry with it.
It’s one of those “more than the sum of its parts” games. I can’t point at any specific thing that turns Ironcast into such a good time. I can talk about the punchiness of its weapons, or the satisfying-as-hell journey your mech takes as you upgrade and adorn it with the components of your defeated foes, like some twisted Mad Max villain. Or the fact that anything even remotely Steampunk compels something deep and dark inside me to throw both money and time at my computer screen. But each fairly nice thing is elevated by the next fairly nice thing, until it all coalesces into one really nice thing.
At the time of writing this, I’ve just defeated the first boss yet again, and I’m in better shape that I can ever remember being. Could this finally be the run that wins me the game?
Update: I lost. But hoo boy, the speed with which I clicked that “New Campaign” button.