It is not that I dislike Iron Harvest but it was promising to be the highest profile release of this year for ages and the new strategy-game-next-door darling for veterans stratégues and débutantes alike. A game with so much promise, showing up all dressed up with an interesting IP, development time by the bucket load, and solid CoH foundation in which to lay new ideas and concepts yet- in despite all of this- I can’t help but to walk away disappointed, at least for now.
It is not that I dislike Iron Harvest. It’s just that it is nothing more than Company of Heroes in World War One but with mechanical, diesel powered monstrosities that somewhat reassemble mechs and tanks scrapped and bolted on together. While this idea might sound amazing in paper, the truth of the matter is that when shoving it into the real time stratego mold of Company of Heroes without proper adaptation things tend to go somewhat wrong. Iron Harvest wears Relic’s flagship title influences and design so much on its sleeve that it’s limitations only detract from the overall experience the game could have provided. The idea is there, the execution sadly it is not. If you’ve read my articles before you have probably figured out by now that l have a positive outlook on pretty much every game I’ve put to words. The cast is interesting, the unit models are excelent, the graphics are phenomenal, the animations are sublime and the maps are drop dead gorgeous.
It is not that I dislike Iron Harvest, it’s just that it could have been some much more if it shed some Relic skin. CoH is based around WW2 small units tactics that focus on cover, positioning, out maneuvering and flanking your opponents by putting each squad specific skills to good use in tandem with each other. I.e. – A single machine gun team pins down the advancing stormtruppen in the ridge while your mortar team pummels them from afar. A rifle squad moves in to sweep what remains- a perfectly executed plan. In Iron Harvest the strategic gameplay usually revolves around throwing some really uninspired mechs into the fray, some of which occupy multiple, unclear roles that just break the very basics of covering and maneuvering for infantry tactics. What’s the point of cover and prolonged firefights waiting for an openning if one shot from a cheap clanker will outright render it useless? The worst of it is that mechas have a very weak look to them, they don’t appear to be the lumbering, multi-storied beasts of Jakub. The artwork of Jakub Rozalsky brings an aura of discomfort and mistery into these machines. They look evil, otherworldly, unattainable, inhumane, incomprehensible, a technological leap that outpaced day to day life in a very disturbing way. Instead, in Iron Harvest we got are a couple of scrap metal slapped together, given some guns and a vague role and… That’s it?
It is not that I dislike Iron Harvest but I wish the could have taken the theme and just ran completely wild with it. Go all out with the idea that human lives are just meat for the grinder and the focus is truly the larger-then-life mechanical abominations that roll around the battlefield obliterating meat and brick. In the end the main focus of the game just ends up being 2/4 legged versions of WW1 and WW2 tanks. The game would have benefited a lot if it included actual armoured fighting vehicles alongside mechs, making them stand out more as war-time oddities. And look, I get it that the game needs to stay close to its source material of the 1920+ universe, but slapping mechas in CoH just won’t cut it, at least for me. Infantry could have used a lot more work too. Why limit yourself to the usual archetypes? And even when you’re doing so why should you opt to have it done in such a…boring way? Spec out this machine gun with small spider legs that looks amazing.
It plays exactly like a CoH machine gun team does! What is even the point of having such an odd and cool design if it’s going to act just like any other lead spitter out there? Same thing goes for the anti-tank…anti-mech units. It’s all just so… boooooring. The only thing that I trully enjoy is the different ranges for the basic units. That’s a decision I can get behind. That’s the kind of granularity a grog can enjoy.
It is not that I dislike Iron Harvest but the firefights and cover also don’t feel that tight. Units behave erratically jumping over cover all the time, the AI loves to engage in melee fights for some reason despite having the tactical advantage, for some unknow reasoning it’s perfectly okay to just rush into the open to sucker punch you. Sometimes they just line up in the open when there’s cover nearby. Destroying their cover also means that the AI will stand there, surprised. During the campaign it has a nasty habbit of focusing some units, mainly heroes. It’s hard to avoid falling into the pit fall of using your tanky sniper Jean d’Arc as bait while your troops just gun down those blindsided idiots.
It is not that I dislike Iron Harvest it’s that some things just don’t end up well together. Nevertheless I will get around to buying Iron Harvest as the single player campaign got me interested enough for me to keep wanting to explore this alternate post WW1 setting. I just don’t see myself doing much more than that. As if 2020 wasn’t being a weird enough year already, the new Total War: TROY ended up being quite an interesting and worthy addition to the franchise, even more so if the reader enjoys ancient Greece. If you’re one of the lucky ones that managed to snag a copy from Epic you should give that a go.