An unique time mechanic for a rather linear game
Genre: Tactical RPG
Developer: Action Squad Studios
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: 25 Mar, 2020
Iron Danger is a tactical RPG centered around the ability of the main character, Kipuna, to rewind time. The game features semi-real-time combat mechanics and a linear story that narrates the vicissitudes of Kipuna and her friend Topi, while also acting as a glue between fights, which are the main focus of the game.
The spell and the hammer
As I’ve already said in the introduction, Iron Danger lets us control two characters throughout its story: Kipuna, a young girl that, after a unique and strange event acquires the ability to use magic and rewind time, and Topi, an experienced and warm-hearted soldier wielding a big hammer and capable of devastating melee attacks. Fights are centered around these two characters and Kipuna’s ability: we can, in fact, speak of semi-real-time combat since everything happens in real-time, but we can stop (and eventually rewind) the game every heartbeat (or 0.5 seconds).
During combat, every action is recorder in a timeline that indicates what happens – and when. This gives us the ability to fix our mistakes by rewinding time, cancelling out-of-time attacks and blocking when we know that an enemy will strike. The whole mechanic is quite simple but very effective and well implemented, with the timeline that gives us a clear vision of everything that happens during the fight, even when things get… convoluted. Combat is further improved with the additions of power-ups for the characters’ abilities: these effectively improve and/or add additional effects to Kipuna’s and Topi’s attacks and moves, making more strategies available as the game progresses.
A straight line
One of Iron Danger’s most prominent problems is its linearity: the game calls itself an RPG but gives the player no choice on how to advance the story, no choice on how to build or equip the characters and ultimately no choice on what to do outside the main quest… because there’s literally nothing outside of it. Locations are divided into watertight departments, one for each level, and generally following the same cycle: loading, initial dialogue with some exploration, one or more fights, some other exploration and then end of the level. Even exploration is itself very limited and only useful to reach the main objective of the level, but nothing more than that, since there are no secret areas or hidden loot (apart from food, which can be found in houses, but I wouldn’t categorize that as hidden).
This gets particularly obvious during mission 7, when the party reaches Kalevala, a big city filled with NPCs. Here there is no possibility to interact with anyone: you just have to traverse the city, get to a specific point in the map and then return to your ship. You can explore the (little) part of the city you have access to, but that’s pretty useless since there are no NPCs to speak with and no loot to acquire. Not even a special scene or dialogues between the members of the party. Nothing.
A heavy boulder
The other problem Iron Danger has is its technical side. There are no ways around it: the game is not optimized at all for what it delivers, and it shows. The medium number of FPS was on 28-29 with an RX580 8GB at 1440p all the time, with some noticeable frame drops in some areas. Also, changing the graphics settings of the game didn’t help with the amount of frame. Apart from that, the game has a strong depth of field that cannot be disabled and can make the look of some locations worse.
Path-finding, especially during exploration, can be quite clunky, while during combats it can be quite frustrating since it requires you to rewind time, often multiple times in a row until you find the right spot where to move the character.
Iron Danger is a fine game during fights, but quite empty outside of them. Luckily, the game is filled with blows and fireball moments, but the asking price of 30€ is a little too high for what the game has to offer right now. Thus, I’ll warmly recommend to buy it only on when it’s on discount, since a 15-20€ price tag seems more fitting for the current state of the game.