Steampunk, tech noir mixed with fantasy and Nordic mythology, as well as a unique time manipulation gameplay mechanism for demanding tactical battles – these are the ingredients of Iron Danger. The round tactical role-playing game by the Finnish indie developer Action Squad Studios and publisher Daedalic Entertainment is a small insider tip among genre connoisseurs.
Blocked once too late and the opponent’s massive blow has reached its destination and my hero lies motionless on the ground. Normally the story would end here or we would load an old save point, not so Iron Danger. In this tactical role-playing game mix, we can easily rewind the time with the mouse wheel and do exactly 14 heartbeats, which is then in real time in about seven seconds. As soon as an enemy sees you, go Iron Danger in the so-called “trance mode”, a kind of turn-based combat mode, in which you can now plan the individual movements and actions step by step. So we adjust the timing of the block and immediately afterwards send a violent blow with our sword. If that’s not enough, we turn back the time and order our partner to attack as well, because most of the time we’re traveling in pairs. This coordinated attack should finally give our adversary the rest and we should emerge victorious from the skirmish. But not only fights can be fought in this way, but also various puzzle tasks, for example when several switches have to be operated at the same time.
This unique mechanism is embedded in a fantasy story with steampunk elements. On the run from the attack of the witch queen Lowhee, our heroine, the Viking girl Kipuna, falls into a pit and is impaled by a rock. But of course she is not dead and thanks to a mysterious splinter that is now in her chest, she is able to manipulate time. The background to this artifact, and the fight against the initially nameless enemies from the north, then also form the basic structure of the story of Iron Danger. This is always linear, offers hardly any great surprises and after about 15 hours you have reached the rather unspectacular end.
Frustration hard on the border
A big weakness of Iron Danger reveals itself very soon in the course of the game: it cannot be saved manually. For example, I was able to win a long and arduous victory against a group of stubborn opponents, only to run into an ambush a few minutes later, when my characters blessed the time. Yes, the comfortable rewind function is usually quite useful, but if you have made more than 14 heartbeats before, a fatal wrong decision for the outcome of the rest of the slaughter, then unfortunately the whole time manipulation will not help. Due to the lack of a manual save function, this means going back to the beginning of the level, no matter how far you have come. And even if the individual sections of the game are never very large and extensive (usually these can be completed in about 15 minutes), this sometimes scratches the frustration limit a lot. Even so much that I wanted to put the game aside after a few such defeats. Fortunately, I still found the adjustable level of difficulty and changed it from “normal” to the somewhat easier level. This will Iron Danger Although not a sure-fire success and still requires tactical action, it is nowhere near as demanding as in the standard setting. There is an additional, significantly higher level of difficulty for professionals, but for this the patience should be thick and the frustration limit high, but it also offers a corresponding challenge.
Iron Danger contains something like rudimentary role-playing elements between the individual orders. The figures do not gain experience and cannot level up, but in various missions they receive special skills and after successfully completing a game section, you can usually choose an additional one from a manageable number of new skills. Melee Topi then learns, for example, a storm attack and the Viking girl Kipuna various spells. These can then also be combined with the largely interactive environment, for example to set oil barrels and fire with fire magic, or we can transform entire fields into a single sea of flames to roast the enemies hidden in them. If you first explore the area and look for useful objects that you can use in the battles, you will later have a clear tactical advantage.
Good presentation, stubborn camera
Visually shines Iron Danger with a colorful comic look as well as nicely animated characters and the fantasy world of Kalevala can convince with its atmospheric, varied surroundings, with numerous details. I find the dynamic background music and the really good speech output even a bit better. Unfortunately, these are only available in English, but localized screen texts. Technically everything runs smoothly, if it weren’t for the stubborn camera work. After the mouse wheel is reserved for the time manipulation mechanics, you can only change the perspective of what is happening with the right mouse button. It often happens here that you don’t have both characters in the picture at the same time, and objects such as trees and houses often block the view.
Actually, trial & error passages are a no-go for me, but it becomes difficult to criticize when they become a basic gameplay element, as in Iron Danger. The time manipulation mechanism initially requires some time to get used to it, but once you have understood the principle, the tactically demanding fights unfold their full playful potential. Criticism hails from me for the sometimes somewhat unfair level of difficulty, the annoying camera work and the lack of storage options within the game sections. If these points are fixed with one of the next updates, then I have a recommendation for all fans of demanding tactical games. Currently, however, you should have a lot of patience and a high level of frustration resistance so that you can to Iron Danger Can find pleasure.
Tested: Version 1.x on PC Intel Core i5-4460S, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 745
Developer / Publisher: Action Squad Studios / Daedalic Entertainment
Release: March 25, 2020
Link: official website