Iron Harvest Complete Edition Review

When the first images that would inspire Iron Harvest started appearing on the internet I was immediately struck by the imagery. Bleak, Eastern European scenery overshadowed by hulking mechs. The washed-out colours and pseudo-soviet iconography hit a chord.

There have been some controversies about the artist himself, but it is undeniable that the video game it inspired has some solid chops to it.

Set in an alternative history where Tesla had more of an impact on the tech world, giant mechanical bipeds are in place over traditional tanks. The story focuses on Anna Kos and her faithful bear Wojtek who are citizens of the fictional country of Polania. They are caught between two warring factions of the Saxonians and Russviets while Anna is still a young child but soon it is the Russviets that threaten Polania’s autonomy.

With that in mind Anna takes up a trusty sniper rifle and goes to war.

Iron Harvest is an RTS that leans into more low-level squad-skirmishes instead of Total War levels of combat. Mobilising huge platoons of mecha is less important than building a robust team of units that can support each other, and judiciously use each of the units’ skills. Human squads are expected to use cover, and hide in buildings or bunkers, as their mechanised counterparts stomp over the terrain.  Maintaining the squad’s orientation and laying down suppressing fire become vital to keeping a team alive. Likewise, knowing when to retreat and when to push an advantage is important.

The scale is played with well, Anna Kos and her trusty bear are dwarfed by the smoking metal hulks that stand building high. I did marvel every time one of these brutes walked straight into a house an enemy unit was using as cover, and just demolished it.

The base building element is stripped back and works well on the console. There are buildings for human and mech generation that are contingent on resources such as metal and oil, and certain units can build defences, but that as about as deep as it gets.

The campaign also does as much as it can to mix up the play style. Many of the levels limit the number of units the player can build – emphasising cautious engagement in combat and healing the existing pieces in play. In another level the player is tasked with escorting a train that has a mounted gun. This led to a delicate balance wherein I had an immensely powerful unit that could turn the tides of battle, but if lost it is game over.

Unfortunately, it is not all billowing smoke over desolate landscapes, there are some things that bog this game down.

The main issue is that some of the unit placement can feel fiddly. In the heat of battle, scrolling through the 20 units to find the mechanics not pinned down to go fix a lagging behemoth, I found myself messing up on controller. There are more complex commands like queuing up a list of orders, setting up deployment points, and using hotkeys for assigned units that seem like they would be really handy. However, this information is relegated to a tool tip.  Given the scope of the game and its focus on smaller battles, this never gets in the way, but I would have appreciated some proper tutorialisation early on.

The second issue, something I think most console players are not going to be too burnt by is that the online multiplayer portion is a ghost town. In the time I had to review I was not able to find a match with another human player, although I was thankful that setting up a co-op game with friends against the AI was a viable option.

Conclusion

Iron Harvest is a smart port to consoles with some minor control issues, this is an excellent RTS for anyone that wants to use a controller.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Squad based skirmishes feel like the perfect fit for consoles
  • The Eastern European style suits the game
  • Wojtek the bear
Bad
  • Some of the controls can still feel incomplete
  • The voice acting is not the best
  • And the units repeating the same line over and over compounds this problem
  • For multiplayer find some like-minded friends
7.1
Good
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 8
Audio - 4
Longevity - 8
Written by
AJ Small is a games industry veteran, starting in QA back in 2004. He currently walks the earth in search of the tastiest/seediest drinking holes as part of his attempt to tell every single person on the planet that Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine are the greatest games ever made. He can be found on twitter (@badgercommander), where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.

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