Iron Danger takes you into a world on the brink of a great war, where cities are about to break out and unleash savage attacks against each other in a fight for power. What is this power? Shards, a magical element that allows you to control a multitude of abilities. The fire shard which you receive early on, for example, grants you the ability to throw fireballs, a trick which will quickly become one of the most useful abilities on your adventure. However, be sure to choose your attacks wisely because waiting for the cool down can drastically change the course of a battle. But we're getting ahead of ourselves...
First arriving into the adventure you are given control over Kipuna, a young woman who is quickly recognised as the story's lead protagonist. Instantly her life is flipped upside down as the ruthless Northlanders attack her small town and she is forced to flee. During this escape, you are taught the basic mechanics that will become your best friend throughout this adventure, along with Topi, who might just be your new best friend in the world. Topi early on is the more tank-like character who can get hit and hit even harder; whilst you are escaping the small town he is there to guide you through and help you fight off the Northlanders. As you progress through the town a piece of the ground collapses beneath you and Kipuna falls into a cavern below, impaling her chest on a giant mystical shard. It is at this point where you are introduced to Aurolith, a mysterious spirit who explains how now is not the end of your story and rewinds time so that you can avoid the floor collapsing and carry on the journey. One noticeable change to Kipuna is the shard chunk that is now stuck in her chest, but able to carry on the two of you find your way to the ship and set sail for the main city of Kalevala. The journey for the remaining shards is now well underway.
At its core, Iron Danger is a tactical combat game with a very unique time manipulation mechanic which changes the way this game plays out massively. It combines the tactical depth of turn-based combat with the exciting action of real-time strategy. No longer is death the end or a point in which you get set back, instead, you can rewind up to 15 heartbeats (five seconds), reevaluate your strategy, and try again. The combat in Iron Danger is by far the stand out feature and it helps the experience shine.
The majority of the time you will find yourself taking control of two characters, each with a unique set of skills and abilities that you can utilise in different ways. The timeline across the bottom of the UI will become your greatest ally throughout this adventure. Having full control over the two characters allows you to strategically plan out each encounter, using the interactive landscape to your advantage, having Topi charge in whilst Kipuna casts 'Flaming Weapon' on him allowing for maximum damage, or using the 'Earthquake' attack to knock back all nearby enemies and thus allowing you an opportunity to back up and recompose. One thing to be careful of early on, you do not have any healing abilities so tread carefully and hoard as many berries and mushroom as you can to give yourself that extra little boost.
Another feature that Iron Danger took a different approach on was the levelling up and skill progression. Gone are the days of grinding smaller enemies to power level your characters and ensure you are strong enough for certain fights. In this adventure, the milestone XP approach is taken advantage of and as you progress through the story you will level up when appropriate (this happens mainly after completing main quests or chapters). With each new level, you are given the option to upgrade a specific skill for one of your characters (chosen for you) alongside some general level up bonuses that you would expect. Each skill upgrade is clearly labelled and details exactly how this upgrade will affect the skill. Taking this approach to the levelling keeps the game a challenge but beatable without the need to spend hours grinding.
By no means is this a perfect game, but Action Squad Studios executes its plans very well. One thing to note, however, is the overall difficulty during combat, as early on the time-based mechanic is such a mess and had us scrambling about the place trying to figure out the best course of action. Of course, this could be down to user error and poor planning, but we felt that if it was explained a little better it would make the overall experience that bit smoother. By no means does this take away from our overall enjoyment, it just took a little longer than it maybe needed to for us to truly understand how to control the timeline. Also, the varying difficulties within combat seemed to drastically change at points; granted there are boss battles, standard enemies, and mid-tier fights, but we found that at times you would be completely unprepared for a fight and have to tirelessly attempt different strategies in an effort to clear an ambush. Lastly, without going into too much detail as to avoid spoilers, we found that the overall ending to the game was cut short and left some questions unanswered, but we will leave that up to you to discover.
Overall our time with Iron Danger was extremely positive, the unique time manipulation mechanic, whilst a challenge at the start, proved to be a massive highlight. The level of interactivity within the world allows for some creativity when fighting through hoards of enemies and the overall pacing made for a fun and enjoyable adventure from start to finish. Minor issues stop it from reaching its true potential, but these can easily be overlooked when you think about the overall package. This is one adventure that we had hours of fun with and we'd definitely recommend it to anyone, whether you have played similar games in the past and even those who are completely new to the genre.
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