Real Time Strategy games reign supreme on PC; using a mouse and keyboard is far easier to utilise when you’re looking to control numerous regiments as it allows you to glide over the battlefield to assess the landscape and plan your attacks. Converting this genre to console can be a difficult task, but it can be done. The Halo Wars series, for example, has done it with great success and is hugely popular. Developers King Art Games have however created Iron Harvest; a dieselpunk mecha real-time strategy video game that looks stunning and comes with some genuinely new ideas. However, will it fall into the category of failed console RTS’ or will it bring back the golden age of this genre and beckon in a whole new audience?
As someone who is relatively new to RTS games, I got a little overwhelmed on what to do and where to start with this one, but Iron Harvest Complete Edition made sure I was eased in extremely easily. Every step of the way you’ll be guided through how to move single players, regiments and mechs, helped to understand what everybody’s role was in this huge battle and how to use each unique weapon or their moves. It helps that it’s easy to toggle tips at the touch of a button. Having this option from the very start ensures you are engage in every aspect and allows you to fully utilise a squad, giving clear instructions. It’s something that is genuinely appreciated.
Iron Harvest is set in an alternate 1920’s universe where the aftermath of a reimagined World War One is ravaging the landscape. Not only are humans causing this carnage, but they have also invented huge, dangerous, bellowing mechs that can lead men into battle and destroy buildings at a moments notice. These mechs are definitely the game’s main draw and were the source of the most fun during my playthrough.
Iron Harvest Complete Edition focuses on three main fictional factions – Rusvia, Saxony and Polania. Each faction has their own storyline and their own reasons to win this epic battle. These storylines were a lot more engaging than I imagined they would be; I assumed it would come with minimal story and maximum shooting but I was pleasantly surprised. There are dozens of well voiced and beautifully orchestrated theatrical scenes where we learn about each leader, their background, their beliefs and what they are fighting for. This made the whole experience feel so much more human and gave reason to why you are fighting, and exactly why you’ll hate the other factions!
Each faction also has their own mechs and unit types; their variety never ceased to amaze. Iron Harvest has a definite emphasis on cover shooting and this is fantastic when it works, but there have been numerous times where the enemy has refused to take cover, running aimlessly into any line of fire; easily destroyed. This makes winning skirmishes with infantry easy, but rarely satisfying.
The mechs however are never boring to use. Watching them spew out black smoke, rattle off bullets and blast their way through the battlefield is as satisfying the first time as it is the last. Changing factions throughout the storyline also allows the chance to try out the numerous different mechs. They vary so much too that you’ll want to do just that – from the swift and agile Polonian PZM-9 “Stranžik” which can speed through enemy lines and eliminate infantry with its twin-linked machine guns, to the Rusviet’s ginormous SHM-70 “Gulyay-Gorod” with its large cannon that is perfect at destroying any other mech that happens to be in its way. A small part of me loved these beautiful, well imagined, unbelievably user friendly mechs so much that I wished Iron Harvest would focus on these instead of the infantry.
In other RTS games there is a lot of emphasis on base building to restock ammo, generate health or even just to take up surface space and choke enemies, limiting the efficiency of melee units. Iron Harvest limits this massively, even to the point of non-existence. The emphasis here is clearly on combat; they want you to focus on destroying enemy control points, that are usually resource-generating, with the final aim of destroying the enemy headquarters. Not every map and mission is as clear as that but that’s usually the idea.
This style of play allows for a great amount of fun, albeit slightly less strategic; it is however an absolute blast to work through almost every mission. There is also always the option to take on smaller side missions on each map, such as finding some extra resources or saving some citizens, but you’ll never feel punished for not doing this. This gives extra scope to play through the story again, if only to see how much difference these optional extras made.
Aesthetically the mechs look fantastic and the landscapes are both varied and dense, ranging from winter fields to more densely packed cobbled towns. It must be said that the character models in the infantry units look a bit dated and jolty. This isn’t a massive issue as the camera is never close enough to them to see their slightly lower-res faces, but if there’s a need to nitpick, this is it; mostly as the rest of the game looks fantastic. One other slight issue arises in the form of the camera. Numerous times I found myself having to move the camera again and again, in hope of not missing the action as it attempted to deliver it from a strange angle. As expected though, RTS games are primarily designed for mouse and keyboard, so Iron Harvest was never going to be perfect.
Iron Harvest is an absolute delight to play. If you’re a bit of an RTS noob you’ll never feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount to do or how to control your diverse army. The story will help keep you engrossed over the lengthy play time, as Iron Harvest Complete Edition provides access to characters you’ll actually care about, all as you hope to lead them to triumph. It does look a little old visually, and the camera angles can be a bit awkward at times, but Iron Harvest Complete Edition sets the bar very high for the console RTS scene.
Iron Harvest Complete Edition is available on Xbox Series X|S from the Xbox Store