RTS games, while enjoyable, were never really my forte, and my experience with them is limited to games such as the Age of Empires and Starcraft series. However, when I found out developer King Art Games was making an RTS game called Iron Harvest set in the 1920+ universe, the same universe as the popular board game Scythe, I hopped at the chance to try a hands-on demo of the game.
For those unfamiliar with the 1920+ universe, it is basically an alternate reality from our own created by Polish artist Jakub Różalski that takes place in the early 20th century. In this universe, the Industrial Revolution era has brought about crude walking mechanical war contraptions of various sizes and designs, which drastically changes warfare.
The game takes place after the Great War and allows you to play as one of its three factions as you control giant mechanical war machines and various troops to conquer and defeat your enemies. The game features single-player and co-op campaigns, as well as your standard multiplayer and competitive modes. During my hands-on demo, I was led through the single-player campaign for the nation of Polania, one of the three playable nations with the others being Rusviet and Saxony.
To start, I played through a tutorial scenario that follows the story of Anna, one of Polania’s heroes. The tutorial had me play as a young Anna who is being bullied by her peers as they are having a snowball fight while pretending to be at war. This was a lighthearted way to introduce the game’s mechanics that are then paralleled with the actual war that ensues in the following moments.
During the tutorial, I learned about the cover system that allows you to make it harder for enemies to hit you and also about Hero characters and their unique abilities. As I continued onward in the campaign, I learned increasingly more about the characters and story and also learned gradually more about different mechanics in the game.
Iron Harvest seems to be more micro play focused over macro play. It is essential to manage your economy and pick the right units to win the rock paper scissors type unit matchups, but the game rewards micromanaging your armies a lot more. The cover system is a significant portion of this. By utilizing high ground advantage and finding cover behind broken buildings/walls, you can drastically turn the tides of a fight.
In one of the campaign missions, I had to escort a giant train and use my units to change the train tracks to position myself properly. I had to juggle when to use the train for battle and when to hide the train so it wouldn’t be destroyed since its destruction would result in an instant mission failure. Additionally, I had to make sure to use my engineers to repair the train and my mechs while also making sure they survive battle by hiding them on the train. This made me really invested in my units; I felt more immersed then I expected to be in an RTS.
Another mechanic I found interesting involves the use of infantry units. You can have your infantry units harvest materials from fallen machines to add to your economy, and then have them transform from one type of unit to another by having them pick up weapons that drop from fallen units and weapon crates. This offers a lot of flexibility in regards to strategy as you can turn your weak engineer units into strong combat units midway through battle if needed.
The big draw of the 1920+ setting is the mechs, and it is worth going into what these units mechanically (pun intended) bring to the table. These mech units are not only the heavy hitters in your arsenal, but they also offer a variety of other functions. Some mechs function as moving bunkers that you can store your infantry units in, and others offer a variety of DPS options both long and short-range. On top of this, mechs can also alter the terrain by destroying buildings they run into, which can destroy objects enemies are using for cover or making more advantageous terrain for yourself.
Another big takeaway from the hands-on worth mentioning is how earnestly excited the team seemed to be when showing off the game. The person walking me through the demo was happy to show off the various mechanics and intricacies of the game and even shared some cool facts about the history that inspired the game.
For example, Anna of Polania has a pet bear named Wojtek, which the team informed me was an actual bear in history that was a part of the Polish II corps. Wojtek would carry munitions and enlisted officially as a soldier. The name Iron Harvest also comes from the annual event of the same name when farmers after plowing their fields find leftover material from the First World War. This enthusiasm and attention to detail make me feel optimistic about the future of the game, and it is nice to see this level of passion for the project.
I thoroughly enjoyed my hands-on time with Iron Harvest and looked forward to playing more of the game. There is so much on offer here, and I didn’t even get a chance to see it all during my hands-on demo as we went overtime. The game is dense but accessible even for individuals like me who are not all too well versed in this genre of game. I highly recommend people check this one out.
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