Title: Tails of Iron
Developer: Odd Bug Studio
Release Date: September 17, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: United Label
Genre: Adventure RPG
Developer Odd Bug Studio seems to have a goal of portraying a different side of rodents in the adventure RPG Tails of Iron. Inspired by the affectionate and loving personalities of real-life rats, the team wanted to create a game that challenges the negative perception of these cute creatures, and what better way to do that than making them the leads of a Soulslike adventure? Tails of Iron introduces Redgi, heir to the Rat throne, tasked to restore his broken kingdom after his father, the king, is slain by the ferocious Greenwart, leader of United Frog Tribes.
Tails of Iron takes heavy influence from Brian Jacques’ beloved Redwall with an added dose of Dark Souls. The game is set in a dark fantasy medieval time period and combines an engaging fable with difficult yet rewarding combat. The gameplay mechanics share influences with Hollow Knight and Salt & Sanctuary, without the acrobatic platforming.
The 2D world is vast with incredible detail and clever use of lighting to create mood and depth, making landmarks and biomes distinctive. The bold comic book line work breathes life into these anthropomorphized rodents and frogs and the environments. It’s a dark and moody atmosphere with a great deal of charm for added immersion.
The game is narrated by Doug Cockle, who you might know as Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher series. Dialogue between characters is composed of images and animations, but the game succeeds in conveying the message. The crisp sounds of sword clashes, gunshots, footsteps, and townsfolk going about their day add mood, emotional depth, and life to Tails of Iron. The fanfare of the bards combined with howling wind and pouring rain brings realism to every corner you turn, from the Crimson Fort all the way to the Molshevik Republic. It made me chuckle to see Odd Bug Studio inject many silly easter eggs and plays on words into the game, such as Lans Alut, Hulk Molgan, and even Ratnor Rodentson, which refers to Thor Odinson for anyone curious.
Unlike traditional role-playing games, Tails of Iron uses various outfits and weapons that affect stats, ranging from light and heavy armor sets to swords, axes, spears, and even guns. You can purchase them from vendors, ask BamBam the blacksmith to craft one via blueprints, or uncover them via exploration and defeating bosses.
These armor sets offer resistances to different enemy types, so it is essential to change your load out frequently. While there is no stamina meter, Tails of Iron utilizes a weight system, where heavier armor may provide better protection but at the cost of slow movement. Different weapons also perform unique move sets, where spears are quick and nimble but weaker, while hammers hit slower but harder. Maximum health is increased by bringing rare food items to RemRem the chef while he cooks you a hearty meal fit for a king.
There is a refreshing number of enemy types and boss encounters, each with its own level of challenge. In addition, other characters can assist you during certain missions, adding a nice sense of cooperative play to an otherwise solo game. Though that doesn’t mean they’re helpful.
Exploration is rewarding as you come across treasure chests that contain hidden loot and secret boss fights to tackle. The main story is supplemented with a wide variety of side quests that you can find on announcement boards throughout different towns. These missions usually boil down to clearing grub nests, fighting strange beasts, or taking on arena duels with moles. These side quests are also replay-able.
A big component of any action game is combat. Tails of Iron’s combat feels crisp and impactful thanks to audio and visual cues combined with the use of the DualSense haptic feedback on PS5. Your load-out includes a one-handed weapon, a two-handed weapon, a ranged weapon, and a shield at your disposal at all times. You can also coat your weapon with poison consumables for an added edge in battle.
Enemy attacks have a color-coded symbol that notifies you of the corresponding action that needs to be taken. For example, white attacks must be blocked via a shield, red attacks must be dodged, and yellow attacks must be parried. Redgi can also heal via his potion flask that can be refilled by looting bugs or at designated barrels found throughout the world. After being defeated, each boss has their own execution animation, allowing for some satisfying relief after each fight. If you are to fall in battle, don’t worry as there is always a save bench not too far away.
Sadly, Tails of Iron tries but fails to find its own identity as it mirrors Soulslike games. As demanding as the combat is, you’ll find several systems that hold it back. For example, certain boss moves stun-lock you and are followed by three move combos. Tails of Iron doesn’t seem fair at times with an absence of invincibility frames, poor hit box physics, and unbalanced enemy design. In addition, I encountered a few bugs, such as the camera zooming out randomly.
Tails of Iron borrows inspiration from other challenging games, but its beautifully crafted world and thought-provoking narrative definitely deserve your attention. Every new area offers more to explore and tests your skills to see this rodent’s adventure through until the end. Tails of Iron is an under-rat-ed gem that will make a mighty fine addition to your indie game collection this year despite some rare bugs and needed updates to the combat systems.
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