While the Iron’s Hot: Crafting a New Destiny in Stal
While the Iron’s Hot has a rather simple premise, the main character (named by the player) wants to be a master blacksmith, and traveling to an island of crafters is one of the best ways to do so. However, after the ship he is sailing on encounters a storm and proceeds to get torn apart, he winds up beached near the town of Stal, a small dying village with only one resident left after the master blacksmith who previously lived there died. He now decides to help rebuild the town by becoming the blacksmith that it needs.
Mastering the Art of Blacksmithing in While the Iron’s Hot
So, how exactly do you become a master blacksmith? Well, one of the best ways is an old adage: practice makes perfect. The basic crafting process is gathering resources, mostly ore and wood, that then need to be smelted down into ingots that can then be shaped into what is needed. Which then can be sharpened, if a blade is needed, and taken to the workbench to create the final products. The crafting process reminds me of Minecraft in some of the best ways possible.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Most NPCs are just background-dressing to make the towns feel bigger than they are… This makes most of the world feel oddly barren.[/perfectpullquote]
There are a good amount of recipes that can be found and bought, so players can start getting the hang of crafting, but frequently you are able to take previous recipes and experiment with them. The easiest example is creating a steel axe; this axe will be technically available to players, but a recipe won’t come till later. However, players can still craft without the recipe by simply replacing the iron blades with steel blades, and going even further, players can think about the shape of the item and attempt to discover more recipes on their own.
Exploring Interactions and Quest Dynamics in While the Iron’s Hot
The best part of this process is that if something doesn’t work out, players won’t lose any materials that they have gathered and crafted. It’s simple, but giving this freedom to the players makes the world feel huge, and the possibility that somebody may have an idea to create a new item motivates the player to talk to everyone. It makes me a bit sad to say that most NPCs are just background-dressing to make the towns feel bigger than they are.
For example, the first town outside of Stal will be full of people just running around; however, only people with exclamation marks above their heads will be able to be spoken with. This makes most of the world feel oddly barren, as most people can’t be interacted with, and after the player has finished their quest they will then be unable to talk with them. This led to situations where, instead of learning the names of people and towns, I started to refer to them as their professions. This also leads to issues as many minor quests that players can pick up from various boards around these towns.
I had moved on from a town but left a few commissions open from the board so I could deliver and work on them as I traveled to the next town…only for me to forget what the name of the town even was or where it was even located. I just didn’t care; it was just another task for me to do for a person I didn’t know or care about.
The Challenge of Crafting and Quest Resolution in While the Iron’s Hot
Games don’t need to have every NPC have dialogue, but some basic ability to talk with the ones that are important or will repeatedly have quests for you, outside of their quest start and quest end dialogues, goes a long way, even if it’s just to drop hints about the quests, as sometimes it feels too vague.
The quests themselves are fine and involve attempting to create new items or creating materials to fix some structures, things that wouldn’t be out of place for a blacksmith at all. However, most of these quests don’t have any kind of resolution after the player’s involvement. Instead, the NPC will praise you depending on the quality of the craft, give you your money, then…nothing.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The crafting process reminds me of Minecraft in some of the best ways possible.[/perfectpullquote]
Players won’t see any town outside of Stal change with direct input from the player. The main quest involving dealing with specific items in each town doesn’t improve the town in any visual way and none of the NPCs will talk about anything once their quest is done. It’s as if the blacksmith is a nomad with nobody he cares about and nobody that cares about him.
In the end, this makes the mini-games that involve crafting feel tedious at times. Using the forge is fine, as the process is automatic unless players need to speed up the process, and sharpening is simple enough if not repetitive. The real issue is using the anvil to shape each ingot into a usable form for crafts; while players can upgrade the forge to forge bulk items and improve the process of the mini-game.
The mini-game itself is rather simple. An icon will move continuously left and right, and players can press the button to have it hammer the spot where the icon stops. Each strike will cost a life, and running out will end the game prematurely and with a lower-quality item. The issue is that most items will be made just to sell for money or complete quests for stories or money. Outside of the two tools that can be used, there is no reason for the player to craft any item unless they need money.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]While the Iron’s Hot has a rather simple premise… he winds up beached near the town of Stal, a small dying village…[/perfectpullquote]
This filled me with a general question of why I should even care about crafting anymore and turn the core mechanic into a chore rather than something that could be fun to do. Granted, having more useful items wouldn’t necessarily improve the tediousness of the mini-game, but that would at least give goals for players to work toward. Instead, the basic game loop will include making enough items to gain enough money for a while before moving on to the next town. You end up a nomad looking only to improve your craft and gain nothing else for yourself.
Final Thoughts: Does While the Iron’s Hot Forge a Lasting Impression?
While the Iron’s Hot is a title that I desperately wanted to like more, the promotional art is beautiful, and the concept was intriguing to take on the work of a blacksmith to improve a town. However, nothing stands out when compared to other simulations that I have played that make crafting a major component of their identity, and even now, writing this review, I don’t want to come back to the title.
There are definitely good ideas here that could be polished even further into a phenomenal game, but the state of it now doesn’t make me care about the island or the people who live in it. Instead, they feel like window dressing for a single mini-game that gets dull after a few hours in.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.