Iron Danger is a tactical combat game that makes use of elements from both role-playing games and real-time strategy games. It is very reminiscent of the original Warcraft game series in both its style and combat mechanics. The game is uniquely employs a time-manipulation mechanic that changes the flow of combat, but it is hampered by significant flaws in its combat and level design.
Violence: All of the violence in Iron Danger is completely bloodless. Characters will cry out in pain when damaged. Enemies fall over when defeated and eventually their bodies disappear. A character is impaled on a stalagmite but no blood is shown.
Language: A few uses of “d-mmit” and “h-ll” are sprinkled into the game.
Sexual Content: Some female characters show off their exposed midriffs.
Spiritual Content: Kipuna is resurrected by a mysterious spiritual entity that helps guide her along her journey. She also meets a healer who has the appearance and philosophy of a European shaman or druid. Kipuna’s abilities are magical in nature and her power is derived from the entity that resurrected her.
Positive Themes: Kipuna’s character arc is a coming-of-age story focused around her need to take responsibility for her newfound powers and to use them to save others. Themes of courage in the face of overwhelming odds and of discovering the world are also present.
Watching the trailer for Iron Danger got me fairly excited as I am both a fantasy nerd and a sucker for strategy games. I was also interested in playing a game drawing from a Finnish mythology which is not typically used in modern fantasy. The game begins by quickly introducing the player to the main character as well as to the combat mechanics. I applaud this game for incorporating the tutorial into the story rather than separating it from the rest of the game.
The main character of Iron Danger is Kipuna, a normal teenage girl living in a quiet village. However, her life is upended when the militaristic Northland Empire invades her village. In trying to escape her village, Kipuna falls into a cave and is impaled on a stalagmite, instantly killing her. However, she is immediately resurrected by a mysterious spirit who grants her magical powers through the shard embedded in her heart, and Kipuna is able to escape the village with her warrior friend Topi. The player follows Kipuna’s adventure as she sets off to fight the Northlanders and discover the true nature of her powers.
The story begins with an intriguing premise in the tutorial level, but unfortunately it reverts to a fairly standard story for the fantasy genre. As someone who really enjoys games with strong stories, it does not ruin the game but is frustrating nonetheless. The idea of a fantasy game based on Finnish mythology is interesting in concept but it is never truly brought to its fullest potential. There wasn’t anything in the game’s aesthetic or world-building that really set it apart as being unique from other games in the genre. In execution, it feels like typical high fantasy tropes that have been given the appearance of being Finnish through the names of characters and the environments.
The characters are fine but don’t do anything from a story perspective that really makes them stand out. The voice-acting is solid overall and no lines stand out as particularly awkward, but no performance in the game is that memorable either. Topi was my favorite character partly because I find the trope of the muscular man who enjoys crushing things to be pretty entertaining. He also has a few lines of dialogue that are actually pretty funny and gets a few heart-felt moments with Kipuna that are well-executed.
The major selling point for Iron Danger is its time manipulation mechanic which lets the player control the flow of combat at a more intricate level. I’ve seen others compare the mechanic to the time manipulation in Superhot, but that is not a very good comparison. Superhot lets the player slow down time in order to defeat enemies, whereas in Iron Danger time can be paused entirely. The game presents a timeline at the bottom of the screen that allows the player to plan out their attacks and defenses before initiating combat. Over the course of my playthrough, I found this mechanic to be very satisfying when I executed it correctly and infuriating when I mishandled it.
One of the most helpful aspects of this feature is the ability to rewind time in order to change up your strategy or save characters from death if you get yourself in a bind. Theoretically this would make the game incredibly easy but it seems that the developers picked up on this and designed the game in such a way that rewinding time doesn’t always work. The player is limited in how far they can rewind time, which is something that always must be kept in mind especially when combat goes on for a while. There are also situations in which the player may be surrounded by enemies so that rewinding time may not necessarily open up a new route to success.
The combat overall ranged the scale from pretty fun to incredibly frustrating. In my playthrough I found that there were several moments where I would get into situations where my characters were going to be severely damaged or killed no matter what option I chose. I also found it difficult to manage multiple characters in combat simultaneously as too much focus on one character usually results in the death of another. I think the concept for the time manipulation mechanic is an inventive one, but issues like these need additional polishing in order to make them more intuitive.
Part of what made the combat frustrating is that I never got to a point where the framerate ran at a comfortable pace. I would often find myself in situations where I would command a character to perform an action and the game would dramatically slow down as they performed it. The game is set up in such a way that timing your attacks and blocks in combat is essential to achieving victory, so this issue became irritating very early on. While my computer met the technical requirements to run the game, I was constantly running into little technical and graphical issues like this. The textures on the characters or the environments never looked quite right. None of these issues broke the game or made it unplayable, but it greatly soured my experience overall.
The level design of Iron Danger is very linear as the player is forced towards one objective on the map usually with only one route that they can take to get there. I would have preferred multiple routes, which would add complexity to strategic decision-making. There are also a couple levels in which all the player does is walk around a town and talk to some people who will give you information that moves the story along. I found these levels particularly frustrating as they easily could have been added onto the currently existing levels or turned into brief cut scenes. Those levels greatly slowed down the pace of the game and felt like unnecessary padding for the playtime.
The game presents a skill tree for the characters that is also very linear and limited in its scope. After every level in which combat takes place, the player is able to choose a new ability for each of his or her characters that enhances their offensive and defensive capabilities. This system is strange, as the player’s skill in completing the level is not factored into the progression, but rather only whether or not the player completed the level at all. This severely limits customization, and as such, each character’s role in the party is very fixed.
In short, Iron Danger is a fairly standard fantasy adventure game that will probably meet most people’s requirements for a decent game. While the game is hampered by the flaws listed previously, it is fairly easy to understand its mechanics. It would also serve as a pretty good jumping-off point for anyone new to the strategy genre. If the story had been more engaging and the combat mechanics a bit more polished, then it would have the foundation necessary to make a great strategy game. As it stands, Iron Danger promises innovation but isn’t ambitious enough to deliver on its promise, resulting in a game that won’t bore the player but probably won’t leave much of an impact on them either.
Review copy generously provided by Sandbox Strategies.
The Bottom Line
Iron Danger's combat can be frustrating at times, but its time-manipulation mechanic, despite a clunky implementation, provides it an identity of its own.