Review – We follow Kipuna and Toppi in this time manipulating, RPG-like, level based puzzle game. Our protagonists are a fisherman’s daughter and the quartermaster of the keep that’s supposed to keep the citizens safe. They are attacked by the evil northlanders and must flee south, to Kalevala’s capital. That’s where we meet this unlikely duo. While fleeing their hometown Kipuna is wounded by a mystical, ancient, fluorescent rock which becomes part of her and gives her command over time itself.
Is this new, time manipulating game mechanic enough to make Iron Danger a good game?
Unlike other RPG titles, where you can make your own character and maybe even customize it – here you can only start a new game and be greeted by a somewhat lopsided dialog between the big, bearded Toppi and another, even bigger fellow. Toppi tries to recount the events preceding their arrival to the capital with not much luck to this other, obviously important, dark skinned fellow.
Lore is scarce, so we are left to our own devices when we have questions about our environment and events. So we don’t really know what’s happening until this dialog is over. To be honest, Toppi was supposed to be this giant, kind-hearted helping hand – much like Hagrid – but the voice over is so dumb that he mostly comes across as an alcoholic half-wit.
As Kipuna says mostly nothing during this encounter, I had no real first impressions of her at all. However she is the main protagonist as she can rewind time, thanks to that shard in her chest. She is also much more relatable – at least for me – than the other guy, since she never asked for any of this and she often says so. Still, she’s much more like a main protagonist from a fairy tale and not the main character of a steam-punk RPG epic…
Game Mechanics, Control, etc.
After the first “dialog” we can take control fully of the game. We start with maneuvering Kipuna, and learning camera and movement controls. While she’s fleeing her settlement under siege, she winds up falling into a long forgotten pit below the city. It’s an ancient temple of sorts and she is pierced by a glowing rock pillar – and instead of perishing, the glowing rock becomes part of her and gives her the power of an ancient being. As the being puts it, it’s “not yet her time” so from now on she can rewind time. The rewind is good for about 10 seconds, or 10 heartbeats. With this newfound power we die and rewind a couple times until we finally make it to the keep, where we meet Toppi, the quartermaster.
The game actually tells us, that it’s not a problem if die or suffer damage as we can only rewind after the fact, so this is actually a good strategy. Die, see what the enemy has in store, then rewind and do it better the next time. So exactly the game encourages us to be bold and unlike in the Dark Souls games, we actually don’t get any penalty for perishing – and it’s even encouraged.
So after we know how to control two characters and properly manage time rewinding – we set off on our adventure.
After the realization that this is not a classic RPG with a new twist on the combat system, the question arises: What IS this game? We can’t create our own character for this adventure – we can’t even the name of the main protagonist. Doesn’t matter, it still can be a good adventure game, right? Not really.
According to the trailer this is a tactical RPG in steam-punk fantasy setting. That’s not really accurate. Well the graphics are more cute than detailed or epic, and sometimes characters do overlap each other. I’d say this is a standard, vanilla high-fantasy setting. And the world… Even after playing through three acts, I still don’t really know anything about it. There’s no detailed lore except for a couple sentences between levels in Kipuna’s “journal”.
There’s no inventory, character sheet, skill tree, detailed missions/journal, lore… to be honest nothing that would resemble an RPG game. The rich Scandinavian folklore is just a couple of names. The levels are linear, a couple puzzles and that’s it. The story is also linear with zero player interaction with any of the characters or choices for that matter… We can’t explore the locations at all, no free roam, no looting system and no saving during a level.
So what CAN we do?
We can complete the puzzles in the levels and progress in the “story” to the next level. We can learn what obstacles are in a given level, and how we can overcome it. If we’re lucky, the 10 second time rewind is enough – if not, and we messed up, we can only start from the beginning of the level.
The levels usually take between 20 and 60 minutes to complete – and at the end of each level we can see how much we actually spent playing the game and how much time passed in the game on that level.
This game is not easy – as a good puzzle game should be. There are three different difficulty levels:
adventurer, normal, hard. I play on normal and there were levels, where I spent 35-40 minutes in front of the computer to figure out a way to beat it – and that was 5 minutes in the game.
So all in all this is a very nice, fantasy puzzle game in my opinion. The characters sometimes speak to each other, maybe make a joke or two but that’s really inconsequential and has no impact on the game whatsoever. At the beginning of every level we get a new “skill” which we will need right there and then.
This feels like a “level up” somewhat, but you’d get it whatever you do, you just need to finish the previous level.
This is an interesting idea, but the execution really feels “indie”. I would have really enjoyed a game like “Original Sin” with a time rewind mechanic with a much more open world and at least some choices, but… I guess they didn’t have enough resources to make a bigger game.
Anyone who likes new ideas, fantasy indie games will probably enjoy this – but those who are looking to play a groundbreaking, epic steam-punk RPG will be disappointed.
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+ Fresh take on the fighting system
+ Good game for casual players
+ Interesting atmosphere
– Inconsistent and sometimes cumbersome fighting system
– Zero character and story complexity
– very linear
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Action Squad Studios
Genre: Indie Fantasy Action RPG
Release date: March 25, 2020