Review – Iron Harvest

It’s always nice to see a classic RTS released these days. Especially when it’s in the vein of Company of Heroes/Dawn of War, both of which remain personal favorites. Nowadays, with the genre dominated by 4x titles, even a run of the mill game seems special. And sadly though I wish I could say more, Iron Harvest is very much a run of the mill RTS. It does a decent job, especially during the early campaign, of channeling its spiritual predecessors. But give it time, especially in its lackluster skirmish/multiplayer modes, and it just ultimately feels lacking and hollow. Still fun though.

Iron Harvest

These old newsreel inspired cinematics are some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I’m a huge history geek and stuff like this hits all the right notes.

The best part about Iron Harvest is without a doubt the story and setting. It’s set on an alternate Earth during the 1920’s following the Great War. Other than every country getting a name change, there’s only one major difference. Mechs exist and are a regular part of life. So obviously it’s far superior to our timeline in every way that matters. The campaigns revolve around continued tensions between the three great powers of Polania, Rusviet, and Saxony. Themes of nationalism, futility of war, family bonds, and everyone trying to make their way in a broken world are all explored in a mature engaging way. It’s the rare RTS campaign experience that manages to pay just as much attention to the characters as it does the factions. Probably my favorite RTS story since StarCraft II.

Iron Harvest

Don’t mind him, he’s just a giant walking gas tank with a gun.

I don’t want to make it sound as if the gameplay is bad or anything. Other than some small issues, it’s perfectly serviceable. It’s just lacking something to make it stand out, to make it a compelling game on its own. As it is, it’s just a subpar version of systems other games did better years ago. The sole exception is squad weapon switching. While on the battlefield, every defeated squad drops their equipped weapon as a pick-up. You can then send in one of your units to pick it up and change their unit type on the fly. For example, you can have your Grenadier unit pick up a cannon to switch weapons for the extra firepower if needed. It allows each battle to flow more dynamically, and increases minute to minute strategic designs.

Iron Harvest

I love this map so much. The small details done for immersions sake make or break games like this.

Honestly, that sole gameplay gimmick could have been enough. Everything else is standard squad based RTS gameplay done just well enough to be fun. Issues like finicky cover could be patched and awful AI gotten around via a strong multiplayer showing. Or just powered through, like with every Total War ever. The real problem is the game’s lack of content for the modes that need it most. There’s three campaigns of seven missions each, one for each faction. While the story is fantastic, mission variety can be questionable, but overall I’d say it’s well done. Then you get to Skirmish/Multiplayer and see there’s a grand total of six maps. Good maps, but still only six. There’s also a Challenge survival map for each faction, but again that’s it. Faction variety is also questionable, which was clear in the campaign, but even more obvious in a competitive environment.

Iron Harvest

Native Mode needs to be a baseline feature for any historical game, RTS or not.

Despite it’s flaws, I enjoyed my time with Iron Harvest. Mostly with the campaign, but the more flexible gameplay style allowed with weapon switching made Skirmish/Multiplayer promising. Sadly, the game’s lack of content and poor faction variety hurts its longevity. King Art has promised aggressive post launch plans to fix these two major issues. Whether it will work or not is anyone’s guess, but with how promising the base game really is under it all makes me hopeful that they can pull it off. It probably won’t come close to eclipsing the greats of the past, but it still could establish itself as its own thing. And in my opinion, that’s worth far more.

Graphics: 8.0

Not the best looking RTS I’ve ever seen, but it’s not too shabby either. Love the unit designs especially.

Gameplay: 6.0

It has potential, but is too flawed to live up to the games it’s inspired by. The AI is especially terrible.

Sound: 9.0

The soundtrack is fantastic and the game’s Native Mode which uses faction specific voice work should be a baseline feature for historical games.

Fun Factor: 7.0

The story and setting are great and will keep you going through the campaign. After that the lackluster gameplay and lack of maps kills the momentum.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Iron Harvest is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

A copy of Iron Harvest was provided by the publisher.