Preview: Iron Tides makes a solid first impression into the roguelike genre
Vikings and the roguelikes are a perfect combo.
Developers: Crash Wave Games Inc.
Publisher: Crash Wave Games Inc.
Rogue-likes litter the land of Early Access on PC pretty much everywhere you look, and there’s good reason for that. They just work so well. It’s a genre that enables developers to reuse what limited assets they create in a way that feels new every time thanks to the procedural generation factor. Iron Tides is one such game, and while its visuals keep things relatively simple, its game systems are deceptively deep.
It might be that I’m a sucker for Viking content of any kind, but there’s something about Vikings that fits the roguelike genre like a glove. Perhaps it's the varied classes whose abilities perfectly compliment each other to create such fluid and emergent battle strategies or the balancing act of deciding how far to push your team through the dangers of the open water while risking starvation and death, not unlike that of the real Vikings.
Iron Tides has been in the works for the last several years, being greenlit on Steam back in 2015 and was successfully Kickstarted towards the end of last year. The developers aren’t planning a long Early Access run, as their goal is to get the game out in full by the end of this year.
Let’s take a look at what you need to know about Iron Tides.
As of right now, there are only four character classes, but their tight design allows them to compliment each other perfectly.
The Vanguard, Hunter, Valkyrie, and Berserker are the characters you will be getting to know very well at the outset of your campaign. With most of these characters, their properties are as you might expect. The Vanguard is your lane clogging damage absorber, the Hunter, your longbow expert with high movement, while the Berserker has high critical traits and can redirect enemy attention by charging right into the thick of the action.
The Valkyrie is the wildcard of the group, mixing in different traits from various groups, while not specializing in any one area. The real game changer with the Valkyrie is her jump ability that allows her to get in and out of trouble spots with ease and offers what is easily the most dynamic bit of strategy that Iron Tides has to offer.
There are also differences between characters in each class as no one Viking is entirely the same as the next. For instance, I had two Hunters in my War Party with one being able to heal damage while the other had an ability called Mark For Death which reduced the target’s defense by 50%. This forced me to make a tough call between being able to keep my party healed or roll the dice in an attempt to defeat enemies quicker. Both outcomes work perfectly fine; it’s just a matter of taste in how you choose to approach battle. It’s also worth noting that you are always outnumbered in every encounter, so it’s important to weigh the risks in your decision making.
Battle is a constant, so always be prepared.
Iron Tides keeps things pretty simple (in a good way) as a vast majority of your time will be spent in battle. Fortunately, the encounters are paced in such a way that it never feels like a slog just to get through one. That said, battle and travel deplete your resources, which are wonderfully condensed into a single currency called “Stamina.” Keeping your warriors fed is of paramount importance since if they go hungry, their health quickly withers away and eventually they are met with an early trip to Valhalla.
Since it’s not the Viking way to die of starvation, food is relatively plentiful in the game world and cheap enough to acquire without making it feel too easy. Iron Tides does a good job of keeping death to the battlefield (where it should be) and doing so results in permadeath. In many ways, this is where Iron Tides can feel a lot like Darkest Dungeon, as the loop of recruiting characters and leveling them up with unlockable abilities as well as customizing and renaming them is largely the same. And it can be just as devastating when you get stupid and fail to retreat from a fight you can’t win.
The verdict so far:
For fans of roguelikes, Iron Tides should feel pretty familiar with what you’re used to. The difference here is that Iron Tides’ combat takes a table top approach to its combat thanks to its grid-based movement than the 2-D turn-based oriented nature of something like Darkest Dungeon. For those who haven’t yet jumped into the genre, Iron Tides sits on the less intense end of the spectrum and is a pretty accessible experience overall.
That’s not a slight against Iron Tides, as it is explicitly stated on their Steam page that they intend for the game to be “simple, yet challenging to play.” Suffice it to say; Crash Wave Games has succeeded in doing just that.
Iron Tides is available now in Early Access on Steam.