Reviews - Updated on April 9, 2022

Many great games are inspired by someone’s style, and sometimes even by a single painting. But for a whole game to be born from a series of illustrations by one unusual artist – this has never happened before in my memory. And yet, this is how Iron Harvest appeared – a strategy about huge diesel robots trampling the battlefields of the Great War that have not yet cooled down.

Pictures of another world

Jakub Rozalski is a Polish artist who, without realizing it, created a new alternative historical setting. In his usual static manner, he painted some of his favorite landscapes of Eastern Europe – mountains, forests and old cities. Only over all this pastoral towered gigantic walkers, spewing smoke and as if assembled by a team of desperate welders at the nearest landfill. This combination of the familiar world, referring to the beginning of the 20th century, and strange combat vehicles instantly captivated the audience.Iron Harvest game review

Gigantic silhouettes of cars peeking through the haze are a signature feature of Rosalsky’s illustrations.

A few years ago, Western media began to write about Yakub, his work became viral on both involved and non-involved resources, and soon he was offered to create a board game based on his own illustrations. The fundraising was great (by January 2017, they had accumulated 5 million rubles), and the Serp desktop strategy quickly reached buyers.

And then there were those who would like to see a computer game based on the art of Rozalski. The King Art studio got down to business – not very famous, and you are unlikely to remember its games, except perhaps the controversial The Dwarves. First, the company held, of course, a collection on Kickstarter – and got $ 1.3 million, which, however, did not prevent King Art from finding a publisher for further work. Publish Iron Harvest – this is the name of the upcoming RTS – agreed to Deep Silver, promising complete creative freedom. Well, such a promise Deep Silver can keep – remember the “History over SJW” policy in Kingdom Come: Deliverance and caustic pricks in Metro: Exodus aimed at Russia – an important market for the game.

And you know, the thick skin of the publisher is still useful to the project!

Subjunctive mood

The world of Iron Harvest is not quite an alternative history: rather, it is a full-fledged dieselpunk, in which the existence of effective walkers on coal and diesel fuel is possible (in ours, just in case, I remind you that this is unlikely), but at the same time, the geography and the alignment of political forces are very similar on ours.Iron Harvest game review

Despite the differences in the alternate universe, the factions are instantly recognizable.

The game will show us the devastated conditional First World Eastern Europe. And although guns rumbled just a couple of years ago, the region is about to be engulfed by a new massacre. According to Iron Harvest, Saxony (an analogue of our Germany), Polania (guess from three times) and Rusvet (guess from one time) will participate in it. Details of the story will be shown in the local campaign, where the events of big politics will serve as a backdrop for the history of individual heroes.Iron Harvest game review

The Iron Harvest campaign will feature unique heroes similar to those seen in Westwood’s strategy games.

But what made the countries, exhausted by the war, again grab each other by the throat? And the same as in our history. The setting of Jakub Rozalski refers us not so much to the First World War, but to the forgotten Soviet-Polish war, when the Bolsheviks tried to return Poland to the sphere of influence of Soviet Russia, and Poland snapped back a good deal. That is why in Iron Harvest we will not see analogues of France or Austria-Hungary, whose participation in the Great War can only be ignored by DICE with its unique vision of history (I hope your sarcasmometers have not burned out), but the Soviet-Polish war was very far from them .

In doing so, Iron Harvest avoids the temptation that alternate history writers usually succumb to – to fill their world with references to the real world. Here in the ranks of Saxony there will be no corporal Schicklgruber, and the revolutionary Ulyanov will not go to Petrograd on a sealed robot. In fact, it would be a bad decision for an alternative history, because such details give the universe credibility. For dieselpunk, which is more detached from our reality, this is no longer such a tragedy, but personally I would be glad to see at least a couple of “anchors”.

This does not mean that the authors of Iron Harvest are planning to portray Rusvet as inveterate villains, eager to subdue the unfortunate Poland. They assure that there will be both positive and negative characters on the side of the “Russians”. Well, it’s impossible to check yet – the only mission of the campaign that I was allowed to play on IgroMir was dedicated to Polania and her heroine Anya with a pet bear Voytek.

Iron Harvest game review

Wojtek the bear is not a fiction. During World War II, Polish soldiers tamed a brown bear, which served the Polish army faithfully for 20 years and even knew how to feed ammunition.

Rules of war

So, the campaign. The mission mentioned above did not fully reflect the gameplay of Iron Harvest, as it was one of those missions where you control a limited group of troops and a hero, sniff around carefully and protect each soldier. But in this mode, the details of the game mechanics are very clearly visible, and with it everything is quite clear. Iron Harvest is the essence of Company of Heroes (or Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War). Iron Harvest game review

Defense must be active: like Company of Heroes, Iron Harvest does not tolerate passivity.

The player controls infantry squads of several people and equipment, produced one at a time. The health of the infantry is weak, and this needs to be compensated by taking cover, shell craters, hiding behind fences and hiding in the surviving buildings. A unit may suffer losses, but as long as at least one fighter remains in it, the unit can retreat to the base and replenish its ranks. Unlike Company of Heroes and others like them, there is no morality in Iron Harvest: soldiers will not run when they meet superior forces, but they can be pressed to the ground with heavy fire, as in Eugen Systems games (for example, in Steel Division), such a squad in full force falls to the ground and suffers small losses, but cannot escape anywhere.

Although the technology in Iron Harvest is a wonderful figment of the imagination of Jakub Rozalski, it still obeys basic strategic laws. Walkers must turn where they shoot, their stern armor is noticeably weaker than frontal, and when ambushed, even the most fat-assed bandura will not live long. As Tobias Stolz-Zwilling, who most recently was Warhorse’s PR manager and is now doing much the same at Deep Silver, has emphasized over and over again, Iron Harvest has little to do with the endurance of the troops themselves, and much more means mutual position and moment.

Iron Harvest game review

Alas, the vision system from Company of Heroes 2 was not transferred to Iron Harvest, which made it possible to hide soldiers literally a stone’s throw from the enemy, if you sit behind a large obstacle.

In the mentioned mission for Polania, it was necessary to destroy the Rusvet patrol, which was noticeably superior in strength to the player. A frontal attack will certainly end in a rout, but if you seat the soldiers behind comfortable stone fences and embankments, and then pile on at once when the patrol is under crossfire, then it’s over. The same principle was confirmed throughout the mission, especially at the end, when it was necessary to defend the point from again superior forces of Rusvet. Successful shelters, a bunker in a good place, a squad of engineers ready to patch holes in the cast-iron rear of a padded robot – and that’s it, it’s in the bag. True, I managed to lose this detachment of engineers, and the only thing that saved me from a humiliating defeat was that the mission hung just in time. Troops from both sides decided to arrange a Christmas truce (just bugged and froze in their places).

And by the way, in case you are wondering, the single player campaign is enough for 20 hours of gameplay. And there and in the network game you can poke your head.

A war to end wars

I must say, the robots, for which everything was started, turned out both well and not quite at the same time. In terms of visual style, this is, of course, a victory: the Saxon shiny monsters, the formidable angular cars of the Russians, all this is richly animated, intensely smoking and shaking the earth. One minus – the size of the technique is clearly not up to those images that are shown in the illustrations of Rozalski. You can see for yourself how HUGE the walkers are in the paintings of the Polish artist. The equipment from Iron Harvest is just large. Most likely, this is a victim of balance, and truly gigantic cars would simply block the player’s view, but one could be given to each team! Although who knows, I still played “alpha”.Iron Harvest game review

Such huge colossus should devour tons of shells and fuel, but there will be no supply system in Iron Harvest – and so there is too much microcontrol.

In addition to the campaign, I also managed to learn “skirmish” by playing one battle for Saxony. In this mode, the game is even more reminiscent of Company of Heroes. Especially the map – there are many different points on it: three control points, the capture and retention of which will replenish the supply of victory points; oil rigs and ore mines that supply resources to increase your army. In addition, almost the entire location is littered with various useful little things: packs of raw materials and abandoned tools.

Like Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, Iron Harvest requires a lot of initiative from the player, even compared to other RTS games. You need to quickly attack with any, even weak troops, take towers with mines, choose positions so as not to merge in the very first seconds of a firefight. Excitement is added by gifts at the level – resource boxes will help you out until there is a stable income, a captured cannon in time will allow you to fight off enemy vehicles while you don’t have your own, and an ownerless machine gun will protect you from infantry attacks.

The game is not in vain called Iron Harvest – “Iron Harvest”: here fallen opponents are also a source of resources. Infantry squads drop their weapons after death – and some penny shooters can profit from expensive flamethrowers. That is, Iron Harvest requires not only focusing on controlling points and resources, but also constantly monitoring such insignificant (seemingly) details: where there are still no-man’s weapons left, where useful equipment is lying around. Well, the position of the detachments must be monitored: an impenetrable position when the enemy enters from the other side turns into a shooting range, where your dear soldiers serve as targets.

And mighty walkers in such conditions, even if they remain carriers of a threatening force, but it costs nothing to smash them if you hit the vulnerable stern from a howitzer in time.

Too bad the AI ​​wasn’t ready for this wealth of tactics. On medium difficulty, the computer opponent shows a minimum of initiative, attacks sluggishly and at random, and when you dominate, he can fall into a catatonic stupor. I hope this is all the cost of an early version, and in the release iteration of Iron Harvest, due on September 1, 2020 (i.e. 1.9.

Iron Harvest game review

Infantry can hide behind embankments and fences, but bushes and tall grass will not reduce the visibility of soldiers.

***

To simplify, it turns out that Iron Harvest is just a Company of Heroes in a dieselpunk setting, endowed with a couple of unusual “features”. Perhaps it is. But against the backdrop of the entire RTS genre with checkpoints, this borrowing looks like a virtue. Think back to what happened to Iron Harvest’s inspirations. Company of Heroes 2 found itself at the epicenter of the scandal, and now Relic is busy with other projects. Dawn of War III mutated into a different genre of game that everyone called MOBA (which is only partly true), and the game soon closed. There were no other hunters to put experiments in the RTS genre, which was recognized as unprofitable and inconvenient.

It turns out that Jakub Rozalski drew his illustrations just in time. Perhaps he will give a good kick to the strategy genre. Well, or finish him – there as it will.

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