Reviews - Updated on June 3, 2022

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The Iron Oath has long been on my list of the most anticipated RPGs – the authors promised many interesting mechanics, including an ever-evolving world and aging heroes who retire. I was waiting for the game four years ago, but it so happened that it only came out in early access this spring. And from what I saw, it was worth the wait.

Guild, pensioners and dragons

We play as a group of mercenaries who have been betrayed and left to die by their own comrades. Naturally, the poor fellows survived and are now burning with the desire to find and take revenge. But not all at once. The action takes place in a harsh world, where there are many states, cities, factions and other companies of mercenaries. And this world is dynamically changing: cities can change hands, they are periodically attacked by bandits or demons, some other cataclysms like sandstorms happen – all this has a bad effect on trade and leads to higher prices in stores.

The game is made in a nice

The game is made in a nice “pixel” style.

Conversely, some cities get richer, the rulers put up reliable guards on the roads, which promotes trade. This is important because one of the ways to make money in the game is just to buy goods in one city and sell profitably in another.

In addition, fairs are held in some places – people walk around the clock, so you can’t stay in a hotel for the night to relieve the fatigue level of our mercenaries. Finally, with a certain frequency there are attacks by a dragon that destroys entire cities – you won’t be able to get there until the settlement is rebuilt. Or they will not share important story information with us until we raise our reputation level. And in the game there are five great houses, three big factions and an uncountable number of cities – for all our reputation is calculated separately.

The dragon attacks random cities, but the danger itself in one place or another is known in advance.

The dragon attacks random cities, but the danger itself in one place or another is known in advance.

You have to hire new fighters in taverns and take on contracts related, as usual, to finding your missing son/husband, dealing with bandits/monsters, collecting rare minerals, escorting merchants, and so on. This brings money, increases reputation and makes it possible to purchase global upgrades for your guild – here is an increase in its maximum number, and faster movement around the map, and a reduction in the cost of hiring / maintaining wards, and other useful things.

Yes, after a certain time we have to pay a salary (we conclude contracts for a year or three at once, but at a lower price). Moreover, when we move around the map, time passes constantly, and every day also costs us a small amount. Plus, the payment for rest in taverns and the cost of treating those who received a critical wound, which constantly reduces one or another of their characteristics. We put such people in the hospital, where they can lie for a whole month. And we also buy equipment for all the wards, remembering that over time it becomes unusable and needs to be replaced.

In each city, you can visit a tavern and order a drink there for everyone - this will raise the overall morale.

In each city, you can visit a tavern and order a drink there for everyone – this will raise the overall morale.

In any case, sooner or later, all mercenaries will need to be replaced – they grow old, and then, even if they do not die, they retire. Therefore, it is necessary to pump youth in advance in easier missions.

We must monitor not only the physical condition of the mercenaries – there are also such concepts as their attitude towards our guild and their relationship with each other. From time to time we make certain decisions, including during random events. They decided to drive away the bandits robbing travelers, or chose not to get involved, tried to settle the matter peacefully, killed the thief without trial or let him go – the wards evaluate these and other actions differently. Globally, this affects the cost of their contracts, but it’s still not very clear in the early version how and on what their relationship is reflected (and how it is formed) with each other.

In any case, all this guild macro- and micromanagement just seems boring and cumbersome – in fact, everything is implemented quite conveniently, without tension, and therefore is taken for granted. It just adds to the fun and depth of the game.

There are a lot of well-written texts here, and the characters turned out to be alive.

There are a lot of well-written texts here, and the characters turned out to be alive.

Time doesn’t wait

But this is only one layer of The Iron Oath gameplay. The second is clearing the dungeons, which ends most of the story and side quests. Before going down there, we select four fighters, buy consumables for them, including potions that increase morale, bandages and tools that allow us to overcome blockages.

The cleaning process itself is implemented as follows. In step-by-step mode, we move through sections where it is not known what awaits us – a battle, a trap, a random encounter or a chest. Once allowed to set up a camp in order to restore health and receive other bonuses such as experience or gold at the end of the mission (though first you need to open this opportunity on the guild leveling screen). During the rest, there is a certain chance that we will be attacked, so it is better to send some fighters to carry the guard.

The choice to go left or right is always relevant here.

The choice to go left or right is always relevant here.

Each move eats up a unit of time allotted for all this. You can conduct reconnaissance to dispel the fog of war, but this also takes time – as well as clearing the rubble or escorting a randomly encountered civilian to the surface (you can also leave him). When the time runs out, we will get one of the negative effects – we will lose the consumable, the damage from traps will increase, or the likelihood of an attack during the night will increase.

Then the countdown of a new time cycle begins – it will take several such cycles to complete most of the dungeons, which means that the penalties accumulate, forcing you to correctly plan your movement in order to get to the final boss as quickly as possible and finally return to the surface. As a result, we get money and experience, but the fatigue of the fighters also accumulates, affecting their effectiveness, and the equipment does not become newer.

The game suggests which parameters for this character class are priority.

The game suggests which parameters for this character class are priority.

Don’t stand under the arrow!

Well, the third layer of the gameplay is directly turn-based battles. Here, too, there are interesting nuances. First, the character classes are not typical. No, it is clear that the archetypes are guessed – there are conditional magicians, monks who prefer to fight with their bare hands and brass knuckles, spearmen, valkyries and guards. But everyone has unusual chips – magicians here specialize in summoning lightning; spearmen are also trained in magic, they know how to set fire to enemies and hit several opponents at once, standing in one row; monks are able to push away several enemies at once with a kick, and the guards not only wield a sword well, but also heal allies. We are free to pump these skills and discover new ones, and in each branch there are how many alternative development options.

Secondly, the environment is actively involved in battles. Pushing enemies away with your feet is useful because there are pits open or covered with flimsy boards on the battlefield, areas with ice where you can fall through, as well as points where something heavy will fall from above on the next move – the game visually tells you exactly where. And you can turn the tide of the battle, pushing opponents to these places.

Many enemies leave behind all sorts of muck, stepping into which we slow down or, for example, lose the ability to use skills.

Many enemies leave behind all sorts of muck, stepping into which we slow down or, for example, lose the ability to use skills.

Accordingly, you yourself also need to be careful – rather take the fighters from such dangerous points and not be exposed to blows that can throw someone into the pit. Some enemies love to hit several targets at once, or even they are creeping bombs that explode after a while and injure everyone around. It is also important to correctly place the wards before the battle. Sometimes we can get into an ambush or, on the contrary, arrange the same for monsters – this greatly affects the order of moves.

Thirdly, there are objects on the battlefield that block the view or reduce visibility – this makes attacks impossible or reduces damage. We are free to use these same objects as shelters. As a result, almost all battles are quite tense – there are practically no boring battles here.

Thanks to their skills, spearmen become one of the most useful.

The Iron Oath leaves a very good impression so far. The authors get a large and multifaceted game, in which there was a place for role-playing, tactical battles, and elements of strategy / management. Some mechanics have not yet been brought to mind, but there is a feeling that the developers will succeed – they are clearly not in a hurry and do everything in good faith. And, again, it’s worth the wait.

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