Time to hit the Trenches soldier!
What Iron Brigade Got Right
- + Varied gameplay keeps it interesting
- + Constant rewards and unlocks are satisfying
- + Multiplayer shenanigans are a blast
- + Witty writing and atmosphere define the plot
What Iron Brigade Got Wrong
- - Definitely feels like a console port
- - Inability to move or destroy turrets is annoying
- - Campaign is a little short
Tower defence games are all the rage these days, particularly on mobile platforms. Double Fine dipped their toes into the water last year with Iron Brigade on Xbox Live, a tower defence game with a witty story that was more then "kill these guys because we said so," and had character. Now they have brought the madness across to PC, and thrown in the DLC Rise of the Martian Bear for good measure. Is it worth a purchase? Absolutely!
Check out the official XBLA trailer!
The story is what really separates Iron Brigade from the run-of-the-mill tower defence game, which is to be expected considering Double Fine are at the helm. Taking the alternate history route, the game tells a tale post World War I where a strange radio communication known as "The Broadcast" was sent across the world and killed those who listened to it. Two war vets named Frank and Vladimir survive the attack, gaining super intelligence and knowledge of advanced technology. Frank builds mech-like contraptions known as Trenches to step onto the battlefield, and Vladimir is driven insane by his invention, the Monovision, which allows people to experience the world from their homes. He is bent on world domination, and it's up to Frank and his Trenches to stop him.
Sounds bat shit crazy right? That's exactly why it works so well. The story keeps the game moving at a momentum that other tower defence games simply can't, and through witty dialogue and the sense that you're fighting in something bigger than a video game is deeply satisfying.
Every mission pits players against this pattern, however the variation in enemies, weapons and sweet, sweet loot is what keeps things interesting."
Thankfully it's not only the story that pulls the game through, employing deep and engaging gameplay that is addictive as it is fun. Players will be briefed on their mission, placed into the battlefield via their Trench unit and they will defend their objectives for wave after wave until they face off against a boss. Every mission pits players against this pattern, however the variation in enemies, weapons and sweet, sweet loot is what keeps things interesting.
Strategy is the name of the game, and without a careful understanding of your current situation failure is almost always guaranteed. That's where the humorous mission briefings actually come in handy; listen to what Frank has to say about the expected opposition and study their entry points into the battlefield. Each mission will demand a different setup for your Trench, and if you fail to consider certain elements you could be caught with your pants down.
Players can customise almost every facet of their Trench, whether it be weapons, emplacements, chassis or paint jobs, allowing room for experimentation and growth to suit your playing style. Weapons take up slots; for instance a heavy sniper cannon will take out two slots while a machine gun and shotgun will only take up one slot each. For this reason alone you need to have an understanding of the mission ahead, if you walk into a battlefield with an anti-aircraft gun and you're only fighting ground units you are going to be in some trouble.
Emplacements are handy gadgets that will help you in the battlefield. Just like the weapons they take up equipment slots, so you need to plan for the scenario ahead. Anti-aircraft turrets, shotgun turrets, dampening generators (which slow enemies down when caught in their field) and more can be unlocked via the in-game XP system and loot boxes
All of your emplacements will cost you "scrap" which can be collected from fallen enemies between waves. After building an emplacement you can upgrade it's abilities with the simple press of a button if you have enough scrap to do so, and this creates even more strategy as you try to prioritise where your most powerful defences are required.
These tubes are relentless!
Once you have launched an emplacement it is there to stay, which is certainly frustrating if you accidentally place the wrong item down or put it in an awkward spot. It's not a game breaking flaw, but I seemed to place shotgun turrets in the wrong place too many times, and having no option to move them drove me insane as I saw a potential vantage point squandered.
For those who don't like their PC ports to feel like their console counterparts, you may be a little disappointed. The game automatically enforces invert mouse-look and the menu system still feels like it's suited for an Xbox 360 controller. Having said that, the game is more than playable with a controller, so if you don't mind plugging one in you'll be fine, and despite the interface, the gameplay works well with a mouse and keyboard combo.
Despite have the DLC included with the PC release, the game does feel a little short. Players could breeze through the campaign in two or three sittings if they were dedicated, but thankfully an impressive list of unlockable items and the varied situations will keep you coming back for more regardless.
Multiplayer shenanigans are always fun and Iron Brigade delivers them in spades. Gamers can create a lobby and take to the battlefields with a party of four, making this a lot of fun with friends. The madness is great solo but when you add friends to the mix it becomes one of the most enjoyable tower defence experiences you're likely to have.
The Final Verdict
If you haven't had a chance to experience Iron Brigade before, this is the perfect opportunity to jump on board. The inclusion of the DLC is more than welcome, and thanks to a witty story and fast, furious and ultimately fun gameplay, this unique tower defence game from Double Fine will keep you engrossed for weeks, maybe even months to come. It's fun solo, but convince your friends to come for the ride and you will have a new favourite multiplayer game to pass the days with.
By Stephen Heller