Iron Danger Review (PS5)

Iron Danger PS5 Review

Iron Danger (PC, PlayStation 5 [Reviewed], Xbox Series X/S)
Developer: Action Squad Studios
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Released: March 25, 2020 (PC), August 16, 2023 (PS5, Xbox Series)
ESRB: T – Teen

Iron Danger is a Tactical/Strategy game that released for PC three years ago and has now made its way to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.

As a PC tactical game first, I’d say Action Squad Studios did about as well of a job as you could do with controller support. It’s a little clunky, and takes some getting used to, but there’s a lot going on so you shouldn’t expect the controls to be great with a controller. I found them to be rather cumbersome for the first hour or so, but eventually got used to it. It’s the nature of the game, there’s just not any better way to map the controls to the buttons available on a controller.

Iron Danger’s sole identity is built around its unique time rewind mechanic. The tagline is “you will die, but you will not fail.” What that means is that you can rewind time at any moment up to about five seconds. If at first you don’t succeed, rewind a little and make a different move or reposition.

Because of this mechanic, dying doesn’t matter. There’s no consequence, and that works because it’s part of the game’s story. That said, it doesn’t necessarily make the game “easy.” It’s actually a little more difficult than you’d probably expect, especially if you try to play it non-tactically. There are times where you’ll have a lot of enemies around, and you will die in one hit. Meanwhile, the enemies will take several.

As there are no difficulty related trophies or achievements, I’d recommend just playing the game on Adventurer. It’s not a cake walk, but it isn’t as frustrating as the other options either. It’s at least worth doing until you get a hang for the controls and how you need to play the game.

You have to approach each combat area tactically. Use traps and ranged abilities as much as possible. Often times there will be something in the environment that you can use to kill enemies (and also yourself if you’re not careful).

Iron Danger Screenshot 01

Still, you’re going to get overwhelmed in a few different spots. It’s in these moments that the game can be frustrating, and then you’re in this loop of dying, rewinding, dying, rewinding, dying and so-on. It’s actually in these moments that the whole mechanic of the game starts to feel bad.

I couldn’t help but think that it would’ve played better as a tactical game in the vein of XCom or Desperados. In a lot of encounters, I just didn’t feel like I had a lot of agency over the situation. You have to kill these guys, and in this instance there’s no real way to do it stealthily. So then everyone gets alerted. You’re trying to control two characters, you have enemies coming up on you, there’s arrows flying from multiple directions and all you can do is rewind a little at a time. You’re likely already going into the encounter with low health, so if you get hit you’re dead.

In that sense, I think the game just relies a little too heavily on its gimmick. Where it gets to feeling, at times, like it could’ve been a cool mechanic or ability within the game without being the whole game.

The combat, which outside of a few puzzles, is the entire game is both fun and frustrating. Some of it has to do with the clunky controls, which again I don’t see how they could be better on a controller, but a lot of it is the overreliance on the time manipulation.

Iron Danger Screenshot 03

The game is inspired by Finnish folklore and particularly the epic poem Kalevala. But its infused with some steampunk fantasy elements which are pretty cool.

You play as Kipuna, a regular village girl who falls to her death during an attack on her village. Except she landed on a special shard that pierced her heart and now as the ability to alter the timeline. With her death undone, and the shard still in her, Kipuna and her companion Topi (and later a couple of others) are thrust into a war between the Northlanders and their Witch Queen Lowhee and the city of Kalevala.

Iron Danger is a linear game. The maps for each mission/level are fairly small. It will take between 12 and 15 hours to complete.

I will say that, in this day and age especially, it was the nice that the game is grind free. There are no player levels, no XP, no skill trees, and no loot. You have skills or abilities that unlock as the game progresses and that can be upgraded at the end of a mission, but it’s all based on story progression. It’s a rarity in these days where even sports games want to pretend to be RPG’s with character levels and skill trees.

Iron Danger Screenshot 03

Iron Danger leans a little too heavily on its main mechanic, in ways that at times can feel both frustrating and cheesy. It makes it so the combat, which is to say the gameplay, bounce between fun and annoying.

But the rest of the package is top notch. The world is great and the game looks very good; it has a cool art style. The story is fair and made better by some quality voice acting, especially by the voice actress for Kipuna. The sound in general is also very good.

The levels are laid out well with some clever environmental pieces that can feel good when utilized to your advantage.

Performance on PS5 has been excellent. It runs smooth, I haven’t noticed any glaring frame drops or hiccups, and haven’t encountered any bugs either.

As far as tactical combat games go, it’s solid. I’d say overall it’s a satisfying game (which to me falls in between decent and good), and that’s because I’m enjoying it in spite of its flaws. Its creative strength is the time manipulation mechanic, but it also ends up being its weakness as well. It’s definitely a niche game. It doesn’t have mass appeal.

If you’re a fan of tactical games with some light puzzles, you’ll likely get some enjoyment out of Iron Danger. It’s also reasonably priced at $20. I think that’s a solid price for it. It’s not a game you’re likely to play through more than once, and it probably wouldn’t take you more than 15 or so hours to beat.

Iron Danger gets a three out of five: SATISFYING.

3 Stars

* A digital code was provided by the publisher for review.

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