Written by Maurice Verschuur
July 7, 2020 – Let’s not kid ourselves and start of with an important question: did you like the game mechanics from Company of Heroes? You’ll definitely need to keep an eye on Iron Harvest! Started out as a successful Kickstarter by developer KING Art Games the game is getting along very nicely. With a launch date pinned at September 1st the developer felt confident to release a timed exclusive demo during Steam Summer Festival and I tried it out.
Iron Harvest is set in the alternate reality of 1920+ where just after the end of the Great War (World War I), tradition clashes with scientific and technological progress while Europe is still recovering from the brutal battles. In the midst of this chaos three factions arise, each one has the determination to destabilize Europe and seize control using their oil punk mechs. The story of Iron Harvest is told in twenty missions over three campaigns in singleplayer or co-op. Or choose from skirmish maps and set up your own goals against AI, in co-op or multiplayer. The demo only had skirmish maps and one challenge (a single mission).
Iron Harvest is about the oilpunk mechs and they are amazingly designed! From small agile mechs which can move fast en take long range shots dealing heavy damage to soldiers on foot to big, and I mean BIG, tanky mechs which are perfect for destroying enemy vehicles and buildings. Every faction has his own diverse set of mechs. There are over 40 unit types and 9 heroes with unique abilities.
In order to build these mechs you need a lot of resources and you only have a limited number of buildings and units you can hold in your army. This means making choices and therefore Iron Harvest isn’t necessary a base building focused RTS. Yes, you most definitely need to build barracks and workshops in order to recruit soldiers and build the mechs. But expanding and heavily defending your base with for example bunkers means you are sacrificing the amount of units you can recruit or build. Capturing resource points like oil pumps and iron mines scattered across the map and build small but strategic defenses around them instead of your base is more important. And even though I played Company of Heroes back in the days, this was a lesson I apparently had to relearn.
I started out with the enemy AI on Normal difficulty, tried to get familiar with the game but the enemy is taking over resource points like crazy and slowly gets closer and closer to my base. As I’m finally ready to send out my first troops they quickly make first enemy contact close to my base. I give them the order to enter a nearby building so they can fend of the attack. Unfortunately my soldiers only have single shot rifles while the enemy has submachine guns. This is due to the difference between factions. This sounds unbalanced, but you will have other units that the other faction doesn’t. Quickly I recruit more soldiers and send them out to reinforce the pinned down troops. It seems to work and the enemy is falling back… until they bombed my troops with mortars and the first contact with the enemy ends up in a bloodbath.
This was a good lesson to prioritize capturing resource points more quickly in order to recruit troops faster then the enemy.
Using the environment
A true RTS tactician uses the environment to his benefit. And players in Iron Harvest can fully take advantage of this by using rivers, sloops and forests. Using your engineers you can set up a strategic defensive positions. I had a lot of fun making funnels using the terrain. At a riverbed for example I made two bunkers and used barbwire and sandbags to lead incoming enemy troops towards the bunkers. Especially at the beginning when soldiers are overwhelmingly present this is a good tactic. When time passes the enemy will send more and more mechs, luckily the bunkers are upgradable to fully fortified canons.
Building strategic defenses, managing resources, finding out the best strategy with the limited amount of army space you have is the fun challenge that brought the demo of Iron Harvest to me.