Tuesday, March 31, 2015

IronFall: Invasion (3DS eShop) Review

The final review of this month of multiplayer madness is IronFall: Invasion. It's never fun to end a month of reviews on a sour note, but sometimes it has to be done. Here's my review of highly competent indie developer VD-Dev's first Nintendo 3DS game.

It's easy to see the inspiration, but hard to actually recommend.

VD-Dev is a lot like developer Shin'en Multimedia. They both develop games that play to the strengths of the hardware they work on while creating some graphically masterful games. Whether they're actually fun to play is in the eye of the beholder, but they're usually of entertaining quality. Unfortunately, VD-Dev's first project for the Nintendo 3DS, IronFall: Invasion, is not one of these, as much as it pains me to say, especially when the team is but a trio or so of people. It's great to support indie efforts like IronFall: Invasion, but sadly, as you'll see with this review, the actual game is but a shadow of something compelling.

To say that VD-Dev wasn't completely inspired by Epic Games' Gears of War when they built IronFall: Invasion would be a massive lie. IronFall has all of the mechanics of Gears of War save for the clever level design, appealing gameplay and engaging story. Instead, you get very generic characters with zero development, robotic enemies that aren't satisfying to kill, and voice acting that is average, save for the female character who is a special level of awful. Even when her life is on the line, she speaks so uncomfortably that it's painful to listen to.

A robot's explosion is no substitute for a satisfying splattering
 of blood like Gears of War has. Wow. How twisted of me!
Other influences to Gears of War consist of waist-high cover that is conveniently placed around levels which you can hide behind while occasionally popping out of to take potshots at enemies, bulky characters, and yes, even the active reload mechanic from Gears. This has you reloading your weapon and timing your button press so the arrow stops in the green section of the meter, giving you more shots than you otherwise would have in your active round.

It's a botanical blowout as Jim takes on these robotic foes!
While the campaign itself is nothing at all stellar and compelling, VD-Dev has created an interesting approach to how potential players can get the full IronFall experience. The game itself is free, but only the first campaign mission (which again, is nothing too exciting, so it may as well put off potential buyers) and one map in multiplayer is available for both local and online play. Buyers can purchase either the solo campaign or multiplayer for $10, or by purchasing both simultaneously for $20, they can unlock a special jukebox. It's an intriguing setup that allows people to play IronFall before making the decision to possibly purchase the full game. However, as the full game isn't too different from the basic demo, it's doesn't really behoove you to pay for the whole base game.

All of these enemies attacking me just because of
an innocent "your momma's so fat" joke? Ridiculous!
As said, multiplayer can be played for free locally or online, but there is but one map to play on. The multiplayer is serviceable enough, having the winner earn experience that goes to earning higher ranks. You can even bet experience prior to a match to make it so there's even more on the line. With the paid version of multiplayer, there are around five more maps to choose from, but you're better off just forgetting about picking the map you like best and instead let the game pick a map. Otherwise you'll be waiting quite a long time for someone to be paired in the same with room, as the amount of players online who have also paid for the full version is conceivably quite low based off of how difficult it was to find people to fight against or with online.

That said, IronFall: Invasion doesn't suffer when it comes from its controls. There are multiple options for play, and the majority of them perform great. New 3DS XL owners can use the right nub to aim, whereas regular 3DS owners can opt to either use the Circle Pad Pro attachment or use my personal favorite control scheme, the Circle Pad for movement and the touch screen for aiming. It requires some tinkering with the sensitivity options, but once you get them to their optimal setting, aiming, turning, and looking around by sliding the stylus on the touch screen feels fantastic.

You can criticize IronFall: Invasion for many things,
but you can absolutely not knock the impressive visuals.
IronFall: Invasion is no slouch in its visuals, and that's a severe understatement. The game's graphics feature heavily impressive geometry, amazing stereoscopic 3D visuals, and otherwise a fluid 60 frames-per-second frame-rate. It all adds up for an immensely engrossing visual experience that really puts the 3DS hardware through its paces. Those of us following VD-Dev's history with their games know just how magnificently the developer plays to its strengths of making the most out of the hardware they work on, and IronFall: Invasion is indeed another brilliant example of that.

Get behind cover to more quickly regain health.
However, beauty is only skin deep when it comes to IronFall: Invasion, and this game is an unfortunate poster child of that. While the gameplay mechanics are sound, the actual game itself is just so uninspired. If you'll pardon the metaphor, IronFall: Invasion is like a hollow shell of a truly competent and fun game but lacking the soul required to make it something really special. As it stands, if you're really yearning for a third-person shooter on the Nintendo 3DS where there otherwise aren't any, try out the demo for IronFall: Invasion, and if you like it enough, then you'll most likely enjoy the full version. For everyone else, IronFall is an easy game to pass on.

[SPC Says: D+]

Review copy provided by VD-Dev.

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