Take to seas and don’t die of starvation.
Iron Tides sails its way into Steam Early Access today, and over the past couple of days I’ve had the joy of trying the game out. This Viking-themed turn-based strategy game is interesting in concept, combining elements of rogue-likes, strategy titles and RPG elements. The build I got to play includes a campaign mode and several skirmish maps. Now, I’m not going to lie, I had fairly middling expectations coming into this title. However, what it lacks in presentation it makes up for in easy-to-pick-up gameplay, and a decent amount of depth. So let’s sail the high seas with some Viking companions.
The basic premise is that you are the Chieftain of a clan, and it is up to you to sail the seas and explore, recruit, fight, and not starve to death. It doesn’t really get more complicated in terms of plot, but simple isn’t necessarily bad. Before setting out on your pillaging adventures, you must prepare your supplies. The currency of the game is hacksilver, which is gained out on the sea from exploration and combat. The most important supplies early on are food for your crew’s stamina. The core of the game takes place on your Viking longboat with your crew. You take turns moving to different tiles on the map, and each turn you consume stamina. Running out of stamina means your crew loses health slowly each turn. There is a macrostrategy element where you want to explore as much as possible, while being mindful of your supplies. And this does get more stressful the longer your mission goes. So it is absolutely integral that you plan and choose wisely where you choose to explore and what you do. You are also trying to receive trading supplies from various sources to sell and get some of that good hacksilver. However, not all is lost if you’re running low on supplies. You can explore shipwrecks, which have the chance of either giving you supplies, recruiting survivors, or scavenging trading goods. Another way to get supplies is fighting and destroying the way only a Viking does.
Combat is similar to other grid-based strategy RPG games. You have a party of characters, each with their own strengths and traits, and you have to use those strengths to destroy your opponent. Something of note is that the order of characters in battle isn’t set based on a stat. Instead, combat always starts on your turn, and what character goes first is up to you. You can also choose actions in any set order you want, as long as you have the fury for it. Combat is a good balance of easy-to-understand skill sets, with a little bit of depth in enemy variety. Combat also moves at a good pace. It wasn’t very hard to get into the flow of combat, but it is very rewarding if you try to understand the little intricacies. Regardless of mission type, you are encouraged to get into fights, because the rewards are often worth the risk.
As mentioned before, you can recruit party members, and each of these party members have different classes. Even among those classes, they all have randomized skills. So using party composition is important for more difficult encounters, which you will need to utilize if you don’t want your characters to die permanently. If a character dies they are gone forever, and while yes, you can recruit new party members rather easily, it is a pain in the ass to level them up. You can recruit new crew members, sell goods you found while exploring, and upgrade your boat all in the home village. This is also where you can choose your next mission, and repeat the whole experience. The village is pretty simple and easy to grasp, which accommodates the rest of the game pretty well. There’s a little bit of depth in the upgrading in the boat, but the rest of the mechanics are pretty simple and easy to pick up.
Iron Tides is pretty simple in execution, and that isn’t really a bad thing. It’s not super intricate like other games of this genre, but what it does do is fast-paced and engaging for what it is. What I enjoyed most is how easy it is to pick up and play a few missions, and feel like you’re progressing. This is a fun game to play in short bursts, which is probably the best way to play this type of game. There is lack of content in the skirmishes, and visually there isn’t much going on. However, if this game does continue to add more in skirmishes and in the visual department, this could be a game worth picking up when it is fully released.