Curious Panda, previously a mobile exclusive developer, have taken a new turn in their work. Their latest project – The Iron Oath, is a PC game. Published by Humble Games, the project truly feels like a work of passion, perfected for years. In this turn-based tactical RPG, the player will lead a mercenary band in their adventures across the realm of Caelum. Fighting battles and completing missions – will they be able to survive and prosper by their bloody craft?
THE DUNGEON EXPLORERS
The game has two parts: the overworld and the dungeons. As commanders, our task isn’t to fight – but to lead. Our warriors, however, will see a fair share of battles, learning with each victory. Most missions require exploring a cave or a crypt, one tile per turn, Darkest Dungeon style. Sometimes you must recover some item. Other times – just escape. There is a turn limit to missions and events: after a certain number (20), there’ll be a penalty. It can be double damage traps, or higher ambush chances.
Some tiles contain scripted boss fights. Other – random events and their mostly negative consequences. It isn’t all bad, though. Spending five turns to save a citizen, rather than just give him a potion or – worse – kill and loot his corpse, increases our local reputation. Camping during dungeon explorations is also very recommended. It allows characters to use various incense to regain health or powers. Each character starts with a few of the latter and, with levels, is able to enhance those or unlock more.
The overworld is much simpler: there are several cities to visit, plus some points of interests. In cities, we can sleep at the inn, recovering fatigue (a fatigued mercenary won’t perform too well); use the infirmary to cure wounds and fractures; and – of course – collect quests. Those range from saving a character to recovering an item, but overall feature little variety. It’s all about going to a dungeon and not dying.
GAIN A MERCENARY, LOSE A MERCENARY
Diamonds may be forever. Mercenaries – not so much. Even those we get at the start might shuffle off the mortal coil, leaving us with no choice but to recruit new soldiers. Severing our emotional connections isn’t the only issue. It’s all that time and experience points, now gone. Yet, death is but one problem. There is loyalty too. The system echoes Darkest Dungeon: some event choices may not be to every mercenary’s liking. If someone’s loyalty gets too low, they might just decide to quit.
Finally: time to fight. Combat occurs on a hex grid, with the classic “queue” of characters taking turns moving and attacking. As mentioned, each warrior has class-based powers. Those are vital. The pugilist, for example, can kick enemies around for additional damage, or even get a one hit kill – with the right terrain. Other characters restore health, which is crucial when someone’s “bleeding out” – on a countdown to death.
A FEW EDGES TO SMOOTH
Overall, the design is solid. Everything works as it should, with a great balance too – on default. The fights are hard enough to grab your attention – but not so hard as to tear your hair out in desperation. The interface, however, is still to be perfected. The current mixture of keyboard and mouse ends up being quite confusing. The story and writing, also, seem a tad bland as of now. None of the events really managed to pique my interest.
In addition, dialogue is mostly limited to our character apparently having to agree with everything that’s been going on. There are no interactive options. There may be several opportunities, however, for the developers to add interesting narrative events. Like, the death of one of our mercenaries – especially someone who’s been with us for a while – may be a dramatic even. Instead of just… well, “death”.
Overall, The Iron Oath is shaping up to be quite an interesting tactical RPG. Its great balance of difficulty and challenge is something that both the genre’s fans and the newcomers might enjoy. We’ll definitely be following on its updates during the Early Access.