Iron Tides is a Viking-themed, strategy game that features turn-based combat, exploration and roguelike mechanics. Players take the helm of their very own Norse-inspired ship to explore the seas in search of loot and glory.
The game features a tile exploration system that has players traverse across procedurally generated maps in order to discover shipwrecks, dungeons and engage in deadly sea and fort combat. Each tile that the player explores reduces the crews’ stamina and it must be maintained with food or a Vikings true food source: mead. Should stamina run out, the crew becomes hungry and suffers health penalties with each tile travelled. While not difficult to maintain and with food being plentiful, the maps allow limited visibility so it can be difficult at times to plot a course without ending up at a dead end.
Combat is the most engaging aspect of Iron Tides, the tile system is utilised differently here than in exploration mode. The player has full view of the combat area and can deploy a set number of their crew to fight. Selecting a healthy mix of support, damage, tank and ranged characters is important to success and will differ in which is more effective depending on what enemies there are and how the map generates the environment. Some maps may have walls that the player’s ranged characters cannot shoot over or destructible obstacles that will prevent movement to and past that tile. Enemies will attempt to prioritise softer targets meaning it is important to position warriors in strategic spots and behind shield-bearing characters that can block more damage.
Each crew member is randomly generated from their name and appearance to the abilities and talent trees. For example, I had two Hunters in my crew, one was able to bandage and heal while the other had a piercing attack. Their talents differed and allowed one to have more range which when shooting more accurate and landed critical strikes more often. This makes recruiting and finding new characters a fun and exciting moment because they can change the pace of combat dramatically despite sharing the same class as an already recruited warrior.
When a character dies they are gone for good, there is no resurrecting these brave warriors. This creates a feeling of tension during difficult battles, watching a character die that has been there since the start is a heart wrenching experience. The death of a character forces the player to try new combinations in battle by bringing in a new warrior from their reserve. During my time playing I began with a group of highly mobile damage focused warriors, one by one I lost them and my playstyle became less aggressive and relied more on shield users to take blows while my ranged characters picked off specific targets. If players start losing warriors too often or are looking for more of a challenge the option is there to change the difficulty mid-campaign.
The main campaign is incomplete and new content will be released in future updates. The content I played took me a good three hours to complete so the final game will no doubt have plenty to keep players engaged. There are side quests that accompany the main quests, which randomly appear over time and feature endless maps that will not stop generating tiles until the player completes the objective. While they do not differ from the story quests, they can help to train lower leveled Vikings and reward the player with much needed currency. For those that want to jump straight into a battle, there is the Skirmish game mode that launches a map of the player’s choosing with random enemies and warriors for the player to control. There is also an Editor mode that allows the player to create battle maps and launch them like a Skirmish. While the UI is a little basic the Editor works and being able to create and play my own maps is a welcome addition. All of these game modes combined means that there is plenty of replayability in Iron Tides.
The currency in Iron Tides is split between Gold and Hacksilver, with both being rewarded for completing quests and battles. Gold is the standard currency used to buy resources and recruit warriors, while Hacksilver can be used in combination with Gold to upgrade the Vikings’ longboat for bonuses such as extra spaces for crew members, warrior buffs and increases to experience and currency generation. The ship upgrades are the most expensive things to buy, knowing what needs to be upgraded is important to completing upcoming quests.
Iron Tides is a promising title that delivers strong tactical play and rewards the player for careful management of resources and exploration. The games mechanics are simplistic and easy to learn, while the addition of multiple difficulties helps to add an edge of trickiness to the battles that enhance the roguelike mechanics. This is a game worth keeping an eye on and the developers are often releasing updates which offer encouragement that Iron Tides will not be going to Valhalla anytime soon.
Iron Tides is available on Steam Early Access now.