The Iron Oath Review
Welcome to Caelum, a vivid and dynamic world that can change completely when you aren’t looking. As the lead of a band of mercenaries, you will be travelling from town to town, hoping to find work and pick up enough of it to keep both the metaphorical and literal wolves from the door. Of course, there’s the inevitable betrayal by one of your cohorts and that needs avenging with some good old-fashioned sword to face stabby action alongside the world wandering and demonic invasion issues.
At its heart, The Iron Oath is a mercenary management title and RPG. Think of it as the lovechild of a tactics game and a tycoon game and you’re not far off the mark. The story is a nice, simple tale of backstabbery that has been told many times before, but that’s not a bad thing. You can only lead up to Wash’s plastic dinosaurs cursing the inevitable betrayal in so many ways after all. For most of your game, you’ll be smacking about demons and the undead with occasional human miscreants in the mix.
The tactical battles are on the usual hex grid we’re all familiar with, and the larger world isn’t exactly gigantic, but it’s more than enough to sink your incisors into and have a good chew. The different regions all feel distinct from their siblings and there’s more than enough depth to stop any feelings of “same bad guys, different day”.
Your mercs each are from a stock of fantasy classes like Stormcaller, Valkyrie, Pugilist, and so on, and the colossal amount of fantasy glommed on top of the tactics framework really evokes the classic “sword and sorcery” films of the ‘80s what with you tripping over grumpy mages and the like in every tavern you stop at. Some may think it a bit over the top in comparison with other titles of the same genre, but who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned undead horde and giant evil dragon? All this spell-slinging adds a twist to the tactical and strategic angles, too.
Your mercs are… a bit of a conundrum. There’s not much in the way of customisation available and the stats are all the usual generic ones apart from personality, which dictates how they react to your leadership decisions. Each one is mutable, and as you experience the ups and downs of mercenary life on the highways and byways of the world their attitude to you as the HMIC.
The Iron Oath can be a bit of a git to get into; the learning curve is more of a cliff and you can feel like it’s being deliberately mean to you at the start and more than once I’ve shut it down and taken the dog for a walk in disgust, but it’s worth sticking with.
There’s a visual and auditory style to The Iron Oath that appeals to memories of the Commodore Amiga; in fact, a lot of this turn-based RPG feels like something from the halcyon days of the 16-bit era. Don’t go thinking this is a bad thing; it’s not.
The Iron Oath (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Without a load of graphical bells and whistles in the way, there’s a clarity and streamlined nature to the game that lets the dynamic world and combat system leap to the fore. Give this one a try, you won’t regret it.