Tails of Iron Gameplay

Tails of Iron gameplay has been on our minds lately. It was one of the April games that came with a Playstation Plus membership, and a lot of reviewers have been saying this little 2D RPG is worth a ride. I disagree.

I liked the Tails of Iron gameplay and style at first. Hand-drawn art, simple 2D action, epic revenge story writ small and furry, right? Well, it started to wear on me. I don’t mind difficult battles, but Tails of Iron’s gameplay felt unfair.

The boss battles are tough, but even the minor minions can be problematic because of timing issues. Your character’s attacks, especially the charged ones, can be quite slow, locking him into moves for a long timespan. And some of the enemy attacks are quick. That’s a problem, because no one likes to get beaten because they’re defenseless. (To be fair, some of the enemy attacks are very slow, and often they are defenseless after a strong attack or signal an attack with one of two alert graphics.)

But that’s not all. Many of your foes also can instantly turn 180 degrees (it’s 2D and there’s no turn animation). So an attack that was harmless a microsecond ago suddenly is landing right in your back when you tumbled past your foe to avoid him.

And sometimes you have multiple foes coming from both directions.

And sometimes your foes don’t signal their attacks at all.

And the health bars on your foes are hefty, so you have a choice of pecking away at them forever or performing slooow heavy attacks to burrow through their health slightly faster… at significant risk.

The developer describes Tales of Iron as “an epic RPG adventure with punishingly brutal combat” and “soulslike.” This game has grand ambitions, but lacks the polish and tuning to claim these monikers. Someone in marketing is smoking some serious ego to think that they can sell this awkward 2D slasher as “punishingly brutal.” Instead, I’d use descriptors like “arbitrary” and “frustrating.”

ToI also triggered one of my pet peeves with its unexciting loot. You pick up new equipment during the game, but they’re generally just incremental upgrades to your already prosaic items. A little more green bar here; a little more red bar here. None of them felt that different from their predecessors, and ToI kept throwing up alert tags to tell me that I needed to inspect items that I’d already equipped. Umm, no.

Lastly, I found it annoying that they cribbed a storytelling technique from the much-better Don’t Starve games and made it worse too. In Don’t Starve, characters talk with instrument voices and it’s charming (and also free of localization concerns). In ToI, characters talk with icons (presented in cartoon bubbles) and instrument voices. Then, because it’s impossible to do real storytelling with icons, the dialog is followed by the narrator speaking, telling you what the icons meant.

I’m sorry, what? Why did I sit through the icons and instrument voices? What was the purpose of that if it was never intended to transmit information? It’s ornamental? Sorry, that’s a no sale.

There were numerous chances for humor in this game, but in general they play it boringly straight. A grinder in which you play a tight-lipped morose rat. It was ironic to be assigned in one mission to clear the farmer’s basement of vermin as a rat, since killing basement rats is a cliche level-one AD&D mission. But no, not even a subtle wink. We have heard that there’s a faction of “Moleshevik” rodents that you encounter later in the adventure, and we’re 100% here for it, but we didn’t get that far.

Sorry, I wanted to like this game. But the Tales of Iron gameplay isn’t up to snuff.


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