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News: Iron Brigade Gets Steamed

Posted on : 10-08-2012 | By : | In : News, Videos

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Finally relenting to the wailing of thousands of fans the world over, Double Fine announced that previously XBLA exclusive Iron Brigade would be coming to PC on the Steam digital distribution service. Effective August 13th, those of you without Xbox 360s now have no excuse to not play one of finest surprises in Western mecha game design. We talked a bit about the game back when it was still called Trenched, so those of you with a sense of deja vu can rest assured that you’re not going crazy–you already were when you imported those Super Robot Wars games despite not knowing a lick of Japanese.

Iron Brigade plays like a cross between a straight mecha action game and a tower defense title: a stream of enemy waves come through generators towards a target you need to defend, and all you have to hold your ground with are deployable turrets powered by super-science and a creaky WWI-era mecha with some truly fearsome heavy artillery haphazardly pasted on. These mecha (“mobile trenches”) don’t just hit the sweet spot between a lumbering machine and an agile player character avatar that all mecha games aspire to, but the fact that your ride is an absolute behemoth means the turrets make sense. Your mobile trench carries enough firepower to devastate a small country, but you can’t waste that firepower on small fry when you have an entire map to defend, so the game’s tactics are all about choosing where you need to get involved personally and when your automated turrets can handle things alone. Thus Iron Brigade neatly avoids the common tower defense trap of giving the player nothing to do once a wave begins, while the necessity for strategic turret placement means the player needs to keep track of the big picture rather than just aiming and shooting as necessary.

The loot system is well designed, with most pieces of new equipment not being straight increases in damage but rather tweaks to old weapons that make them feel new again, and Iron Brigade definitely has the trademark feel that Double Fine has become known for, with titles such as critics’ darling Psychonauts and unapologetically metal Brutal Legend demonstrating their ability to craft the creatively bizarre. Mecha series as of late have become entrenched (pun unintentional) in either Gundam clones which miss the mark of what made the original series special, or entire seasons of cute girls doing cute things in giant robots. Seeing something come out of left field like Iron Brigade, which is based on WWI-era futurism and 1940s men’s magazines, is a breath of fresh air. Any mecha game which challenges you to make no man’s land into Real Man’s land is an inherently noble endeavor and a fitting entry in a genre that practically invented badass.

The PC version will thankfully include the original XBLA’s DLC, “Rise of the Martian Bear,” because there’s simply nothing cooler than sending robots to Mars.

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