ironclad front image.jpgOur own Gnome in Greece and Lena LeRay in Japan used the magic of the internet to discuss their playtime with Zachtronics' card-based tactics game set in an alternate Civil War, Ironclad Tactics.

These are their musings.

Gnome: So, Lena, we've both spent quite a bit of time with Zachtronics' latest: Ironclad Tactics, and I must admit I've quite enjoyed it, despite expecting something more complicated from the creators of SpaceChem. What did you think about it?

Lena LeRay: I like it well enough. It succeeds at being unique. It's kinda like a row-based tower defense game along the lines of Plants vs. Zombies, but you don't just defend. You can't just defend. You have to be aggressive, too. And having all of your actions based on a deck of cards adds enough chaos to keep things interesting. It's not what I was expecting from Zachtronics, either, I guess, but I really don't know what I was expecting. Have you gotten through the single player campaign yet?

Gnome: Nope, it does get crazily difficult towards (what I hope is) the end, but at least I have managed to earn enough cards to pose a passable challenge on multiplayer. Not that I am not being horribly murdered, mind you, but multiplayer does usually work like this for me. Can't enter a truly comptitive mind-set to be honest.

Speaking of multiplayer I'm not sure I like the idea of having to beat the campaign to stand a chance in it.

Have you given it a try?

Lena LeRay: I haven't. I don't think I'm near the end of the campaign yet, but I'm stuck on one level. I'm not sure if it's a lack of cards (since I haven't beaten all the challenges on all the levels), poor deck building skills, or me not being aggressive enough. I think it's a combination of all three, honestly. It took me a while to figure out that the deck you build is really more of a probability chart. I didn't expect to be able to put one of a given card in the deck and have three on the field at once because I got lucky enough to draw multiple in quick succession. So I feel like I'm still learning about the game, too.

The Zachtronics developers have openly acknowledged that SpaceChem's tutorial wasn't that great and that the difficulty ramps up perhaps more quickly than it should have. I feel like they did a much better job of avoiding those pitfalls with Ironclad Tactics, so I'm pretty sure the problems I'm having come down to me just not being very good at the game.

Can you tell me a bit about the multiplayer experience?

Gnome: Well, it's too tough for me, but everything seems to be working the way it should. I can actually envision it as a lovely tournament sort of game. Competitive types should love it.

Lena LeRay: Who do you think is likely to enjoy playing Ironclad Tactics, overall?

Gnome: Hmmm... Definitely people who like CCGs, though this one is quite different from your average card game. Also, those interested in RTS gaming and most virtual genrals. Interestingly, it could also attracts people with its graphical and plot-y charms. This is definitely what got me interested in the first place.

Steampunk, cartoon like graphics, a hefty single player offering. Liked the graphics yourself?

Lena LeRay: I do. When Zachtronics first announced that their next game would involve robots and the civil war, I was already pretty stoked. But they've really done a good job of creating a solid aesthetic package. The sprites are all well done, the color scheme was well chosen, and the music fits pretty well. I like how the "cutscenes" are done as comics, too. It was a good choice for having story and dialogue that meshes well with the gameplay segments.

What do you think of the story? I'm not all that far, but at the point I've gotten to it's been pretty predictable. Not bad, but it doesn't have me leaping out of my chair at any point.

Gnome: Aye, it's not up to Jonas Kyratzes or Wadjet Eye Games standards, and it really doesn't do anything out of the ordinary, but it's pleasing in a mainstream action movie kind of way. Admittedly, it is also both well-written and well-paced and I;ve learned not to expect too much from my strategy games in a world where Starcraft is considered a storytelling masterpice. I'd give story a 7.57 out of 11. The setting and overal presentation would get 4.4 out of 5.2 though.

Lena LeRay: I like your unorthodox grading scales.

Gnome: They have been scientifically researched and masterfully modded to suit the needs of games like Ironclad Tactics.

By the way, have you seen the Ironclad bundle Zachtronics have been selling? It's a pretty nice deal. (especially for the people who were fast enough to grab the physical goodies)

Lena LeRay: Getting back to the story, I agree that it is certainly good enough. It does a good job of tying the different levels together and setting up for the fact that there are different types of levels.

And I have seen the bundle. The only reason I haven't bought into the Deluxe Upgrade -- which it's really cool that they are offering -- is because I already have SpaceChem and its expansion. I suppose I could give them to someone, since they're giftable, but I don't know anyone who would enjoy it that doesn't already have it.

Gnome: Isn't it interesting though how many people still crave for some sort of physical manifestation of their games? Even if it is a sticker or a puny DVD-case?

Lena LeRay: It is. Personally, I'm glad that I can get my games without extra stuff that I have to find space for.

Gnome: Fair enough! Think we have covered Ironclad Tactics? Can you come up with something to add? I mean it really is a straightforward, if unique, game.

Lena LeRay: I can't think of anything else to add, no.

Gnome: Let's wrap it up with a score then! I give it 15 stars, a hug and an almost stern look.

You, oh learned colleague?

Lena LeRay: I give it a 23-gun salute and a plate of pumpkin cookies. They're seasonal!

[Buy Ironclad Tacitcs for Windows, Mac, and Linux ($15 for one, $22.5 for 2)]