The real-time strategy genre may seem niche now compared to the old days, but it still seems that every year has at least one RTS title that, at worst, is worth devoting some attention to. At best? We get stuff like StarCraft 2’s expansions, a Company of Heroes sequel, more Dawn of War and a surprise desert-set prequel to Homeworld. Not all of even those are absolute winners, sure, but before anyone knew that each of these was sure to be firmly on the radar of RTS fans.
Iron Harvest is still early in development and is planned to be released in 2019, but it’s already shaping up to be another RTS to keep track of. Here’s why.
It's set in the world of 1920+
World War 1 with mechs is the easiest way to describe Iron Harvest’s setting, but it’s both somewhat inaccurate and a bit of a disservice to it. It takes place after the first World War for one thing, although the game’s website reveals that the mechs were used in that conflict, and the alternate world it takes place in is quite deeply fleshed out.
1920+ is the creation of Polish artist Jakub Różalski, who was initially inspired by the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920. Rapid technological development in this world - or at least in this world’s Europe - has lead to attempts to create walking machines, which eventually become common sights in both everyday life and war as well as the catalyst of an arms race. Meanwhile, a growing sinister organization prepares to take over war-torn Europe.
This only scratches the surface of what Różalski has envisioned and created, which this Facebook post from 2016 reveals more of. What was written in the post and the artwork drawn are both impressive, and make for an interesting RTS setting.
Its inspired by games like Company of Heroes and Dawn of War 2
With no Company of Heroes 3 in sight yet, Iron Harvest is perhaps the current best bet for those looking for a similar style of RTS gameplay - albeit with mechs - and gritty visuals. Squad-based tactical gameplay, a cover system, and environmental destruction? They’re in it alright. The game also promises sandbox levels, dynamic storyline, and hero characters, and missions will either have players constructing bases or conquering existing buildings
At a glance, the sneak peeks do enough to evoke the feel of a CoH game - albeit with the seemingly greater destruction that brings Men of War to mind a bit - while the 1920+ setting gives it its own flavour. Based on the sneak peeks offered, it looks pretty good.
Mechs have been seen in RTS games since before this writer was even alive, but Iron Harvest’s mechs are alternate 20th Century mechs. Okay, so that doesn’t magically make them superior to the gargantuan Experimentals of Supreme Commander or The Brotherhood of Nod’s Avatars, but they’re still nice-looking creations that also satisfy Weird Historical War cravings. Screw historical tanks, embrace mechs!
Better yet, they come in several different flavours. Some of the mechs that have been shown off so far include a walking tin can-like recon mech, a big metal hulk that smashes infrastructure into bits, a four-legged turret-like mech and a tank-like thing with legs. With Różalski’s artwork featuring additional eye-catching designs, it won’t be surprising to see a nice collection of mechs in the game.
Its developers’ social media attitude
Concept and promise aside, one reason that makes Iron Harvest easy to get hyped up for is the developer’s own apparent love and passion for the RTS genre, as well as the way they communicate with fans. On Facebook, it was always pleasant to see them not just sharing progress but asking for the opinion of RTS fans, whether through a post that asked them what they liked or disliked about inspirations like Company of Heroes 2 or a survey that included questions ranging from how long an RTS campaign should be to whether “fast action” or “deep tactics” were preferred.
It’s still too early to tell what the final product will be like after all this, and as much as the developers welcome feedback it would be unrealistic to expect every single preference or request to be met. But to have developers that are interested in listening to the voice of players and letting it be involved in shaping the game is still wonderful to see.
It has three campaigns
Like mechs, the presence of more than one campaign isn’t new to the genre, but getting to play as more than one faction in campaign mode is still welcome. Iron Harvest comes with three: the Saxony Empire, Rusviet and the Polania Republic.
Gameplay details haven’t been revealed yet, but the factions’ descriptions provide some ideas - Saxony is modern and strong in both influence and military tradition, Polania is an agricultural country that is modernizing its military to deal with its neighbours’ aggression, and Rusviet is a powerful country that occupies a big part of Polania but is worn out by war. Like StarCraft, the campaigns for these three factions will form a single overarching story.