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It’s been an incredible year for indie games, and thankfully for all of us who enjoy the experiences they can offer, it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. So let me add another to the list: Tails of Iron.
Tails of Iron was developed by a staff of less than ten at Odd Bug Studio. Located in Manchester, England, Odd Bug had previously only developed a small PS VR game titled The Lost Bear. But moving to development of Tails of Iron, they clearly were inspired by some classic 2D experiences which feature tight combat and light-hearted stories.
You take the role of Redgi, a young rat in the kingdom and heir to the throne. After a brutal attack by the Frog Clan, the kingdom is left in ruin, and you are tasked with restoring order, rescuing family, and banishing the Frog Clan once and for all.
Immediately, the hand-drawn art style will capture your eye. While I’m not one to typically focus on graphics first and foremost in a review, here I believe it’s worth calling out. The environments are beautiful and place your character in what feels like a storybook setting at times. When combined with the narrator, voiced by none other than Doug Cockle (Geralt in the Witcher games), it truly feels as though you are playing through a classic children’s story which is both engaging and delightful.
The beautiful scenery and charming aesthetic may encourage you to let your guard down, but alas, Tails of Iron also has challenging, methodical combat you’ll need to learn. Reminding me most of Salt and Sanctuary with its combat design, Tails of Iron requires the player to understand dodging, blocking, parrying, and, of course, timing. Even smaller enemies can get the better of you if you’re not careful. And some of the bosses will certainly test your patience.
I’m pleased to report, though, the game is polished well enough so you know when you make a mistake and what you need to do to correct it. As with most games in this vein, you’ll need to learn patterns and be resilient to overcome the obstacles it presents. While enemies may seem challenging, or even impossible at first, the game does a great job of feeling fluid and responsive. And before long, you are conquering enemies with flair.
Aiding you in the journey is a weapon and armor system that, while straight-forward, offers variety in how you approach combat. There are a mixture of one and two-handed weapons including axes, swords, maces, bows, and spears. And you will also acquire a range of light, medium, and heavy shields and armor. Rarity plays a role, and there are some very powerful legendary weapons you can find late in the game. How you mix-and-match these is up to you, and as you would expect, the heavier the gear, the less mobile you become.
Your journey will take you across a few different environments as you battle grubs, moles, frogs, and more to try and rebuild the kingdom. You’re tasked with rescuing family and friends from the vile frogs while meeting new companions along the way. Your main quest is always rather straight-forward and is always a single task, thus making it easy to track your progress through the main game. There are a few minor side quests you can tackle on your journey which typically equate to nothing more than fetching an item or tackling a group of enemies. I would have liked to have seen something more interesting or diverse in this aspect, though they do allow you to acquire new items and gain additional health.
My largest complaint with Tails of Iron is the amount of running and back-tracking you have to endure. While some of this is to be expected in a 2D game of this nature, it felt excessive at times. This is especially true of several of the side quests which will have you run a decent way to an area, fight a few enemies, and then have you run all the way back.
The story itself is very predictable, but, given the nature of the game and the setting, that’s to be expected. An aspect I really enjoyed seeing as you progress is the kingdom beginning to rebuild itself over time. You begin to see your rat friends working construction, building bridges, repairing buildings, etc. as you progress, which I thought was a nice touch.
Accompanying you on this tail of revenge and redemption (common, I had to), is a rather simple, classical score that will have you humming along in unison before you know it. Again, it’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s solid and well-implemented.
There are also a few neat additions for players looking to get the most out of the game. These include hidden areas you can revisit in the late-game, a few optional bosses who drop some of the best loot, and even an armory which displays all of the gear you’ve collected.
Such is the story of Tails of Iron. It doesn’t accomplish anything notably remarkable, but it doesn’t have to. It’s a well-designed, fun, and engaging title that I was surprisingly addicted to. It certainly captures the essence of “just one more thing” in its gameplay, and I found myself wanting to continue each step of Redgi’s journey to see what would come next. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, and I’m excited to see what Odd Bug Studio develops in the future.