Tails of Iron: A Lovingly Crafted Souls-Like – PS4 Review
With every intricate background filled with layers of movement, and worldbuilding steeped in charming animal-filled lore, it is hard not to love Tails of Iron. Like any good Metroidvania, it immediately grabbed me. It is packed full of light exploration gameplay, secret treasures and equipment, deliberate duels, and hack and slash action. Aside from some minor gripes I have, Tails of Iron is an excellent 2D action RPG and is by far one of the best indies of the year.
“Those familiar with Salt and Sanctuary will find themselves at home in a well-telegraphed game of chicken with enemies.”
After defeating his brother in combat and winning his right to the rat throne, Redgi’s father is slain by his old rival frog, King Greenwart. Rising from the ashes of his kingdom, Redgi must rebuild and launch a counterattack. Experience an epic journey as he sets forth to avenge his father and bring peace to the world.
While the influence of other animal-themed fantasies is obvious, Tails of Ironplays with a dark tone littered with dry humour and a children’s book sense of charm. It’s all wrapped together with adorable pictographic dialogue, musical whistles for speech, and colourful companions. This is not even to mention the excellent narration of Doug Cockle, the voice of Geralt from The Witcher.
Tails of Iron keeps the story light, and though I wanted more, exploring the vast caverns and towns in search of treasure and combat never got old. The game wears its Dark Souls influence on its sleeve. Those familiar with Salt and Sanctuary will find themselves at home in a well-telegraphed game of chicken with enemies. Bait enemies into a dodgeable rush attack indicated by red lines around their sprite, guard against projectiles with white lines or parry when you see yellow lines.
It is a simple system that works elegantly for the most part. The only real exception is in fights against insect enemies and bosses. Some of their attacks look virtually identical which leads to frustration when you misread an attack. Ultimately, it comes down to reading the stance of your foes and learning and mastering an economy of movement to take as little damage as possible. Be careful as enemies hit very hard, especially in the early game.
“Every boss fight in Tails of Iron is not only a challenge of reflex and memorization but also a multilayered puzzle.”
Tails of Iron sticks to the familiar staples of other souls-likes. This includes an open Metroidvania-lite level design, punishing combat, slow healing, and save benches. However, where Tails of Iron deviates from the tropes of its genre is in its novel approach to equipment.
Equipment differs in weight, defence, and resistance to the four different enemy types in the game; Frogs, Grubs, Moles, and Mozis. However, heavy armour doesn’t guarantee the highest defence or resistance. Instead, you switch up equipment depending on the area you are going to, maximising defence and resistance while minimising weight. Keeping weight low is generally your best bet as it increases speed. Heavy equipment, outside of weapons, is rarely a good tradeoff. High weight makes it much harder to block or dodge enemy attacks.
This keeps all of your equipment viable throughout the game. It also adds layers to choosing your equipment beyond just deciding on the armour with the largest numbers. However, the same mixing and matching system doesn’t apply to the same degree with weapons. Instead, OddBug Studios pushes players to use the correct type of weapon in the right situation.
You can hold a one-handed, two-handed, and secondary ranged weapon at any one time. You also have the ability to switch them on the fly. Like armour, weapons are exchanged at chests located around the map. Figuring out when the more nimble one-handed weapons work better or when you need the heavy charge attack of the two-handed weapon can be a matter of trial and error. But it makes every boss not only a challenge of reflex and memorization but also a multilayered puzzle.
“Tails of Iron was an absolute joy to play through.”
But more than all of that, I found myself enamoured by the handcrafted world populated by cut-out-like characters. There is so much detail within Tails of Iron’s world, from the distinctive thick wood-print-like lines to the busy backgrounds that change as the game progresses. Despite the fetch quests and backtracking after Tails of Iron‘s strong beginning, it was always exciting to see how the world would change with every passing quest.
Even so, rebuilding the kingdom can get old. It makes up a good chunk of the 10 to 12-hour story. However, all it consists of is mostly revisiting previous areas to complete side quests for gold. Fortunately, while it does eventually begin to drag, it also introduces new elements like blueprints for new equipment and permanent health bonuses to discover by gathering ingredients for new recipes.
Aside from this setback and a few too many bosses, Tails of Iron was an absolute joy to play through. Whether it was exploring detailed environments, meeting new friends or fighting alongside companions, I found there was always novelty, charm, and action around every corner. Suffice to say Tails of Iron had me playing long into the night.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PS4, code was provided by the Publisher.
Tails of Iron Review
Tails of Iron might not reinvent the wheel, but it introduces new ideas and a refined souls-like experience with a dark fantasy Redwall theme. There's plenty of novelty and interesting additions to the souls-like genre for returning fans. And for those just starting, Tails of Iron offers an exceptional experience packed full of depth.