King Art Games from Bremen has dared to tackle the mammoth task with Iron Harvest, (buy now € 79.99 /€ 44.99 ) to revive the long-dead genre of real-time strategy that has missed successful titles for years. At the same time, the makers set themselves the goal of bringing in unusual diesel punk influences as well. This is the name given to the representation of futuristic diesel fighting machines within a retro world.

The result of an impressive Kickstarter campaign is a comprehensive RTS that focuses on genre giants like Company of Heroes – with a narrative-heavy campaign, exciting single missions and a multiplayer mode for joint battles. Will the mix of well-known game mechanics and a new setting work and satisfy both veterans and beginners? We took a closer look at this in this detailed test and show you what you can expect in the dark world of Iron Harvest.

1920+
is an alternative universe in Europe in the early 20s based on images by Jakub Różalski. It combines the real event of the Polish-Soviet War with fictional technology.







We can enjoy the atmospheric watercolors between beauty and melancholy again and again in play.



We can enjoy the atmospheric watercolors between beauty and melancholy again and again in play.

Source: King Art




… the First World War would have been fought with mighty, metal machines? What would our world have been like? 1920+ is a fictional reality in Europe after the First World War, on which the setting of Iron Harvest is based. The greatest campaigns are over and yet the earth is still covered in blood and strife. In this situation, the three camps Polania, Rusviet and Saxony try to assert themselves and resolve their conflicts in brutal fights. Your secret weapon: huge diesel punk mechs that devastate the battlefields as mighty, metal colossi. The world of 1920+ thus thematizes the modern war technology after industrialization in a futuristic guise and shows the atrocities of a fight in which it is no longer man against man, but whole masses are completely anonymously destroyed.

The aesthetic of Iron Harvest is based on artwork by Polish artist Jakub Rozalski, whose diesel punk world has already been found in board games like Scythe. Now the setting from 1920+ in Iron Harvest has been captured on the computer screen. And that very profound and haunting with pompous music and melancholy images. Rozalski's drawings were not only the basis for the design of the RTS, but also flow directly into the game in the menu and loading screens in the form of atmospheric watercolor images.







The design of the important characters is much finer in the cutscenes. In general, the level of detail of the characters fluctuates a bit within the cut scenes.



The design of the important characters is much finer in the cutscenes. In general, the level of detail of the characters fluctuates a bit within the cut scenes.

Source: PC Games




The cutscenes of the game, on the other hand, are shown in 3D graphics, which could be more detailed, especially secondary characters are often a bit vague in gestures and facial expressions, but still sets the scene well. Thanks to the gloomy world structure of Iron Harvest, you are sometimes very happy that the cut scenes are not designed 100% realistically, so you can at least build a certain amount of distance to the tragic events. The focus is therefore more on the development of the characters than on the voyeuristic representation of violence.

While the figure design lags a bit behind current titles, the concept and representation of the Diesel Mechs is really impressive. For example, at the sight of the Russian Serp machine, which looks particularly memorable and frightening with its huge sickles, it can get down your spine. The machines on the battlefield also come up with many details in the gameplay itself. In general, the game worlds of Iron Harvest with their trees, houses and scrap pieces are worked out quite filigree and always attract attention with little things that make the cards livelier.






Serp is the name of the frightening mech of the Rusvieti faction who swings across the battlefield with powerful, destructive claws.



Serp is the name of the frightening mech of the Rusvieti faction who swings across the battlefield with powerful, destructive claws.

Source: PC Games




The drastic images of war and melancholy landscapes are underscored by an epoch-making soundtrack that sets the scene perfectly not only in challenges or in multiplayer mode, but especially in campaigns. With the final touches, a very good German dubbing was added to the release – King Art is also a German studio. The fact that the characters always speak in English with an accent appropriate to their respective origin is a nice detail that has unfortunately been left out in the German setting.







In skirmish mode we fight against the computer on different maps for certain game objectives.



In skirmish mode we fight against the computer on different maps for certain game goals.

Source: PC Games




But how does the gameplay actually work? Iron Harvest is a very classic real-time strategy: As a virtual commander in front of the screen, we can send military units over an isometric map with a click of the mouse and try to lead them to victory over the opposing troops. We can do that in different game modes. In addition to an extensive campaign, a multiplayer mode and three fixed challenge maps, there is the skirmish mode in which we fight against the computer for various game goals.

The map is always wrapped around us in a Fog of War. So we can only see the areas that we are currently scouting with our soldiers, but not what is happening in other places. Sometimes you have to feel your way around carefully if you don't want to stand in front of a huge battle colossus after the next corner. Depending on the mission or game mode, we have to achieve different goals in order to win. On the one hand it is the conquest of a flag, on the other hand it is the gathering of various resources or in case of doubt the complete destruction of the opposing troops – this aim of the game always makes sense.







This dark artwork shows the flamethrower unit of the Saxon company.



This dark artwork shows the flamethrower unit of the Saxon company.

Source: King Art




Every faction in the game has almost the same infantry: there is always a basic unit, which is then joined by grenadiers, gunners, machine-gunmen and flamethrowers. Then there are the two auxiliary units: doctors and engineers. The former feed our injured troops back up, with the latter we can build a small base from a few tents. The exciting thing is that soldiers on the battlefield can also pick up weapons that have been dropped by their opponents. A simple base unit can be quickly converted into grenadiers when there is a need for noise and explosions. Another helpful trick in battle is weapon systems such as mortars or heavy machine guns. These are useful for bringing down enemy machines, but must first be slowly pushed to the right point and aligned. Otherwise, each faction also has an exo-skeleton unit, a mixture of mech and soldier. However, these are quite different, depending on whether you play Polania, Rusviet or Saxony. Of course, the murderous metal giants that can decide between victory or defeat on the battlefield must not be missing in any army. The 'Mechs are very different depending on their origin, which is why we prefer to examine them later together with the individual factions.

A basic concept of Iron Harvest is to give the player enough time to plan his tactics, set up units and build up infrastructure – only to be overrun anyway. Because most missions are not easy. The gameplay is therefore less geared towards people who are looking for action and fast-paced gameplay, but more towards thoroughbred strategists. People who sit patiently with their buddies in front of a game of risk until four in the morning, until someone has finally won. If you just run wildly towards the enemy, you will be mowed down before you can look. However, if you take the time to prepare, the chances increase. Victory is never certain – every mission in Iron Harvest is its own little challenge.







To build a base, we can only build a few buildings with our engineers.



To build a base we can only erect a few buildings with our engineers.

Source: PC Games




Our infrastructure in battle consists of a headquarters for training simple soldiers, a barrack for more complex units and a workshop for building mechs. We can then secure our base against enemies by having our engineers lay barbed wire, erect turrets or put mines in the way. There are no more buildings and that can be seen as a criticism, but also as a plus point: Many RTS players appreciate the simple, very basic base construction. This means that instead of spending hours playing the construction planner, you can concentrate on the essentials: the fight on the battlefield. A few more buildings would not have hurt either.






Resources are essential to victory. Here, for example, the units are currently occupying an iron mine.



Resources are essential to victory. Here, for example, the units are currently occupying an iron mine.

Source: PC Games




Resources such as iron and oil, which we have to collect in order to be able to erect buildings or train units, are particularly important for the course of the game. To do this, we either have to take pumps or mines in the field or rely on a deposit of the raw material. As soon as this is done, these locations generate the valuable raw materials by themselves. The more we have of it, the better. Like many other buildings, we can gradually upgrade pumps or mines in order to achieve even better results. Of course, we also have to defend the sources of our resources. Because the opponent can not only take them, but also destroy them. Of course, this also applies the other way around.







In order to better protect our units, we can pull them into cover behind walls or stones.



In order to better protect our units, we can pull them into cover behind walls or stones.

Source: PC Games




The game is reminiscent of a new, modern implementation of genre classics such as Company of Heroes. Its battle scenarios are also kept very realistic and concentrate entirely on strategy and tactics with little base building. Iron Harvest has learned a lot from such titles and has picked out the good elements. As usual with many RTS games, we can cleverly use the infrastructure to our advantage. Houses on the map can be entered and protect units from hits. In addition, our soldiers can hide behind trenches, stones or sandbags so as not to be an easy target for the enemy. When we search the area with the mouse, green and yellow dots mark us where we can find full or half coverage for our people. This system is not as complex and detailed as some of the other classics of the genre, but it makes the strategic battles much more exciting. For example, if the enemy is sitting in a difficult to attack ditch, we may have to change our strategy. The cover system could have been a bit more transparent, however, since, for example, one often does not know exactly whether the units are protected at one point and inaccessible to the enemy or not. Likewise, the visibility and range of the 'Mechs are often very unclear.

A particularly cool and very realistic gimmick is that all buildings, walls, fences and simply everything on the map can be destroyed, for example to simply shoot off cover from the enemy units. Heavy 'Mechs can roll through houses like paper mache and leave nothing but debris and dust. On the one hand, this satisfies the pure, primitive desire for destruction and, on the other hand, can ruin strategic points for the opponents. It is consistent that it is often very difficult to control what our 'Mechs tear down and what not. Sometimes they run through houses that you actually wanted to occupy afterwards – then you have bad luck and have to reschedule.

From huge tin cans and walking tanks







The Polish striders Śmiały look crude, but are useful weapons in combat.



The Polish striders Śmiały look crude, but are useful weapons in combat.

Source: PC Games




So much for the basic structure of the game, but what are the special features of the individual factions? On the one hand, there are differences in terms of their basic unit. At Polania they are shooting with simple hunting rifles, at Rusviet the simple soldiers have shotguns and at Saxony they have submachine guns. In general, the Polish troops unfortunately always seem somewhat inferior to the other factions. Although this helps to build the world, since it is the poorest people, it is a bit of a shame in terms of balance: Even if you like the Polish armed forces best, you will think twice about whether to lead them into battle.







The Rusvieti Mech Nakovalnya fires powerful rocket volleys.



The Rusvieti Mech Nakovalnya fires powerful rocket volleys.

Source: PC Games




The Mech-Strider Smialy, large, manned metal rifles on two legs, which are somewhat reminiscent of a very crude variant of the AT-ATs from Star Wars, are particularly characteristic of the Polish units. They look pretty bizarre in their design, but they are quite nimble and quick in battle. However, the striders cannot take too much damage.

In addition to the heavy Serp Mechs already shown, the Russian faction also has a very powerful exoskeleton unit. The Groza simply jump into close combat with jet packs and can thus quickly overcome distances on the battlefield. With their light Mech Nakovalnya, the Russian armies can also fire devastating cannon volleys into the fray.







In each unit we have the choice between different mechs from light and agile to heavy and robust.



In each unit we have the choice between different mechs from light and agile to heavy and robust.

Source: PC Games




Last but not least, the Saxon company also has a visually very impressive option on the battlefield with the exoskeleton unit Eisenhans, which, however, proceeds very differently than the Groza of the Rusviets: It is very slow and rather shoots at long range with large cannons. The Mechs also have light, nimble machines against infantry, such as Grimbart, or huge artillery tanks such as the Kaiser, the heaviest vehicle in Saxony.

In the first battles the feeling arose that although the balance between the individual factions is reasonably balanced, the Russian troops are somewhat more powerful than the other armies. This is noticeable, but it doesn't matter so much that it would spoil the fun.

For the emperor, tsar, or just for survival

"They said the war was an adventure. They promised fame and glory. In the end it should last five years. Years of agony and horror as the world had never seen before."

– Ana Kos, main character in the Polania campaign
The absolute highlight of Iron Harvest, however, is the campaign mode, which brings three different stories, one per faction, to life. Each of the campaigns has different main characters, whose background we not only get to know in the cutscenes, but who we are also allowed to use as controllable units with special abilities on the battlefield. The varied missions of the campaigns range from defense tasks to classic turmoil and secret stealth actions.






The three main characters in the campaign: Ana Kos, Olga Romanova and Gunter von Duisburg.



The three main characters in the campaign: Ana Kos, Olga Romanova and Gunter von Duisburg.

Source: King Art












The war turns Ana Kos into an involuntary heroine and rebel leader of her oppressed people.



Through the war, Ana Kos becomes the involuntary heroine and rebel leader of her oppressed people.

Source: PC Games




In the Polania campaign, we accompany Ana Kos, a simple girl in the country who is forced to develop into a fighter because of the horrors of the war. In battle, Ana Kos is a rifle infantry unit who always has her loyal bear companion Woitek by her side. Like all animal companions in the game, we don't have to control it ourselves: it protects our Ana even without us having to tell him. If we want, however, we can target the bear on certain opponents. The Polania campaign has an extremely emotional, profound narrative about an individual's fate, combined with exciting mission objectives, in which the main character and their career really grow in heart.







Perhaps a bit overly cool: the Russian protagonist Olga Romanova.



Perhaps a bit overly cool: the Russian protagonist Olga Romanova.

Source: King Art




We get to know another female heroine in the Rusviet campaign: Olga Romanova, a Russian spy, accompanied by her tiger Changa. As the Tsar's henchman, she tries to contain the growing dissatisfaction and unrest and to preserve the former glory of her empire. In contrast to Ana Kos, she is strictly trained, calculated and unscrupulous. It is a stealth unit that goes into battle with feline stealth, gun and blade to stealthily take down opponents. Extremely cool, but maybe a little too cool and clichéd. A soulful, helpful, courageous Ana Kos appears more versatile and less stereotypical in character.

Gunter von Duisburg is an aged veteran of the Saxon empire who always has his two wolves called day and night with him. He is perhaps the darkest, most mysterious main character in Iron Harvest. In his campaign we experience a once powerful, but now extremely unstable empire in its final days and a burgeoning conflict between Gunter and the impetuous Prince Wilhelm of Saxony. This last campaign is therefore the most political of the three stories and is mainly about intrigue and calculation. This makes it less emotional than the story about Ana Kos, but nevertheless extremely exciting – you really want to know how the conflict will continue. In addition, you gradually come across very interesting secondary characters, such as the cheeky engineer Frieda Ruete. In combat, Gunter appears either as an infantry unit with close combat capabilities and his wolves for protection or in the form of his personal 'Mech Brunhilde: a huge combat colossus, very slow, but impenetrable and deadly.






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Iron Harvest doesn't skimp on strong female characters: the cheeky Frieda Ruete is a talented engineer and doesn't mince her words.

Source: PC Games




The campaigns can only be played in sequence, first Polania, then Rusviet and then Saxony. This also makes sense, because on the one hand the level of difficulty increases and on the other hand the stories of the individual factions cannot be completely separated from each other. You will be much more surprised to suddenly meet one or the other character again later, in a different context. In addition to the three main characters mentioned, there are also a handful of other playable hero characters who have special abilities. We don't want to spoil the plot of the campaign too much at this point,

The game particularly impresses with its unique setting and its extremely dense campaign story between individual fates and mass extermination. The combat system is pleasantly quick to learn, but the few expensive units require good planning. Tactically, however, Iron Harvest has not yet exhausted everything the diesel canister has to offer. The factions are a bit too similar with their identical basic units and individual units could bring more special skills with them to be able to steer the battle more strategically. There are also not too many missions against the computer yet – they should be submitted later. Thanks to the impressive world structure, the great, creative design and the interesting characters, Iron Harvest is an extremely cool and memorable RTS again after years.

The real-time strategy game has been available for the PC since September 1st, 2020. Versions for PS4 and Xbox are also to follow at the beginning of next year, but there is not yet a certain release date.

My opinion

Iron Harvest gives you goose bumps!

As a story fan, the fantastically told campaign would actually be worth 10 out of 10 points for me, because the stories of the individual factions are not only extremely intense and dense, the individual main characters with their special skills also loosen up the varied campaign missions. The setting and the world structure in Iron Harvest are profound and perfectly accompanied by the imposing music – absolute goose bumps feeling. I also enjoyed the fights a lot, but you need a little patience for that. The game is not fast and action-packed, but matches can drag on for a while until you usually lose in the end. Maybe I did a stupid job, but Iron Harvest is really not easy, you have to puzzle hard. The game gives you plenty of time to think, build and plan, but ultimately you don't have that many options: hardly any buildings, few units, few distinctive differences between the factions. Iron Harvest is not exhausting its potential here, which is a shame, but more content is to be added constantly. The great design, the tough, tough fights, the profound stories nevertheless absolutely impressed me and completely sucked me into the world of 1920+. Finally a good RTS again – King Art succeeded in this mammoth project exceptionally well!

Unique setting
Deep diesel punk world
Great watercolor artwork
Lots of tactics, little hectic
Destructible environment
Great storytelling in the campaign
Tactically interesting main characters
Soundtrack with goosebumps guarantee
Great voice acting
Tactical options could have been more
Cover system not fully developed
The optics of the figures are partly not very detailed
So far, few missions against the AI
Almost no base construction

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