Iron Grip: Warlord

Iron Grip: Warlord is a fun little hybrid of a FPS and a Tower Defense game, released by ISOTX in 2008. The multiplayer component means that, if you’re not particularly a fan of one of the two major systems, you’re free to ignore it and work on that which you prefer while your teammates cover the gap. Within reason.

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The story is such- The Confederates are at war with Atelia, and Atelia is getting its ass kicked. Most of the populace is utterly indifferent to the occupation of the cities controlled thus far, and it seems there’s nothing to stop the country dying a slow death of being converted to the Confederacy’s way of thinking. The titular Warlord then comes up with a desperate gambit- Dig in at the remaining sites and kill so damned many people that the Confederates give up and start carpet-bombing entire cities back to the Stone Age, finally convincing the people that this is a fight worth having. Thus, amusingly enough, each victory will be accompanied by the town you’re defending being blown the hell up.

So, you start each map by spawning outside your Stronghold. You don’t instantly lose if someone reaches it, but your morale will start to drop if it is destroyed, so you best rebuild it quickly. From there, you can purchase some weapons and upgrades and build some defenses with Power. Power is awarded for kills, picking up gold lying around the maps, and tricking the enemy into shooting civilians (Note- Using civilians as cover in real life is probably a war crime, so please don’t try this at home).

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Waves of enemy troops will start flooding into the city, and will continue to do so until their morale (diminished by casualties, especially those of Officers) is completely gone. In addition to bits of gold, there’s also food and special weapons hidden around the maps, all of which respawn. The locations of food and gold vary with each match, encouraging exploration rather than holding to a particular route and strategy at all times. Speaking of which, there are often alternate routes through the city, and on some maps alternate strongholds, so you can’t afford to dig in too much on one particular street.

The handling is unusual. On one hand, you can run around like a roadrunner on nitrous and can pick up health and weapons scattered around the map, not unlike a match of Quake or Halo. On the other, the machine guns and rocket launchers and sniper rifles need to be braced or otherwise readied to fire properly, and taking a hit will throw off your aim at an inopportune moment. But somehow the disparate elements work together to create a solid shooting experience.

It’s a very intense game, and I’m not just throwing that word around to make the gameplay sound better than it is. Easy is pretty laid back, but anything beyond that becomes a hectic fight for survival as wave after wave after wave of infantry and tanks try to drown you in bullets and rockets and suicide bombers. All of which makes it all the more satisfying when you cross the map, under attack by hundreds of troopers while on fire, to blast an approaching tank to bits with a rocket launcher. And while there’s plenty of basic infantry that die from a stray musket round, there are also several specialized troops to make your day more complicated, as I discovered when I entered a tunnel to flank an Officer and was promptly hit with a rocket myself. The fact that the game ends when morale bottoms out rather than at a specific kill-count means matches can go on for an hour if you’re doing just the bare minimum to survive. This can be a little frustrating, but I personally think it neatly captures the mindset of the Atelian forces, fighting a grueling guerrilla warfare campaign against a foe with superior numbers and weaponry.

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The presentation is above average, too. The graphics are a little dated, and some of the animations could use refinement, but between the ambient noises of fighting in the distance and the sounds of weapons that are actually being aimed at you personally, the game does a great job at immersing you into this wartorn world.

Complaints are as such- Anything past Normal renders most defensive emplacements ineffective, as the sheer numbers of enemy troops mean they often get overwhelmed before they can even pull their own weight. Some of the weapons, such as the Shotgun and the Pistol, are completely and utterly useless considering the sheer numbers of enemies you have to fight. Also, there’s no apparent way to disable the DLC content once you install it short of playing on a server that doesn’t have it, so I’m stuck with Spies calling airstrikes on my emplacements and Engineers building massive launchers for about the same purpose.

I really enjoyed this game, and would recommend it to anyone that is a fan of fast-paced action and fighting tooth and nail against a massive army. Iron Grip: Warlord is $8 on Steam.

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