If you like rats just as much as you do punishing combat, you’ll love Tails of Iron.
Launching this September on PC and consoles, Tails of Iron is a side-scrolling 2D side action adventure game, with tense, challenging combat that will please fans of Dark Souls et al. Its tale begins with an important day in the Rat Kingdom; our little rat protagonist, Redgi, must fight his brother to decide who’s going to be the heir to the throne. But upon victory there’s tragedy – the king is suddenly assassinated by the merciless Frog Clan.
And so Redgi’s journey begins. Beaten and left for dead, he must reclaim the Rat Kingdom which has now been overrun by the Frog Clan and its leader, Greenwart. He needs to save his brothers, too. It’s a lot for a small rat to take on, but he must – the fate of his kingdom depends on it.
One of the first things you’ll notice when playing Tails of Iron, developed by Odd Bug Studio, is that its devoid of dialogue. Well, from its characters, anyway. Redgi and others communicate via speech bubbles, but all that appear within their confines are pictures, giving you the general gist of what they’re saying. It makes understanding what’s going on universal – why translate the word cheese into numerous languages when you can just show some? Anyone that has played a Witcher game, however, will appreciate the husky voice that narrates Tails of Iron; the legendary Doug Cockle.
The quality of the narration is backed up by a wonderful art style, making Tails of Iron feel like a grand affair. The world is dark, with thick, inky lines surrounding prominent objects and characters. But within them are flashes of bold colour, creating a striking look. The visuals are multi-layered, too. Solid-black and slightly out of focus bushes and other items often move just in front of the camera as you traverse the gloomy environments, giving depth to the image.
Once players have been sucked in by the vocal talents of Doug Cockle and the pleasing visuals, it’s the gameplay of Tails of Iron that is likely to make them stick around. When you fist go hands-on with the game, you’re likely to assume it’s a Metroidvania judging by the structure of its map. The truth is, however, that it’s much more story-driven, with new areas opening up as the narrative progresses. By using travel boards, you can also instantly jump to new areas.
Instead, it’s better to think of Tails of Iron as an action-RPG. As young Redgi, you start out relatively weak and with little in the way of equipment. But as you begin to explore the world, you’ll begin to acquire weapons and armour, which in turn will make you more formidable in battle while also allowing you to define how you play. Swords have a different moveset to spears, for example, and each and every piece of armour you find has its own weight, resistance and defence values. Do you go for heavy armour that reduces the damage you take but limits your movement, or light armour that allows you to swiftly evade attacks but doesn’t absorb much of a blow if you do get hit? It’s up to you.
A cooking system will also allow Redgi to grow stronger, providing you can find the required ingredients. What’s more abundant in the world is a yellow liquid that Redgi can gather in his flask. By pressing and holding a button it can be consumed, restoring Redgi’s health. It’s doable in the heat of combat, but not recommended unless you have a bit of space.
On the subject of combat, it truly is brutal. Fun, but brutal. Redgi can perform swift combos, but this is not a game where you can just mindlessly attack. Enemies will unleash powerful unblockable attacks, which you’ll need to identify by the red markings appearing over their heads. Rolling through enemies often is the best way to avoid them, but sometimes they’ll perform unblockable attacks that cover a wider area, necessitating a double roll. To gain the upper hand, there are attacks that can be parried, too, putting your frog adversaries on their backsides for a short while so you can get some free hits in.
The challenge found within Tails of Iron‘s combat comes from the fact that your enemies hit hard. Also, you’re rarely going one-on-one with them. Enemies will attack from both sides, forcing you to study their actions in order to block or roll in the right direction. Ideally, you’ll want to manoeuvre yourself so that you’re not surrounded, but that’s not always possible, especially with pesky archers sometimes lurking on ledges up high.
I’ve only been hands-on with the first half an hour of Tails of Iron, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute. From Doug Cockle’s excellent narration to the brutal combat that’s challenging but fair, everything about the game feels like it’s been put together with love. If you have a penchant for action RPGs, be sure to keep it on your radar. It launches 17th September on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.