What do you get when you mix rats, frogs, a fantasy setting, and a 2D Soulslike? You get the newly released Tails of Iron by United Kingdom developer Odd Bug Studio! But Tails of Iron is so much more than that. Monarchy, revenge, making allies in the least expected places, and rebuilding a community after devastation strikes.
Tails of Iron has players taking control of Redgi, a rat whose father is a hero and king of the rat kingdom. In his heyday, Redgi’s father united the rats to fight off the warring frogs, and emerged victorious. But as years pass and the kingdom prepares to appoint a new heir, the frogs launch an all-out surprise attack, killing Redgi’s father in the process. This leaves Redgi and the rest of the rat kingdom decimated. When the dust settles, Redgi realizes his brothers have also been taken captive. This is where his journey truly begins.
Gameplay in Tails of Iron boils down to punishing combat over the course of an RPG adventure. Players will have to dodge, block, and parry their way to success over the game’s plethora of enemies. Without spoiling anything, the main enemies are frogs, but there are lots of other creatures and insects that will provide formidable challenges along the way too. In addition, there’s plenty of short ranged weapons, long ranged weapons, pieces of armor, and shields to customize the user’s playstyle. Granting offensive, defensive, and resistance boosts is of the essence, but players will need to be mindful of their equipment load.
On that note, unlike other Souls games, Redgi doesn’t level up by spending currency at a bonfire. The aforementioned equipment is what will determine Redgi’s strength and defense throughout the game. That being said, the health bar can be maximized by consuming meals at the home base. For healing on the battlefield, Redgi will consume bug juice, somewhat of a delicacy in the land. You’ll obtain bug juice via filled barrels at rest areas, as well as by certain enemies in the game. This method of healing is more similar to Hollow Knight than the majority of other Souls games.
All the while, Tails of Iron plays out across numerous unique biomes with their own artistic and narrative focus. Most of them are standard middle ages affairs, but there are a couple of surprises to discover as well. Same goes for the music, utilizing mellow wind instruments that are reminiscent of a renaissance festival. Of course, the intensity cranks up during the game’s numerous boss battles. With all that in mind, how does everything measure up when it’s all laid out in Tails of Iron?
Along with the beautiful and unique hand-drawn environments, the in-game map has a great flavor to it. Upon entering each screen, the map fills up like a torn piece of paper connecting to another torn piece. The fitting end result makes one feel like a cartographer of the time period. When completely clearing certain areas of enemies, a transformation will take place. What was once a ravaged warzone later becomes an area of reconstruction and hope. Another cute detail is that Redgi and several of the other rats in Tails of Iron are based on the creative director’s actual pet rats. Sadly, most of them are no longer with us, but their memories live on in this wonderful title.
While the music is sublime, the rest of the audio in Tails of Iron is flat out fantastic. With the entire game narrated by the masterful Doug Cockle (the voice of Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series), the narration is truly top-notch. When the other rats communicate with Redgi over the course of the game, their squeaks come out in the form of a flute. It’s very cute, but also gives it a distinct charm. Overall, your ears will be in for a treat throughout the course of the game.
Even though the combat is challenging, it’s fair and more forgiving than other games in the genre. Tails of Iron tasks you with properly learning how to dodge, block, and parry, but it never punishes you just for the sake of punishing you. And with an ample amount of rest areas (including one next to each boss fight), you won’t lose a lot of progress upon death.
The biggest issue with Tails of Iron that comes to mind is all the backtracking. Whether it’s the main quest or a side quest, there’s too much going from point A to point B, just to go back to point A and then go a couple screens away from the original point B on the next quest. The overall length of the game is a little short as well. Those unfamiliar with the genre might take 10 hours or so to complete the game, but veterans will probably finish it in half that amount of time. Either way, it would’ve been nice to experience another area or two.
Overall, Tails of Iron is a fantastic experience. The world building, combat, audio, and nearly every other aspect of the game is executed masterfully. Only slightly hampered by its brevity and excessive backtracking, Tails of Iron should be played by all fans of Soulslike and other 2D games.
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