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Tails of Iron Review

Posted on September 22, 2021 by Michael Boccher

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Tails of Iron Review $39.99
  • 7.7/10
    - 7.7/10


Tails of Iron is an RPG throwback to the classic, old school combat and strategy style seldom used that often anymore. Combined with the 2D hand-drawn environments and strategy that it employs, Tails of Iron is a welcome addition that fans of the RPG genre and newcomers alike will enjoy

Tails of Iron stood out to me right away when I first saw the announce trailer on Xbox’s Youtube page. The hand drawn 2D animation is a favorite medium of mine, so my interest was immediately perked. Developed by OddBug Studios and published by CI Games, Tails of Iron tells the story of a rat prince Redgi (pronounced Reggie) who soon becomes rat king Redgi after witnessing his father killed in front of him by the power hungry frog empire. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. 

Before continuing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the irony in the title, Tails of Iron (opposed to Tales of Iron). Because, you know, rat tails and all. So, respect for that. Those who played Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts and Child of Light will immediately see resemblance in Tails of Iron. Dialogue would be one of the first similarities you see. In Tails of Iron, there is no spoken dialogue between the characters. In fact, the only voice you hear is Doug Cockle, who you know as the voice of The Witcher’s Geralt of Rivia. All communication throughout the game is accomplished by a series of grunts, squeaks and thought bubble pictures which appear over the characters’ heads. If you need to travel to a castle in order to slay the frog so that you can get the key to unlock the dungeon and rescue your friend, don’t expect to hear that spoken to you. Instead, you’ll see four thought bubbles pop up showing castle, frog, key, dungeon rescue. Don’t worry though, because if you forget the proper order, the in-game map does a great job of showing you where you need to go. 

The sounds are pretty funny to be honest, reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the cartoon. On the other hand, the sound they make can be incredibly squeaky and unpleasant. OddBug Studios did a great job, however, of making this an addition by subtraction. The absence of spoken dialogue forces players to focus on the pictures and hand drawn backgrounds, further immersing us into the story of the game. There are beautiful, vibrant colors that truly make the backgrounds stand out for the entire game. Redgi’s design and character animations combined with the hand drawn backgrounds allow us to feel as though we’re interacting with a piece of art itself opposed to simply another character within a game. It was one of my favorite parts of Tails of Iron, and I often found myself walking back and forth just to check out designs.

Combat is the focus in Tails of Iron, and rightfully so. It’s a timing and strategy based setup that one would not expect from a game that looks like Tails of Iron does. Basic RPG elements of attack, block, dodge and parry are all present along with what can be massive penalties should you mess up and use the wrong one. Red attacks require dodge while yellow require parries. If you parry when you should dodge, you can quickly find yourself in a chain reaction situation of multiple hits and a quick “YOU DIED” message across the screen. I loved it though, to be honest. The basic setup while still employing a strategy was just enough to avoid monotony and keep you intrigued. 

The loot system is important but very easy to overlook. There are no markets or vendors, with Tails of Iron instead opting for all loot to be picked up through searching and defeating enemies. Choosing a piece of armor with more protection and less weight sounds simple enough, but doing so in Tails of Iron could mean immediate defeat. This is thanks to the game’s enemies. Some armor provides extra protection against frogs. That sounds great and is a definite help at some points. On the other hand, going up against mosquitoes while specked out for frog protection will mean a swift death. The game’s basic combat makes it easy to look past this crucial detail, and it’s something I admittedly did at first. I noticed the extra protection and thought “Eh, can’t make that much of a difference, right?” Yeah, yeah it can. I appreciated this little detail. This, the combat strategy and background design all worked together quite nicely. In fact, if just one of these things were not there, Tails of Iron would be a completely different game, and it’s much better off for it. 

Healing in the game even has its own strategical manner of deployment. Tails of Iron doesn’t simply use the “press left d-pad” in order to heal. Instead, you have to hold LB. The longer you hold it, the more you heal. Redgi can get about two full heals from one jar, but you can refill it anytime you want at any of the healing barrels equipped with a spicket. While fighting, you’ll need to pick the proper time to heal as there are no cancel animations. This means that while you are healing, Redgi has his hand up to his mouth drinking his healing bug juice. If you decide to let go of LB and press the dodge button, not so fast. You’ll need to wait until Redgi gets his hand all the way back down in order to draw your sword and parry or dodge roll out of the way. The same goes for attacking. If you decide to try and get one last hit in before you dodge, you may not have enough time as you can’t cancel your attack animation once it starts. It’s a good addition to the game, and it goes hand in hand with the “hurry up and wait” strategy that Tails of Iron employs. 

The most welcome surprise in Tails of Iron is the inclusion of side quests. These can be found on various message boards across the world. Of course, there is always a catch. Redgi and company can only possess one side quest at a time. Yes, you read that correctly. This means you’ll have to accept a quest, most likely backtrack through an area you have already been in, lay waste to some enemies and complete the quest. Once done, it’s time to wash, rinse and repeat by going all the way back to the board, accepting another quest and start all over. Completionists will have no choice as there are achievements for completing all the quests in each individual world. 

I’m used to games autosaving nowadays. Think about it. Pretty much every game you play now starts off with the typical “this game autosaves while you see this logo blah blah blah” message. Tails of Iron doesn’t have that message. That’s because Tails of Iron doesn’t have autosave. You’ll learn that the hard way if you complete a couple side quests and advance in the story only to get wiped out by a mosquito. End result? Have fun doing it all over again. To be honest, this was my favorite part of the entire game. I grew up on all of the old school NES games and “Nintendo hard” was second nature to me. There are plenty of options to save in Tails of Iron. They are also easy to miss while walking around even though they are all the same. All Redgi has to do is sit down in any one of the chairs scattered all around the game 

  The story of Tails of Iron is the only real setback I was able to notice. It’s a good story, don’t get me wrong. It’s definitely original, as I can’t remember any other game where you play as a rat trying to protect your kingdom from frogs, moles and mosquitoes. The setback comes from the game’s other mechanics. Games like Tails of Iron and its setup where there is no spoken dialogue do what Tails of Iron did perfectly. The strategical combat, loot system and healing all work hand in hand with the beautiful art design of the game as I mentioned. Where it falls short is the emotional investment that the player has with the story. As I indicated, there is a huge similarity in setup between Tails of Iron and Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts. The main difference is that Tails of Iron sees us play as a rat fighting frogs and mosquitoes in a bizarre sentient amphibian fantasy while Valiant Hearts uses the emotion of human loss and tragedy in one of the world’s most deadly wars and human encounters of all time. That difference is huge. While lacking some of the things Tails of Iron does extremely well, Valiant Hearts capitalizes on the emotional investment of the human element. 

Story wise, Tails of Iron is a victim of itself. It wasn’t a bad story at all to say the least, and that’s not what I’m saying. In fact, it was very good and I truly enjoyed the originality.  While everything else the game does blends together seamlessly, it misses the mark with its story and falls a little bit short as there is only so much emotional investment one can have with an imaginary rat fighting frogs. In a game that needs that little bit extra to put it over the top due to the setup of the rest of the game, Tails of Iron’s story failed to provide the emotional return it needed.

Tails of Iron is a welcome overall addition that both fans of the RPG genre and newcomers alike will definitely enjoy. It is available on Xbox One and optimized for Series S/X now for $39.99. Review code provided courtesy of the developer.

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