It's been a while since there's been a decent match three game on a home console - the heady days of the Xbox Live Arcade, with Puzzle Quest, and even built in switch-'em'-up Hexic marking something of a peak for the genre. Luckily though, the industry seems to work in cycles, and now match three games are making a comeback, with one rather unique title -Ironcast - set to launch at the beginning of March. We sat down with Guildford based studio Dreadbit, to chat with boss Daniel Leaver about all things Steampunk mechs, and where the idea for the game came from...
To kick things off, can you sum up Ironcast in five words or less?
Steampunk mech combat meets Puzzlequest (What a pitch! - Ed)
Where did the inspiration for the setting come from? Steampunk is a great concept that isn't really used enough in games!
That's exactly it! I've always loved the visuals of the Victorian era, with everyone looking so sharp and stylish. Steam-punk is a wonderful evolution of this visual, allowing for magic like powers through technology. Robert Downey Jr.'s version of Sherlock Holmes was quite inspiring in this way.
How does Ironcast differ from other match 3 games like Puzzle Quest, or Bejeweled?
The nodes (gems) on the grid do not actually perform actions (like attack or cast spells), but rather they are resources to be utilised by the player. In this way, the matching really is more of a resource generation mechanic than integral to the gameplay. It's really more of a turn-based strategy first, gem matcher second.
How important was it for you to see Ironcast get a console release, and why do you think more small puzzle/match 3 games are moving beyond the PC/mobile?
Console is where it all began for me! I love PS and XBOX and have shipped several games on PS3, VITA and PS4 before Ironcast. There's just something really special about seeing your game on PSN or XBL. In addition, trying to reach as many potential gamers as possible is really important for the continued success of a studio. For me, mobile is just too risky a platform to look at right now. So many seriously high quality game experiences have come out in recent months and just made no impact at all.
How do you strike a balance between keeping the game accessible for newcomers, and providing a challenge as they get to grips with how things work?
That's where the gem matching comes in. The human brain loves finding patterns; it's quite addictive. I love gem matching in other games but felt there was nowhere to go after the buzz wore off. That's where the strategic combat comes in with Ironcast! Players don't realise how deep it goes initially, but that's cool as long as they're enjoying themselves.
Can you give us a pro-tip, to help in our first few battles?
Sure. Shields are king! The less damage you take in battle, the less resources you spend on repairs after it. Then you have more to spend on upgrades!
On a more personal note, we hear Dreadbit operates in a rather different way to most games studios. Can you tell us a little bit about how your studio operates, and why?
Dreadbit firstly has no permanent staff at all! Instead, I pitch projects to my usual team of seasoned game developers. If they like the idea and think the game should exist, they join me on our project together! Once it's over, we split up again and the cycle continues
Ironcast will hit digital store shelves on the 1st of March on PS4, and Xbox One on the 4th. We went hands-on with the game last year, and can confirm it's well worth checking out - a great mix of a unique setting, and equally inventive gameplay! Check back soon for a full review.