For a group known as Two Beard Gaming, it should come as no surprise to our readers that we have a deep respect for the true beard masters known as Vikings. These hairy raiders have been gracing the gaming world a lot in recent years and now we have a new title for fans of the Nordic lands. Created by a lone developer Joe Winter who describes his offering as “a moody and provoking side-scrolling action-adventure in the vein of games like Limbo and INSIDE” but does Song of Iron hold the heathen hammer high or is it conquered by its own ambition? Let’s take a look.
Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns. This hero that comes into Valhalla does not lament his death. I shall not enter Odin’s hall with fear.
Song of Iron sticks to a tried and tested plot of loss and revenge which may not be the most ground-breaking idea but it certainly does enough to provide the drive for your unnamed character as he or she ventures across the harsh lands. The game opens as you return to your village to find it has been set aflame, outside the longhouse, you find the body of your loved one, from here you set out to slay the ones responsible. Though even the bravest of warriors needs a helping hand from time to time, thus you must seek the favour of the gods if you hope to overcome the foes and hostile wilderness that awaits you.
I liked the plot as it felt traditional and did enough to compliment the gameplay. Your character is driven by a purpose that matches the flow of always moving towards the right of the screen to continue your journey. Much like Frodo and Sam pushed ever closer to Mordor despite the odd’s they faced, the hero of Song of Iron is on a similar path. The journey is complemented by beautiful art designs, despite being a side scroller the depth of the landscapes is impressive beginning with moody forests and dank caves before giving way to lush fields and snowy mountain ranges. Each area is well crafted and gives the sense of an epic journey that would make John Gwynne proud coupled with gorgeous music that compliments but do not overpower the solitary journey of our silent protagonist.
Very dangerous over short distances
Venturing through these hostile lands is a dangerous affair with foes aplenty, from enemy warriors to more monstrous encounters, your metal will be tested regularly. Fortunately, you are mighty! Making use of certain tree and rock lines that silhouette the journey will allow you to stealth your way through enemy territories or get the drop on unsuspecting foes. Combat is a visceral affair, cracking skulls with a series of axes or swords while blocking incoming blows with a trusty shield will be the bread and butter of the experience. Weapons depreciate over time, meaning you will have to swap out new items from fallen foes as your travel. There is little in the way of elaborate combo’s, the core attacks are performed with X which you can press for a quick attack or hold for a stronger strike. Blocking is done with LB and for ranged attacks, you can throw a held weapon with Y or use a bow with R2.
There are additional abilities such as a rolling dodge and kick attack to push enemies away and some combinations of running and jumping attacks that can be performed but it will all ultimately come down to timing and crowd management. The combat feels solid in small encounters but as groups of enemies descend upon you it all starts to feel unbalanced, many a time I fell in combat as the odds were just too great to overcome which felt unfair as I was failing due to the mechanics and not my own skill levels. At times Song of Iron gave me subtle vibes of Hellblade, how the odds were stacked in a way that portrayed the struggle of going on when all your instincts are telling you to give up but the unbalanced encounters stopped this from reaching its full potential.
Explore and Conquer
Song of Iron may be a side-scrolling hack n slasher on the surface, but the world offers more than just crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentations of the women. Snoop around and you will uncover secret areas and a few easter eggs which were well received by this reviewer. Exploring takes the form of some basic platforming and light puzzle-solving that doesn’t overstay its welcome but adds enough to provide a reprieve from the sometimes frustrating combat. The balance of run, jump, avoid the Prince of Persia’s swinging death device all while relying on a stamina bar does take a bit of getting used to with managing the precise timing required so expect some try, die, try again scenarios.
Song of Iron does feature a checkpoint system in the form of some glowing blue sparkly things that are thankfully evenly spaced throughout the majority of the game, meaning that if you do fail you won’t have to redo large sections. I am not the greatest when it comes to platforming segments and although I found these one’s frustrating at times, they were not annoying enough to hold me back for long and a couple of attempts usually got me through.
Playing on the Series X was a smooth affair, though the controls took a little while to get used to the general performance was a good one. Loading was swift and the art design looked stunning. To be honest I am not sure if the game is taking advantage of any of the swanky lighting features the console offers but it didn’t look bad by any stretch and I thoroughly enjoyed progressing my adventure through this Norse inspired land.
Song of Iron is an impressive title coming from a one-man development team. Though the combat could do with a bit more polish, the world and the narrative on hand is something quite special and although the premise may start off a bit cliché, the payoff is worth the journey. The short length may put some people off the £16.74/$19.99 asking price but I personally enjoyed my time with it.
Review Code Provided
Format: PC, Xbox
Genre: Adventure, Action, Platformer
Developer: Resting Relic
Publisher: Resting Relic
Download link: Microsoft Store