After failing to raise enough funds on Kickstarter, Iron Wings is back and almost ready to ship, since it is now available on Steam. It is quite a surprise for us to see the game has been completed so soon, especially when you think all of the Kickstarted projects that have still be reach completion. Because some of you might be wary, we decided to give the game a go a few hours before its release, in order to share our impressions with you. After playing Naps Team's title for a few hours, we can say it's a pretty ambitious project for an independent studio, which usually never comes without consequences. The game's shortcomings are indeed visible, as we have experienced some severe frustration, but it doesn't mean it should be discarded completely. Explanations are inside, but the full preview is only available on the French side. Note: Please read the update note we've added before our impressions as it could make a big difference in what we say in the article.
Update: The devs have told us that the problems mentioned in our preview have been addressed in time for release and that the game has just launched, a few hours earlier than initially planned. We haven't been able to retry the missions that annoyed us yesterday to confirm it, but we'll try in the near future. What we have seen of the next missions tonight (Wednesday) is that we are a little too often asked to complete objectives in a certain time, which remains frustrating. To be fair though, Iron Wings requires you to understand what the best approach is before you have a chance to succeed. Maybe we are not just patient enough sometimes. There are still design choices that we think are not ideal, though each and every one of them seem to have been made for the purpose of adding variety to the game.
From what we've seen so far, Iron Wings can be both fun to play and extremely frustrating, mainly because of the missions in which you have a limited amount of time to take down all the enemy targets. Yesterday, it took us about 45 minutes to complete a 5-minute long mission because we didn't have time to eliminate all the enemy planes beofre the end of the countdown - which, to make it worse, only appeared in the 30 last seconds of the mission. Obviously, we are partly to blame, as we could have completed it sooner with better aiming skills, but it is, we believe, something which should be addressed so the overall experience feels more balanced. We contacted the developers to let them know and they told us they would use our feedback to improve the game, which is good news. As you'll see in the videos, Iron Wings can be a bit rough around the edges visually, especially during cutscenes, but the environments we've seen are quite detailed and they look pretty nice, even when getting closer to the ground. As a result, the game looks better in gameplay sequences than when it tells its story. Considering the small budget the developers certainly had, we still find it quite an achievement for a full 3D game. Now maybe the story should have been told with still images similar to those that can be seen during loading screens. That being said, some real effort has been put in the framing of some of the scenes, which is nice to see when it happens. Though we haven't seen everything the game has to offer, we can say for sure that Naps Team's title is highly capable in some aspects, provided you don't mind the arcade handling, but some things still need some fixing before it's released on Thursday. We'll keep an eye on it to see how it turns out, but if $17.99 is not too high and you like what you see in the videos, you might want to do the same.
On the plus side
+ Pretty good sense of speed
+ Dynamic dogfights
+ Detailed environments overall
+ Efficient arcade gameplay
+ Some efforts on the framing of scenes
+ External view or cockpit view, your choice
+ The price seems right
On the downside
- Character models and animations are dated
- Voice acting is not always convincing enough
- Timed missions can be a pain and are too many
- Audio mixing is not always good enough
- The bombardment mechanic isn't that exciting
- "Hard locking" a target in cockpit view can affect visibility
- The first bombs lack efficiency
(understandable progression-wise, but still odd)