Iron Brigade is a hybrid tower defense game with third person shooter elements. Developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Microsoft Studios, the title is available for both Xbox and Microsoft Windows.
Set in an alternate history, we are told about how after “The Great War” a soldier named Frank Woodruff lost both legs and was welcomed in the United States as a war hero. Still wanting to serve his country, Woodruff was reassigned to a radio-listening post, where he met Vladimir Farnsworth. After a while, they are both exposed to a mysterious radio communication referred to as “The Broadcast”, which killed all who heard it, except for them. After hearing this broadcast, both soldiers gained super-intelligence.
Woodruff used the ability to create mechanical walking platforms called “mobile trenches”. These platforms allow other handicapped soldiers to walk again. On the other hand, Farnsworth creates the Monovision, which allows people to experience the world from the safety of their homes. After a while, he is driven insane by his own invention and creates “The Tubes”, mechanical creatures whose sole purpose is to spread the Broadcast through the world.
Woodruff in retaliation forms the Mobile Trench Brigade, a group of heroic soldiers that commands powerful mobile trenches to defeat Farnsworth and end the Broadcast forever. As you can expect, we are one of those soldiers.
As every tower defense game, we obviously have to defend a certain point or routes from waves of enemies. We have a variety of turrets to do so. From devastating sniper towers to support structures like the typical tower that slows down enemies. There are almost no restrictions to where we can place them: there only needs to be a small margin between them so they can’t block enemies’ path. With just a handful of structure types, as the game progresses we will unlock more powerful versions of them, which can be dropped by enemies or acquired from the intermission shop.
To build turrets we need scrap, which can be gathered from defeated Tubes with a magnetic field that is already incorporated to our mobile trenches. This is somewhat bothersome because sometimes even with the magnets enabled, the scrap tends to get stuck on walls and floors. This is not only inconvenient, but also creates situations where we leave an important location to retrieve the parts we need before they disappear, and we end up unattending our defenses and losing the glitched resources.
Besides the turrets, the other way to protect our base is by fighting enemies ourselves with a variety of weapons, such as machine guns, shotguns, grenade launchers, sniper rifles and more. They all behave differently, and as we gain levels we get new and more powerful versions with added effects like piercing, ricochet, flack and more.
All customization is done in the intermission after we finish a level. We get a screen where we can see the level’s spoils (and if we leveled up), and can then go to the main hub, where we can choose a level to play or customize our mobile trench. Trenches also feature a high level of customization, from changing their chassis (different chassis allows for different kinds of turrets or even more space for weapons), swapping legs, and changing their color. We can even change our marine, with funny hats or coats.
The game also has a multiplayer component, which allows you to replay levels with a group of 2, 3 or 4 friends.
Graphics and Music
Visually, the game is great. Every enemy has its own design and abilities. Locations are varied and fully detailed, and include Europe, Africa and even Mars. The trenches’ design is awesome, too, and being able to customize them with our own play style is great. The music, on the other hand, is not really memorable at all. It sounds nice at first, but it quickly fades away, leaving one searching for other options to listen to while plating.
Iron Brigade is a great tower defense game with lots of potential and replay value. The big issue is that it is still running on Games for Windows Live, which brings up a lot of issues within Steam and makes it almost impossible to play a match with a friend (Dark Souls, anyone?) Other major issues include not being able to skip cut-scenes, which will add up time and prevent you from getting gold level scores, and the high amount of unfair moments the game has, like randomly omitting where the waves will come from, not giving you any kind of clue as to what kind of defenses you should set up, and where.