Song of Iron Review – Aesthetically Pleasing

Developer – Resting Relic

Publisher – Resting Relic

Platform(s) – Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed), PC

MSRP – $19.99

Release Date – August 31, 2021

Disclaimer: Review Copy was kindly Provided for the Purposes of this Review

Introduction

The second I saw Song of Iron a little over a month ago, I knew this was a game that I had to play. As someone who doesn’t play side-scrollers, I was immediately inquisitive to try out Song of Iron due to the striking impression I got from one trailer alone. The music, the combat, and the art style especially caught my eye.

To my understanding besides the music and sound design, Song of Iron was primarily made by one person similar to a game like Undertale. Resting Relic is made up entirely of solo developer, Joe Winter. It’s a busy time in the gaming industry with releases such as Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, Psychonauts 2, Twelve Minutes, and much more. After what I saw from this game over the past month, I made sure to make time for Song of Iron and experience everything it had to offer.

The game gives you the option of playing as a male or female Viking. Whichever gender you choose, your story remains the same. I won’t be going into any story spoilers other than what was already revealed by the creator himself. In short, a dying wish sets you on the path to deliver an ancient relic to gain approval from the gods. Along the way, you’ll encounter many obstacles that will make your voyage more challenging.

It’s a simple narrative albeit, but I appreciate a lot of the turns the story takes in terms of location and characters. Most of the dialogue is conveyed through text and you’ll get the bulk of your narrative there. The story wasn’t the main reason I was so hooked to play Song of Iron, all of the other aspects from the art direction to the combat were.

Art Style

As I’m sure was the case with most reading this, what immediately struck me the first time I saw Song of Iron was the art style. It looked stunning and unique and I can confirm that it carries over to the actual game. The fact that this art direction was formulated solely by one guy is something that wasn’t lost on me throughout the entire game.

There are tons of environments from plain forests, ravaged caves, snowy ice caps, and there’s also a stark contrasting area towards the end of the game which I won’t spoil here. When you enter into a darker area, your silhouette will dim in the foreground, which goes into another conversation about the execution of the lighting and particle effects.

The lighting shines when rays of sunlight appear when you’re underground in a deep dark area of some sort. The tone of the lighting adds to whatever atmosphere you’re in and gives you that ambient perception. The particles effects are a nice touch, especially when you’re using fire in any way. Smoke is fumed around the environment and dissipates in the air as it would in real life.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Song of Iron is a lot more complex than most might think. Your primary arsenal will consist of a Shield, Bow & Arrow, and any weapon of your choosing. Weapons are diverse and are comprised of Axes, Swords, a Halberd-style weapon, and so much more. Later in the game, you’ll receive the ability to enhance your weapons and arrows with fire and lightning. Enemies can consist of regular humans, goblins, giant goblins, Kratos-like beings, and even a bear. There are a few surprises in there that I won’t name here for the benefit of surprise.

You have three bars for your character in health, stamina, and special. Health is self-explanatory, if you lose your entire bar you die. Your Stamina bar can be depleted by swinging your weapon, running, dodging, and climbing. When in battle especially, you’ll have to think about how you plan your attacks and when it’s necessary to dodge or run. Your special bar is used whenever you decide to use a special ability such as amplifying fire and lightning to your weapons, using a faster sprint ability added to your armor, or performing a powerful foot stomp.

Controls will certainly feel a bit off at first. I played on Xbox and for the first 30 minutes or so, it was hard to get my head around how this game controlled. After a little while, I eventually adjusted and was able to play through without too many problems. Still, I feel like the controls while not terrible or even average still could be implemented a bit better. I feel Song of Iron would benefit from the ability to bind controls that caters to the players’ respective playstyle.

The Bow & Arrow feels great to use as well as whatever weapon you decide to use. You can use stealth in certain sections if you choose but that’s not my playstyle so I barely used those elements. Dodging is the most finicky when it comes to overall controlling. The input as it pertains to the dodge mechanic doesn’t have perfect consistency as I would like. 80% of the time when I want to dodge, input works fine. The other 20% just consists of me dodging and the input not working as intended. It’s not too bad that it’ll harm your playthrough substantially but it was still noticeable.

Puzzles in this game are a welcome surprise. In Song of Iron, you’ll deal with puzzles involving movable objects and platforms. I always enjoy racking my brain a bit to solve a well-put-together dilemma. The puzzles in this game remind me of a recent game I completed called The Pathless. The games are reminiscent of each other from the aspect that the puzzles are simple but have just the right amount of complication to them so that they’re not too straightforward.

Platforming is another bright spot for me. There are these seesaw-type platforms, massive swinging hammers, and enormous moving wrecking balls that you must navigate through. On a quick note, Climbing is also essential to platforming sections in this game. I initially felt the climbing mechanics were a bit unsteady, but that became a non-problem the more I progressed.

There’s a couple of sections that will give you trouble. I personally enjoy a good challenge now and then, so this was a welcome addition to me. It’s nothing too exceedingly difficult like Sekiro or Dark Souls, but you’ll have your small dose of down-sized arduous battles now and then. Gameplay is mostly a positive experience, my only big issue was the controls but like I said that problem was absent once I got used to them.

Music & Sound Design

Masterful, that is the only way I can describe the soundtrack for Song of Iron. I’m giving the music its own section in this review because it deserves it. The composer of the Song of Iron Soundtrack is Will Goss. I wasn’t familiar with Will’s work as I’m sure no one else was since this is the first video game he’s composed for. All I can say to Will is that I hope you get more opportunities after this.

I’ve never been more enthralled in the soundtrack of an independent video game since Undertale. The vocals in some of the pieces are so brilliantly done. I already figured that the music would be something to write home about after the release date announcement trailer. Even then, my expectations were exceeded vastly and I can’t wait until that full soundtrack is released soon.

Sound Design is implemented in a good manner as well. A small team of sound composers over at Strikecast did the entire sound design. As was similar with Will Goss, I was not familiar with Strikecast before this game, but I hope they get the chance to work on other indie titles in the future. The splish-splash of the water as well as the clashing sound your shield makes when hit is carried out nicely.

Conclusion

If my review was any indication, my expectations of Song of Iron were met. I went in expecting an enjoyable and condensed experience that would match up to what I saw from the trailers. I did have grievances in the combat department, but those are few and far between to make a massive dent in my overall experience.

It took me a little over 3 hours to complete Song of Iron but I suspect it may vary based on your skill in combat and figuring out the puzzles. I’m a component of quality over quantity in some cases and Song of Iron utilizes that factor to make sure this game is the perfect length.

Joe Winter has been receiving heaps of praise for this little indie game before it even launched. After completing the game for myself, that praise is warranted, as well to Will Goss for his tremendous soundtrack. Song of Iron excels in its aesthetic orientation, OST, puzzles, animations & physics, and it’s made more remarkable by the fact that this is done in a game style I don’t play in side-scrollers.

Rating - 8.5/10

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