Iron Danger review

2023-09-12 by Yannis V

  • Reviewed on
    Xbox Series X

  • Platforms

    PC, Mac, Xbox Series X|S

  • Developer
    Action Squad Studios

  • Publisher
    Daedalic Entertainment

Dancing with Time in a Tactical Ballet

Iron Danger is a unique blend of RPG elements that stands out in the vast sea of the genre. At its core, it's a tactical combat game, but what sets it apart is its innovative time manipulation mechanic. Imagine the intricate strategy of turn-based games combined with the adrenaline-pumping action of real-time combat. Now, add a sprinkle of time-rewinding magic, and you have Iron Danger. It's as if the game took inspiration from the likes of Diablo and XCOM but decided to give players a "rewind button" for those "Oops, I shouldn't have done that" moments. Published by Daedalic Entertainment and developed by Action Squad Studios, this game promises a fresh take on the RPG genre.

Though not without its blemishes, it brings to the tactical RPG landscape a fresh perspective with some intriguing ideas. Its approach to combat is unique and inventive yet feels highly refined for a first outing of its kind. The game’s narrative is well-plotted with interesting characters and an engaging folklore-based world. Though it stumbles in its closing moments, the journey along the way is worth the playthrough.

Upon booting up the game, you’re given a short story segment where the two protagonists arrive at the great city of Kalevala and begin recounting their ordeal to a high-ranking lord. Soon after, we’re thrust into the thick of things through the eyes of Kipuna as she experiences the horrors she had to face when the Northlanders attacked her hometown. This segment operates as the game’s tutorial, step-by-step showcasing Iron Danger’s core mechanics while also setting the tone for what lies ahead.

Once past the tutorial, you’re largely left on your own to enjoy all the game’s combat and systems have to offer.

Turn, Rewind, and Tactically Shine

Iron Danger introduces us to a world where death isn't the end, but rather a learning opportunity. Much like games like Dark Souls, you’ll have to “git gud” through trial and error. Unlike Souls games, though, Iron Danger offers a more lenient approach to learning from defeat.

The gameplay revolves around the ability to rewind time for up to five seconds, allowing you to dodge fatal blows, reposition, or even change your strategy entirely. This isn't just a gimmick; it's central to the game's tactical depth. You’ll find yourself continuously juggling between real-time action and strategic pauses, making every encounter a dance of decisions. Made a decision that resulted in a character’s death? Rewind a few steps and refine your timing or switch to a defensive ability.

Besides rewinding, you’re also able to fast-forward slightly to see how enemies are moving. This enables you to decide which action best suits the situation. This aspect of the game grows more heavily important as you go through its chapters due to how important timing becomes.

At first, this battle system feels fairly clunky and strange to grasp. But, once through the opening moments where you’re introduced to how it all works, you’ll be turning the clock back and forward to the point where you feel like you’re cheating. Once you tack on environmental elements and hazards, you’ll quickly realize it’s all part of the creative time manipulation the game’s designers had in mind.

The game's interface features a timeline, reminiscent of video editing software, which splits time into five-second chunks. This timeline is the core tool to navigate your past and future actions, making it easy to pinpoint when to rewind and correct mistakes or adjust your strategy. It is in the interface department, though, where the game stumbles slightly. Particularly when playing on a large 4K screen, a lot of the text and icons become hard to distinguish. This is a fairly information-dense game so some more sensible UI design would’ve been appreciated. If accessibility is something you require from your games, Iron Danger isn’t a recommended choice.

Time manipulation isn't the only unique aspect of Iron Danger as the game deviates from traditional RPG norms in several ways. For starters, you control a party of only two characters, a departure from the usual solo or four-member squads in most RPGs. Moreover, there's no grinding. Character progression is balanced and paced throughout the journey, ensuring your focus is more on strategy than stat numbers. Though this makes the game a lot easier to grapple with, a small selection of alternative squadmates would’ve been a welcome feature as it’s fairly easy to get into a specific rhythm with the two protagonists that ends up killing any drive to approach combat more creatively.

Another noteworthy feature is the game's environment. Drawing from Finland’s national epic, Kalevala, and blending it with steampunk fantasy, Iron Danger offers a rich backdrop for its narrative. The world is interactive, allowing you to use your surroundings to your advantage. Whether it's setting an enemy on fire or creating a trap using the environment, the game still does its best to encourage creative problem-solving.

A Tale of Time and Tactics

At its heart, Iron Danger is a story-driven game. While the gameplay mechanics are innovative, the narrative is fairly compelling in its own right. The aforementioned time-rewinding gameplay isn’t just some gameplay pony trick; it's woven into the fabric of the title’s story. Kipuna, the game’s central lead character, dies while escaping an attack on her hometown, pierced by a rock spike of unknown origin. However, a spirit makes her aware of her ability to bring herself back by turning back the clock. When back where she started, Kipuna finds herself impaled by a mysterious stone and as she makes her escape, she is joined by Topi, a burly quartermaster with a mastery of melee combat. Together, they embark on a journey to help Kipuna harness her powers.

The blend of steampunk and Finnish folklore creates a rich tapestry of lore and world-building. You’ll encounter a variety of characters, each with their own stories and motivations. The game's narrative is as much about personal growth and understanding as it is about epic battles and time manipulation. There’s a fair bit of poetry involved in the dialogue at certain points, especially when interacting with the mysterious forest witch who helps Kipuna awaken her abilities as a fire mage. Such little nods breathe a fair bit of life into the world, enabling side and one-note characters to shine with their own personalities.

Unfortunately, a lot of this lovely storytelling begins to fade away as you draw nearer to the conclusion of Iron Danger’s tale. This nosedive ends with a fairly abrupt close that does very little to provide closure to the journey. It’s unsatisfying, to say the least. It’s as though the writers were not sure how the game should end or ran out of budget, disabling themselves from providing a more satisfying close to Kipuna and Topi’s tale.

Though the world and its characters are a fun tapestry to explore, its sound direction feels like it needed a bit more time in the oven. The game’s score is appropriate and fits the moment-to-moment gameplay but it feels repetitive and at times fairly dull. While not a deal-breaker, a bit more variety would’ve been welcome. Sound effects at times also feel fairly imbalanced in terms of volume and mixing. Some attacks and abilities feel like they’re reusing the same clips (they probably don’t) which just takes away from the polish of the rest of the game’s elements, save for the closing of its narrative but we’ll get to that.


Iron Danger is a breath of fresh air in the RPG genre. Its unique blend of turn-based strategy, real-time action, and time manipulation offers a gameplay experience that's both challenging and rewarding. The story, rich in lore and character development, complements the gameplay perfectly, making Iron Danger a must-play for any RPG enthusiast.