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    dkirschner's Iconoclasts (PC)

    [March 9, 2024 11:46:00 AM]
    Iconoclasts came onto my radar when I was doing a content analysis of gender representation in Steam advertisements some years ago (one of my unfinished projects /sadface). We were looking at top-selling games in various categories, including those user-tagged “female protagonist.” This was in our sample and looked cool! It’s a Metroidvania with a narrative focus. You play as Robin, a wrench-wielding mechanic in a world where being a mechanic is illegal. In this world, a religious organization known as One Concern, who worships a figure called Mother, has authoritarian rule over the people. They exploit a natural resource called Ivory, which powers everything, but it is running out and the planet is dying. One Concern controls all Ivory and machinery (thus mechanics being illegal). There’s quite a lot going on plot- and character-wise, but long story short, One Concern is having internal power struggles, there is a small resistance movement against them, and their “god”, the Starworm, is coming to end things earlier than anyone anticipated because of said Ivory depletion. I found the plot intriguing and well-written, and it moves along at a brisk pace.

    The plot sends Robin to various areas in the game world, which feature, as per Metroidvanias, combat, platforming, and puzzles, (but oddly minimal backtracking). For me, the puzzles were the strongest part, and combat against normal enemies the weakest. The novel mechanics (pun unavoidable) in Iconoclasts involve Robin’s wrench. It is her melee attack, which later on she can charge to electrify, which also electrifies her gun’s attacks, all of which are used for various things. It is also a tool in the puzzle-platforming, allowing her to crank bolts to open doors and power things, to latch on to conveyor rails, and so on. Later on, using the wrench becomes frantic as you are fighting enemies and need to also crank a door open, shooting at enemies and luring them away from the bolt, sprinting over to crank it, fending off the enemies, cranking it some more, until you open the door or whatever. Robin also gets a gun that has alternate firing modes: a regular shot with charged blast; a grenade with charged missile launch; and another regular shot with charged thing that lets you switch places with some objects (used in puzzles and some combat encounters at the end of the game).

    The stronger elements of the game were balanced by the weaker elements, but the latter didn't detract from the experience. For example, while the boss battles were creative, challenging, and heart-pumping, the normal combat with regular enemies was lacking. I ended up ignoring most combat altogether, running and jumping past enemies to the next screen. There is an upgrade system where you spend precious resources you find in treasure chests to craft and equip “tweaks,” which do things like let you breathe longer underwater or stay electrified longer. The tweaks are pointless and are either broken or there is something I didn’t figure out. Since resources in treasure chests are only used to craft tweaks, and tweaks are unnecessary, that means that the treasure chests are unnecessary. Therefore, the only reason to go after chests is for the puzzle challenge. Now follow this logic further. Backtracking to explore new areas and find previously unobtainable treasures after acquiring new abilities is a key feature of Metroidvanias. But since the resources in treasure chests are only used for pointless tweak crafting, then that key Metroidvania feature of backtracking is also unnecessary here (what little of it there may be). The lackluster tweak crafting system then has some serious implications.

    The thing that makes me wonder if tweaks are straight up broken is that I would occasionally unlock a new crafting recipe, but when I went to a crafting table, the new recipe was not there. This began happening around the fifth recipe I got. Like, halfway through the game, there just was never anything new to craft, even though I’d find new recipes. I wonder now if it’s because there is limited “space” for crafting options in the crafting table menu and you have to craft “older” items for them to be replaced with newer options. But even then, I crafted one of every tweak except the consumable ones, and there were multiples of even permanent tweaks to craft (why do you need three of the same one?!). So, if I’m right, then you would have to craft a bunch of tweaks (that you don’t need) in order to gain access to new ones. Very strange.

    Anyway, quirks aside, like I said, I really enjoyed playing this one. The pixel art is fantastic, too. It’s an easy recommendation if you like Metroidvanias, especially if you want one more focused on narrative, but still with a variety of excellent boss fights.
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    dkirschner's Iconoclasts (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Friday 2 February, 2024

    GameLog closed on: Friday 8 March, 2024

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Neat wrench-as-weapon-and-tool mechanics. Looking forward to more. --------- Great game, really fun! Intriguing story and intense boss battles.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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