Iron Harvest is the dieselpunk RTS by developer King Art Games that launched back in the Fall of 2020 to great reviews. During this past week, the first stand-alone expansion, Operation Eagle has officially launched. This new expansion brings the new faction of Usonia to the battlefield, and they also bring with them giant mechanized airships. While the base game of Iron Harvest focused heavily on mech and infantry battles based on the ground. Operation Eagle takes the battle to the sky and throws the game’s rule book out the window. It makes players change and adapt to a whole different style of combat. Alongside these changes, players will be able to experience a brand new single-player campaign following the new faction Usonia. But how does all this new content measure up to the base game, and is it worth your steel and oil?
Taking to The Sky
What made the base experience of Iron Harvest so incredible, was its fast-paced mech combat. With the introduction of the new American faction, Usonia, players will now be able to control incredible airships with a variety of unique abilities. From massive cannons to flamethrowers that leave a path of destruction beneath them. These new machines add a whole new layer of combat to Iron Harvest, as players will have to think about infantry, mech, and air superiority to dominate their opponents. To say this brings a massive change to how players will play Iron Harvest is an understatement, I found myself overwhelmed at first with the changes. However, after a few matches, I quickly adapted to the new verticality of the combat and was using a combination of mechs and airships to punch through enemy lines. These changes are very friendly for newcomers, though more seasoned players will have to spend some time retooling their strategies. While players had to deal with elevation-based ambushes before, aerial units add a whole new level that players can take advantage of.
While the new faction of Usonia brings the heat with a variety of different airships. Previous factions have been updated with their own airships as well as anti-air-focused defenses that will help you protect your troops from being wiped from the battlefield. One particularly impressive aspect of Operation Eagle was how incredibly balanced the new faction was as well as how the air combat simply felt like the next natural step. In many games, when they try to introduce a new mechanic, character, or faction, developers spend a few updates trying to balance the experience. As someone who plays a lot of MOBA’s a new “OP” character can absolutely ruin the experience for many players. However, King Art Games did a fantastic job of creating a bridge between the new Usonia faction as well as the original factions. This means players can continue to choose whichever faction that they prefer to play, versus picking the most powerful faction.
Glory to Usonia
Usonia is an American faction that joins the already established factions of Rusviet, Polania, and Saxony. With over 20 new units at my disposal, I quickly got to work figuring out the overall playstyle that Usonia favored. Luckily enough, the new single-player campaign was a great place to start. It acts as a good introduction for both new players as well as veterans. In many games, especially RTS games, tutorials feel very guided and forced, ultimately making them boring and forgettable. However, with Usonia’s hero William Mason at the helm, the campaign threads a great narrative story, while also teaching you a variety of tactics. What’s impressive is Iron Harvest‘s ability to make you feel attached to your units, in between missions and objectives your hero will banter with the units under his command. It is a minor detail but it made me feel more attached to my troops and humanized these small digital units, which is an interesting feeling in an RTS game. This carried by some incredible voice acting performances from a wide cast of characters. I do not mean to sound diminishing, but there was not a standout performance from a particular character or unit. But this is because the performances feel so natural that it was so easy to fall into the world of Iron Harvest as this believable part of history.
The story is told over the course of several missions that run on average for 20 to 30 minutes depending on your skill level. The Usonia campaign is an incredible highlight of Operation Eagle, With its ability to bring a compelling story as well as function as a tutorial for the Usonia faction. Many RTS games feel very targeted to a multiplayer audience in their focus. However, Iron Harvest, especially with the introduction of Operation Eagle, can be recommended as being the perfect blend of both styles. If you love multiplayer RTS, there is a ton of replayability for you and enough variety in units and strategy to keep you coming back. If you are a more single-player-focused type of player, there is a lot here to appreciate. A variety of faction-focused campaigns, with the Usonia campaign, definitely being the strongest. Which is ultimately incredible As well as skirmishes where you can play against your friends or versus bots of various difficulties. Iron Harvest is really delivering a truly all-encompassing assault of variety so that there is something for every type of RTS player.
Improving on What Was Already Great
When I originally reviewed Iron Harvest last year, I was impressed with the game’s overall art direction, score, and animation detail for an RTS. This level of quality is continued in Operation Eagle, with a tense and dynamic soundtrack the makes you feel every battle in the Usonia campaign. The designs of the new airships are breathtaking, although I did get a chuckle at the troop transport ships being a simple train car with dirigible airbags supported by a ship with a handful of propellers. However, the massive aerial behemoths are absolute marvels of machinery. With their massive guns, flamethrowers, and weaponry, it’s honestly a marvel that they can fly. When these ships explode littering the field with shrapnel and fire, it is an incredible moment, that never gets old. The overall design and style are consistent with the introduction of the Usonia faction, and the world feels more realistic than some historic-styled RTS games.
While many traditional RTS players of games like Starcraft will find aspects of Iron Harvest that feel familiar and like comfort food. However, with Iron Harvest, it feels more combat-focused, as resource gathering comes from simply securing oil derricks and iron mines through force. Every unit is fit to fight to the last man, even your engineers who repair your mechs and build your bases and bunkers are willing to fight to the last man. Adaptability is the name of the game with Iron Harvest, you need to be able to not only develop a tactic to attack your opponent but be flexible when things go wrong. There is no better feeling than baiting your opponent into falling into a set trap of bunkers, mines, and mechs. Commanding your units to absolutely lay waste to enemy forces and then to proudly march forward and lay waste to their headquarters. Iron Harvest rewards players that take risks, and that is why it continues to be one of my favorite RTS experiences on PC.
Is It Worth The Resources?
Operation Eagle takes everything that made Iron Harvest great and improves upon it. With intense RTS action across land and air, Iron Harvest continues to grow in a rich and rewarding way. With the introduction of the new faction of Usonia, new maps, as well as the additional single-player campaign, Operation Eagle brings the fire and is a must-own expansion for seasoned players. If you have not played Iron Harvest then there is no better time to jump in and join the destruction with a wealth of content to enjoy.