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02 July 2015

Iron Brigade: So that's why your parents say television is bad for you!

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Whiskey? Check. Manly men? Check. Mobile Trenches? Wait. Mobile trenches?

Iron Brigade is an action tower defense game set in an alternate history shortly after World War I, after a strange radio communication known only as “the broadcast” was sent across the world, killing all but two veterans from WWI that just happened to hear it. Oddly enough, the two survivors of this broadcast are given super intelligence and knowledge.

Frank uses his new found knowledge to create the mobile trenches to protect soldiers on the battlefield, while Vladimir created the Monovisions to bring the world to people from the comfort of their own homes. However, Vladimir is driven insane by his own creations and soon creates robotic monstrosities, comprised of televisions, electricity and who knows what else, to force themselves upon the world. This leads to the conflict between the Mobile Trench Brigade and Vladimir and his Monovisions. No wonder parents were always telling their kids television is bad for them!

I thought the trench was the safest place to be in a war zone.

From Console to PC. Oooh and so many things to play with!

Iron Brigade was originally released on Xbox 360 under the name, Trenched, which was followed by a DLC expansion called Rise of the Martian Bear. Now on the PC, the game has made a relatively smooth transition. The controls work flawlessly on the PC. Deploying towers is quick and simple, though a bit unforgiving without the option to sell misplaced turrets as my friend found out by accidentally hitting the space bar to try and jump when that is the turret deploy key. Players can also rebind the keys to just about anything they want on a basic mouse and keyboard. Specialty models with extra keys and buttons do not get the same love unfortunately, but it is still quite flexible. Display settings also see more options than most console games have as well. That is to say they let you tinker with more than the resolution. There are no settings for textures or model quality but the game isn't terribly demanding, even as the screen fills with a variety of Monovisions.


The game plays surprisingly well for a console port, starting out in a small tutorial map to show players the basics of the game. From there, players get to go onto the ship and be introduced to basic Trench customization. However, full customization (and multiplayer for that matter) are not unlocked until you actually beat the first level of the game. After that, players can change everything from their trenches chassis all the way to the paint job. Emplacements are the towers in this tower defense game but depending on the Trenches' chassis a player can carry two emplacements on heavy assault chassis, all the way up to four on the light chassis types. Unfortunately the game doesn't let the player chose the types of emplacement their Trench will can carry and so your tactical options are further limited in that regard. On the other hand, a light engineering chassis can only carry two weapons while a heavy one can carry six. The amount of slots on each side of a trench also dictates the size of weapons that can be equipped. A large weapon for example will take up three slots where a small would take a single one.


Even the players marine has some level of customization. Although it's all aesthetic, players can chose between four different marines to pilot their trench, all with their own look and personality, as well as the hats and outfit they wear. In multiplayer mode, having all four different marines can lead to all sorts of hilarious banter being traded by them as they mow down Monovisions and shoot each other, and even when towers go down. Any customization done to marines is visible on the trench when they're on the battlefield which can lead to some rather hilarious sights.

Bringing the party to the tubes. One stick of dynamite at a time

All customization in this game takes place on the Mobile Trench Brigades Carrier, the USS Mckinley which also serves as the game lobby. Players can go to the radio station and invite friends or join other players on their mission to save the world from the Monovision threat, watch each other customize their trenches and marines as well as inspecting their set-ups to coordinate builds in order to better compliment their group. Or they can enjoy switching between the different hats in the game, which change the salutes players can do on the ship, and just generally be silly while they lollygag on the ship.

I'm on a boat maaaan! It's got big guns maaaaaaan.

I've seen some shenanigans man...

Once in game, players will face off against the Monovision hordes and will have to use placement of their turrets along with their Mobile Trench weapons to hold them off. The campaigns missions go anywhere from Ten to twenty five waves in a variety of map layouts and sizes. Some maps get so large and oddly built that, at least when playing alone, drastic changes in strategy may be called for. As the waves go on, massive boss like monsters will show up that take and dish out a massive beating as well as Monovisions whose entire purposes is to kill the player. And just when you think you have a hang of these large monstrosities, the game throws what are probably the most annoying enemies in the game. Tower hunting creatures along with a support creature called Jacob which blankets its allies in an energy shield, essentially making them invulnerable to all damage.

At the end of each chapter the normal pace of the game is broken up by boss fights, but these aren't exactly where the game shines. All the boss fights are rather simple and easily cleared. They're great for farming some of the better gear each chapter gives but the inability to skip cutscenes makes this a long, drawn out process, even if the bosses themselves are easier to take down than most super-sized enemies.


Survival, on the other hand, is probably my favorite game mode. Waves get increasingly larger and more difficult in order to test the players skills. For every five waves up to wave fifty, the game rewards surviving players with loot unique to each of the three survival maps. This loot is, for the most part, drastically better than the loot campaign missions give, even including unique turrets to put down. But just because there's no more unique loot past wave fifty doesn't mean players need to stop. They can keep going until all of their trenches are disabled or their objective is destroyed against ever more powerful waves of Monovisions.

Glorious, delicious loot!… Maybe.


Each Monovision killed has a chance to drop a loot box so players can still scoop up loot that they missed out on earlier, and for those players concerned about loot drops splitting up a group, they wont. Every box of loot collected is given to all the players, the drops are random to each player but there wont be a need to fight over loot or the scrap collected to drop turrets. Scrap, however, is split evenly between the number of players in a match so it slows down scrap collection a bit depending on the number of players. Sadly there's no trading system so you can't give a gun you don't really care for to a friend who really wants it, and this feature would've further improved upon the games loot system.


The game also has a more rewarding achievement system than most built into it, which is split up into personal and regimental achievements. Regimental achievements are pretty much shared with anyone and everyone you have ever played with, and are awarded for everything from scrap collected all the way to the number of enemies a player has killed, along with the emplacements and weapon types. Each level of achievement reached grants the player a new unlock. Anything from new clothes and paint jobs to new weapons to play with. This is all kept track of through games for windows live so, the next time a player signs on they may have new unlocks from their friends stomping all over Vlads Monovisions with their big stompy trench. While the best weapons are found through playing the game (multiples of the same if they're needed) these unlocks do provide a nice boost if luck is just not on your side.

I’m beginning to think dual flak cannons was not the best idea.

Sadly it's not all whiskey and explosions.

While Iron Brigade is an amazingly fun game, it is not without flaws. Hoewever there are only two which stick out like a sore thumb and really need fixing.

The first of these is the odd hitching the game exhibits. At first it's not really there, but as the game goes on, whenever scrap is collected, the game will hitch. I say that it's when scrap is collected because the rest of the time, even with swarms of enemies filling the map, the game runs as smooth as silk. Playing alone or with friends doesn't seem to make a difference here. Luckily, Double Fine is aware of this problem and are working on a patch to be released as soon as possible.

Games for Windows Live

The next problem is Games for Windows Live. While the first group of friends I played with went with had few, if any, issues, the second group had all sorts of delightful problems with GFWL not letting them connect and they had to spend a few hours just figuring out how to get their games to connect with others. So for some people ,the issue may not even be there. On the other hand, if GFWL even thinks that you've lost connection, it will toss you out of the game and refuse to save any of your progress or loot collected. I can't even begin to describe how incredibly frustrating this was the first time it happened, right before we cleared wave fifty of the hospital survival.

Every trench comes with a built in whiskey bar.

If you can ignore those two rather large problems, mainly the hitching, then Iron Brigade is really a must buy. It's only $15.99 USD on steam and $44.99 USD for a four pack so your friends can tag along, saving a fourth of the cost of each person buying their own copy. So answer the call! Join the Mobile Trench Brigade Today! Loot, hilarity and exotic landscapes await.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 18:37

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