Iconoclasts Review: Uprising
Kalvin Martinez / Feb 2nd, 2018 No Comments
A promising indie game is shown off at gaming conventions, making a huge impression and leaving players salivating for more. Time goes by, with the game continuing to make appearances at events. It takes seven years before it is finally released.
This is a common narrative in the video game industry, and it is exactly the story of Iconoclasts, an action platformer available now on multiple platforms.
It took years to release Iconoclasts, but the result is an extremely polished, charming and ambitious riff on the Metroidvania genre.
Hunt for Ivory
The world is dying as everyone is quickly depleting it of its most precious resource: ivory. As the world withers up, various factions fight to get enough ivory to survive. However, the One Concern looms over everyone on the continent, preach the gospel of Him and the path to salvation. As a result, all activities are highly regulated by the church and its agents, but most importantly, so is the access to ivory. Anyone who doesn’t tow the line faces the wrath of divine Penance.
In a broken world, the one thing the people need the most is a mechanic. Robin is a young girl, and her father was a famous mechanic whom passed down all his knowledge to her. All she wants to do is help the people with their needs and her prodigious skills as a mechanic. However, she is unsanctioned and runs afoul of the One Concern. As she gets in trouble with the church, she is set forth on a journey of redemption for herself, her companions and the world itself.
Iconoclasts’ story is nuts. It lures you in with a non-descript opening where you meet Robin in her quaint house. The world is colorful and vibrant with some nasty critters, but nothing crazy. That is until you fall into a cavern and fight a spikey machine bent on killing you. Then, you meet the Agents for the first time waiting in your house to ambush you.
Once you come in contact with the One Concern, you begin to uncover the complexity and depth of the world. It isn’t immediately obvious, but rather like peeling an onion where you slowly learn the inner workings of this world and how draconian and rapidly dystopian it is becoming. Iconoclasts does an admirable job of building out such a desolate, yet gorgeous world.
You also meet a charming, flawed and tragic cast of characters. It isn’t only Robin that gets an emotionally charged story arc. Every important side character and villain gets their own arc that pays off big by the end of the game. It is a remarkable narrative that keeps you invested until the very end.
All About the Perks
Robin’s skills as a mechanic allows her to utilize a handy wrench, which acts both as a melee weapon and an exploration tool. She can smack enemies with it, spin it around to get some extra umph, and screw environmental lugnuts to solve puzzles. It also can parry enemy attacks when swung just right, making it an excellent all-purpose weapon/tool.
The wrench gets upgraded throughout Robin’s adventure, opening up really cool additional uses. One of the major upgrades grants the wrench the ability to conduct and channel electricity. It can be charged to give the wrench some extra firepower. This upgrade gives Robin the option to power conductors around the world to open up even more pathways, and allows her to traverse rails and fast grind on them when charged.
While Robin’s wrench is one of the most notable combat/exploration mechanic, she also has access to a stun gun that gains some exciting upgrades. Regardless of which gun type you choose, each one has a regular shot and a charged shot. The regular shot is good for typical combat, but the charged shots are necessary for getting past specific obstacle types in the world on top of packing an extra punch.
Each gun type has its own advantages. The stun gun can hone in on enemies, the grenade launcher has a lot of firepower and a timed detonation, and the laser upgrade is just nuts. Robin’s gun upgrades evoke memories of playing as Samus and is the closest a recent Metoidvania game has come to replicating that feeling.
The boss fights are numerous and absolutely memorable. From the first spine you encounter to the final climactic battle with Him and the Spaceworm, you are treated to intense, electric fights. One cool thing that is completely unique to Iconoclasts is the party system, which opens up fascinating tag battles with Mina. Additionally, you get to a chance to play as different characters with their own unique boss battles at different points in the game.
Another thing that separates Iconoclasts from other Metroidvania games is its unique perk system. As you explore the world, you come across blueprints that can be crafted into perks at ChemiCo Contra workstations. In order to craft them, you need to collect materials hidden throughout the game. Much of the Metroidvania revisiting element of the game involves being able to gain previously unobtainable materials.
These perks can increase your wrench swinging speed, allow you to move faster, hold your breath longer and more. It isn’t what the perks can allow, but rather how the system works. You can equip three perks at any given time, but if you take damage from enemies, the perks begin to break and stop working until you can gather enough ivory to restore them.
This adds a strategic layer to combat. Knowing what loadout works best for a given area can make a big difference.
Iconoclasts does some incredible things in terms of narrative and gameplay. It’s story is complex, dark and full of pathos with remarkable story arcs for multiple characters. In terms of gameplay, the boss fights are numerous and provide a good degree of difficulty.
In fact, Iconoclasts might be one of the best Metroidvania in a while. The year has only just started, but we might already have a contender for game of the year.
Iconoclasts was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita with a code provided by the publisher
tags: Bifrost Entertainment , Iconoclasts , Iconoclasts Review , Konjak , review