Iron Harvest: Operation Eagle marks a return to KING Art’s excellent dieselpunk-fueled RTS, and we relished the chance of going back to it. Here are our thoughts.
These days, Real Time Strategy titles in the classic sense are a bit of a rare breed, especially in the AAA environment. Iron Harvest didn’t just give us a quality title in the genre when it launched, but as we pointed out in our review it already delivered on an exciting new and original setting with its alternate history take on the world.
Operation Eagle is a standalone expansion for the game, but can also be purchased as a DLC addon if you already own the base game. It features a new campaign with seven missions, all of which can be tackled in multiple ways and with several optional objectives that make things riskier and/or more rewarding. The new faction of Usonia, based on the USA, is front and center this time, and features in several story-driven cutscenes that help lay out the story.
Our new protagonist is William Mason, whose father is an admiral for the Usonian forces and gets pushed into a conflict on the Arabian peninsula – trying to overthrown the current rulers in order to gain more of a stake in the natural resources of the region. Aligning with tribal forces and sub-factions, it’s an interesting and intriguing plot where the stakes on and off the battlefield frequently collide. There’s definitely no requirement to play the base campaign first either, since aside from a few casual references there is no mention of the previously explored narrative.
As you’d expect, a new faction also means new units, and the big thing this time is the introduction of air-based mechs. Unfortunately they’ve not drastic game-changers in how they play, but they certainly look great as they hover above the enemy forces. The largest airship represents the military might of the Usonian forces and belongs to Admiral Mason, while William is more of a frontline fighter. Between them Princess Sita al Hadid is your local hero unit, as she is connected to both the king and the tribal forces in the area.
As with the base game, each mission is a lengthy affair, often with several stages to go through before you’re successful. It’s a dynamic we really enjoyed in Iron Harvest, as it keeps things dynamic, forces you to rethink strategies mid-mission and offers players a nice amount of gameplay diversity. One minute you’re trying to gain control of a mech using stealth, where minutes later you’re on the offensive – in which case that extra mech really helps!
As mentioned, aerial mechs are the big novelty this time around, but although they’ve been applied to every faction in the campaign the skies are mostly the domain of the Usonian forces, personified by Admiral Mason’s ship. Every faction has a heavy gunship, a faster and smaller combat unit and a unit that can transport others through the skies, but of course you can’t have airbone units without introducing anti-air defenses at the same time.
Operation Eagle feels like more of the same, but that’s not a bad thing here. The aerial units are a solid addition, but because the single player campaign maps have been designed with them in mind (think defenses) their impact isn’t as big as you’d think. Still, the campaign, with the excellent mission structure and entertaining narrative context, is every bit as strong as it was when the base game launched.