Earlier this week, I posted some pretty exhaustive first impressions of Iron Marines [$4.99], and consider this review a continuation of that article. In it, I cover most of the basics of the game and how various mechanics work. To avoid endlessly repeating myself a bunch, I'd recommend going back and reading that as this review will mostly confirm suspicions that I had and answer questions about the game's monetization methods which have been fairly controversial in our community.

Real quick, the basic gist of the game is that Iron Marines is the closest thing that I know of to a mobile version of StarCraft that you can play on your iPhone or iPad. Take a universe that leans heavily on inspiration from StarCraft, add in a great touch interface and simplified base building that feels a bit more like a tower defense game, and you've got Iron Marines. Mission types are straight out of what you'd see playing a single player RTS game and have you doing things like conquering different parts of a map, defending objectives, rescuing other units, and many other things. It's sort of wild just how much variety the different levels have.

The first hour of gameplay, which is where my first impressions stopped, left me with a few big questions. See, much like Ironhide's other titles, Iron Marines is a premium game which as of this writing is selling for five bucks. Inside the game, however, there are quite a few IAP options. The App Store has more or less programmed my brain to assume there's going to be some kind of pinch point in any game that gives you the ability to buy multiple currencies where you're either going to need to pay up, or else. After playing a ton more Iron Marines, I can say that point never came.

It seems like Iron Marines doles out a constant supply of credits, and while you certainly won't have enough to spam the consumable weapons every time you come across an enemy, you get enough credits that you shouldn't really feel shy about firing off some special bombs if you're really in a bind. Similarly, the way the techpoints end up panning out for filling in your tech tree, unless you really just want to boost your progress there's no reason I can come up with to buy additional points- Particularly considering unlocking the game's tech tree of persistent upgrades feels like one of the major overall progression paths in the game, so you're effectively paying to skip playing, which seems odd.

There's a whole host of unlockable hero characters, ranging from (again, as of this writing) $2.99 to $6.99. It'd be easy to assume that the more expensive hero characters would be way more powerful- Game breakingly powerful even. For the sake of science, I forked out the $6.99 hero, Mark X, and then replayed some of the levels I found to be pretty challenging. They were still really tricky, and it certainly wasn't like suddenly I was steamrolling the game. Certain hero characters might have abilities that situationally can be better, but it doesn't seem like a $6.99 character is distinctly better, or more powerful, than the freebies.

The problem comes in with the feeling that if you're ever losing it's because you're not spending money, which is somewhat inescapable in a game which is both very challenging and offers you the ability to buy your way out of problems. I wouldn't consider myself that great at RTS games, but the normal difficulty is challenging enough to be fun for me. At times it's surprising just how much micromanagement of your units is required to clear normal difficulty maps even, but once I got a good handle of the game and its mechanics I can confidently say that any time I was failing missions was because of a strategic error I was making and not because I hadn't spent. If you're having trouble with normal, just kick it down to easy. There's no shame in that.

Really the only thing I can come up with to complain about the game is that I really wish this game had some kind of checkpoint system in maps. I tend to take things very slow and methodically in RTS games, and many maps have multiple phases you need to get through. Any failure, at any point, sends you right back to the beginning. I usually mitigate this when I play PC RTS games by saving often, and if things start to go pear shaped I can just go back a bit and rethink things. In Iron Marines, it's all or nothing. If you fail at the very last segment of a map after playing potentially for quite a while, you start back from the beginning. It feels unnecessary, particularly in a game that seems to punish micromanagement errors so severely.

Other than that, Iron Marines is a very, very good game. It seems like some sort of checkpoint or save system that makes failure feel a little less brutal would be a simple modification, but even without it, the game just forces you to be careful with your decisions. I really doubt StarCraft, in any form, will ever come to the App Store, so provided you can put up with the slightly cartoony art style of Iron Marines, this is definitely the next best thing.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • speedyph

    Awesome review spot in 😎😎😎

    • http://littleponyjuegos.com/ Little Pony

      I also liked this review

  • OutdatedGamer

    A quick note i'd like to throw out there. If you're looking for Starcraft on mobile the closest thing by far is Space Harvest 1 and 2. Iron Marines really disappointed me as a long time Starcraft fan and being told its the closest thing on mobile. The two really have very little in common. Its just an RTS with Tower Defense elements.

    • Onikage725

      I'll check those out for sure!

  • Bunion

    Nice review however i'd disagree with the 'Starcraft for mobile' line as this has no multiplayer which is hugely what Starcraft is about.

    Not trying to be pedantic - just don't want people mislead into thinking this has multiplayer when it does not.

    • Onikage725

      This is true, but SC does have a very long and involved narrative for the genre.

  • Onikage725

    Does anyone remember the name of the old Gameloft rts that basically was just unofficial Starcraft?

    • OutdatedGamer

      I think the game you're thinking of is Starfront

      • Gurney Halleck

        And that one had decent multiplayer too. Had quite a bit of fun with Starfront back in the day 🤓

      • Gurney Halleck

        Thanks for the review and preview of this great strategy game Eli! Definitely glad I took your recommendation 🤓

        I went ahead and picked this up and feel like its well worth the price of entry and the early adopter gift ( going for 8 more hours) of the Fate hero (IAP price $2.99) and some consumable to start was a nice bonus meaning this effectively a reduced price app for today as I would likely buy a hero anyway. I sure wish this had multiplayer and hope that may be an option in the near future with updates as well as a realtime save feature. I will post gameplay impressions after more time in-game.

      • rhinofinger

        Yes! Wish I could still go back and play some of those old Gameloft games.

      • Jake7905

        Don't worry, I'm sure Gameloft is working on a freemium version of Starfront as we speak. Multiple currencies, wait timers for upgrades, and more consumable IAP's than anyone could realistically afford.

      • Onikage725

        I miss old Gameloft. I don't know if personnel shifted or if it was just a management decision, but they aren't the same. They don't put out bad games (I still play Iron Man 3 and Spider-Man from time to time), but I feel they play it incredibly safe these days.

      • Tychaeus

        Yep, starfront collision. You can still download it from your history on ipad only, but its not on the app store anymore, its available on PC though through ...cough...slime....waste...microsoft store, or through their website.

      • Onikage725

        The PC option is interesting, but I'd likely just run Starcraft at that point.

      • Onikage725

        Yes thank you!

      • loophole

        I loved Starfront! Glad I'm not the only one

  • RinoaHeartily

    I laughed when Eli mentioned he wants checkpoints! Lol did we have checkpoints in Starcraft? I know we have that in diablo!

  • Tychaeus

    He is referring to "save files." And yes, you can save at any time in starcraft. However, the only thing about iron marines really that is starcraft like is the aesthetic. Iron Marines is more like a simplified version of a Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War game...reminiscent of dawn of war 2 with the heroes n such and lack of base building. If this was more like starcraft there would need to be player controlled resource gathering and building construction for units and upgrades. Dawn of War had these capture points that would let you reinforce squads and create squads etc, "Listening Posts," they are called and could be upgraded with a turret etc....sound familiar here lol?

  • Tychaeus

    Good review though, enjoying the game immensely and happy with everything about it basically...wish list would only include some equippables for heroes like armors and weapon upgrades, but it doesnt need this. I guess they could add save option, but I wish it would only be available in easy or Normal or some such. For rts vets, I mean...I feel like I could walk to the kitchen and make a sandwich, come back, and win. I have it on Veteran right now and wanting harder setting. There is one but its locked behind campaign completion =

  • jackywest

    I like this review and more this game. But this game is not well balanced. I buyed Sha'tra and got Fate for free. They are really weak when there is a tons of mob. I play with Paragon now and it much doable.

  • App Junkie

    Agreed, great game but could do with some sort of check point system. Also don't like how your soldiers don't attack mobs when you walk through them and only attack when they reach their destination. Other than that, great game so far. Having a lot of fun on it.

    App Junkie

  • Horslips

    Starcraft ripped off warhammer 40000 in real life not just computers, so all due respects go to dawn of war 2, especially in concept but also in 'base capturing with a hero mechanics'

  • Mitchell

    I'm a big KR and RTS fan, but I'm really disappointed with Iron Marines. This review is way off. There is no depth to the game, and RTS translates poorly to mobile. The colour scheme is unappealing. I got about 40% of the way through, and gave up. The KR games I could never put down, and rebought them on PC too.

Iron Marines Reviewed by Eli Hodapp on . Rating: 5