Iron Harvest Preview: Real-Time Strategy In an Alternate-History World War 1

When I saw the first trailer for Iron Harvest, I was instantly intrigued. Its mix of real-life World War 1-era film footage with “diesel punk” mechs was extremely in my wheelhouse. I’m fascinated by the history of WW1, but I also really like alternate-reality universes, especially ones containing smoke-spewing mechs.Real-time strategy is a genre I enjoy, too, although I haven’t gotten too serious about them in the last decade or so. After my time with Iron Harvest at PAX East, I feel confident this game, with its fanciful depiction of a world at war in a universe where mechs are the primary vehicles of battle, is going to sink its hooks into me deeply when it comes out later this year.

Iron Harvest 1920 Concept Artwork

If you’ve played Company of Heroes, you’re familiar with the battlefields here. You command your units, level them up, and send them off to battle another day. Resources, whether built or seized, determine how quickly, and how many units, you can build. Its skirmishes are fast-paced and stressful, requiring constant attention to a hundred different things at once. In other words, Iron Harvest is awesome.

Its skirmishes are fast-paced and stressful. In other words, Iron Harvest is awesome.


One cool mechanic of Iron Harvest is how defeated enemies will drop their weapons on the battlefield, shown as easy-to-spot spinning icons. This means you could wipe out an enemy flamethrower battalion and seize their weapons, converting one of your basic (and cheap) infantry units into a more lethal configuration. This changes how I approached battle. Should I spend my resources to build more specialized units, or should I just pump out as many cheap ones as possible and send them to scavenge fallen foes?

Iron Harvest 1920 Screen Shots

All that’s well and good, of course, but the real draw to Iron Harvest is its diesel-powered mechs. While it plays differently, Iron Harvest game exists in the same universe as the Scythe board game, so if you’ve ever waged table-top battle, you’re already familiar. If not, the crux of the story is three countries have landed themselves at war, dragging the world with them into their conflict. These factions each possess mechs of different strengths and purposes, and the mechs give Iron Harvest an extra layer of “wow, this is awesome.”

At no point did Iron Harvest 1920 direct me to walk mechs through an abandoned village, but it was strongly encouraged.


For example, mechs, being giant, lumbering masses of iron and steel, are able to smash their way through buildings effortlessly. The destruction is much more fun than it should be, especially since it’s not required (at least not in the demo missions I played). At no point did Iron Harvest 1920 direct me to walk mechs through an abandoned village, but Iron Harvest PR manager Tobias Stolz-Zwilling strongly encouraged it. I appreciated his encouragement, because the attention to detail given to the mechanics of the the brick building’s collapse was amazing. The building didn’t just poof into a cloud of smoke: the only parts that collapsed were the parts where my mech compromised the structure.I also played an escort mission, where it was my job to protect a train carrying a massive cannon. Not only did I have mech support, but the cannon was functional, too, making the train more than just a helpless escort. I ran out of time before I got to the end, but Stolz-Zwilling showed me the enormity of the map on which I was playing, pointing out choke points and places where, had I gotten that far, I would have had to do some creative thinking to get my train to its goal. I wish I had more time.

Iron Harvest 1920 is scheduled to come out on PS4, Xbox One and PC September 1, 2020, with a clue to its release date hiding in plain sight right there in the name (for European date conventions at least: 1/9/20 is the first day of September).

Seth Macy is IGN’s tech and commerce editor and just wants to be your friend. Find him on Twitter @sethmacy.




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