Review: Soulslike Tails of Iron Offers Brutal Difficulty and Gameplay

Screenshot: Tails of Iron While some people don’t like “soulslike” as a genre descriptor, I have no problems using it. Sure, soulslike is just another name for action role-playing game, but there are just certain mechanics that are expected when you see soulslike. They’re usually difficult role-playing game that use a checkpoint system, emphasize exploration and punish carelessness, among other traits. Tails of Iron checks enough boxes to qualify, though it has a setting that’s closer to Mossflower than Lordran. Tails of Iron is a sidescrolling action role-playing game. In it you play as Redgi, prince and heir apparent to the throne of the Rat Kingdom. While you’re preparing to demonstrate your worth as heir during an exhibition fight, the kingdom is invaded by the Frog Clan.Redgi is defeated by their leader Greenwart, and the king is killed. With the kingdom in disarray, and Redgi the newly crowned king, you must guide Redgi as he seeks brutal revenge against the frog forces, leading him in a journey to rebuild and reclaim his land, and eventually defeat the Frog Clan. To do that, you’ll need to do lots of bloody fighting. Screenshot: Tails of Iron While you’re technically a rat in Tails of Iron, you’re a little adorable. Don’t let the animal characters fool you, however—Tails of Iron is incredibly brutal, and features bloody combat that is pretty difficult. Unlike most soulslikes, Tails of Iron doesn’t have a stamina bar. However, even with heavier armor enemy attacks can do quite a lot of damage. As in most soulslikes, there is a dodge roll that gives you an amount of i-frames that allow you to dodge through many attacks—but not quite enough to get away from large area of effect attacks, especially from bosses. And while you can block with a shield or even wield two-handed weapons in Tails of Iron, the combat is a little bit more rock paper scissors than it is deciding whether you want to dodge or block. Tails of Iron’s combat, while very soulslike, still deviates from the formula quite a bit. To make up for a lack of stamina, enemy attacks come in several flavors: normal, those that are un-blockable and must be dodged, those that are unable to be dodged and must be parried, and those that you have to continuously roll through lest you take damage. Sometimes it feels like combat, therefore, is more lock and key instead of free flowing like in other soulslike games. It doesn’t help that the weapons available fit into only a few archetypes. Screenshot: Tails of Iron There are three weapons types in Tails of Iron: Sword, Spear, and Axe, both one-handed and two-handed. Unlike Dark Souls, each weapon doesn’t do a heavy or light attack. Instead, heavy and light attacks are performed with heavy and light weapons, respectively. It’s a strange system, but it allows you to wield two different weapon types simultaneously. Each weapon type has different attack patterns, but only a few, making offensive options somewhat limited. While Tails of Iron is a role-playing game, there really aren’t any skill points. Instead, upgrades are mostly through the gear you find. You can also find ingredients to different foods that can upgrade your maximum health. But like weaponry, your customization choices are limited. Screenshot: Tails of Iron Even with limited customization options, Tails of Iron has some pretty fun combat. I don’t appreciate how engaging in combat locks your screen and sometimes forces you to fight a few waves of enemies, but the actual fighting is done well. There are a good variety of enemy types, too. Unfortunately, due to the nature of Tails of Iron’s combat, I was always more focused on the type of attacks the enemy is doing, more so than what the enemy actually is. And while there are some pretty damn tough boss fights in Tails of Iron, many of them felt like an encounter with a larger version of enemies you’ve already been fighting. Tails of Iron gave a really strong first impression. It has interesting world building, and an attractive hand drawn art style that reminded me of my childhood reading Redwall novels. Unfortunately, it really gets bogged down after the first third of the game or so. After completing the first few major milestones, you’re forced to go on a number of side quests—something the king definitely wouldn’t have to do. There is even snarky dialogue referencing the literal king of the rat kingdom running around performing errands, but you’re still forced to grind out mundane quests in areas that have already been explored. Still, Tails of Iron has some good world building, and handles dialogue between characters adorably: instead of being directly translated, the rats speech is represented by pictures. Screenshot: Tails of Iron Tails of Iron isn’t a perfect game, but it’s pretty damn fun. It can be difficult, but it has surprisingly brutal combat that is sure to amuse for the first few hours. If you can stomach a little bit of a grind and fighting new enemies in old locales, then Tails of Iron might be a great match, especially if you’re looking for a challenging side scrolling action role-playing game. Tails of Iron is available today for PC via Steam and on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, PlayStation 4  and PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch.     A Steam code was provided to us for this review. If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. 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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.