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While The Iron’s Hot review

Crafting is often an important aspect in games, notably in RPG’s. But rarely are games made where crafting is the primary gameplay ingredient. And it’s even rarer to find it mixed into an adventure game. And then there’s While The Iron’s Hot. A light hearted adventure game where your goal is to become the world’s best blacksmith. Read on for our While The Iron’s Hot review.

To become the greatest blacksmith

While The Iron’s Hot takes place in the world of Elian. A medieval fantasy world consisting of various islands. You arrive on one of these islands by shipwreck on your quest to become the best blacksmith ever. The island was home to a legendary blacksmith who vanished years ago. And as chance would have it, there’s no blacksmith on the island at all. You meet a friendly face in a run down village which coincidentally contains an anvil and forge and he sets you on your adventure. So your legacy begins.

Okay, so maybe While The Iron’s Hot won’t be taking awards for groundbreaking stories but the story serves its purpose well. It sets you on a journey across the game world, where you meet various people all with their own personalities. They’ll offer you insights, quests, recipes and might even join your quest. Truth be told, after a few hours I started thinking I knew exactly how this story would go as a pattern was emerging. This happens a lot in games and that’s when I start to slightly lose interest in the story. But, very surprisingly, it didn’t go exactly as I thought it would. So while the story isn’t amazing, it’s interesting enough to see it through to the end.

Interesting encounters

While you discover various points of interest and towns throughout the game, you’ll also encounter multiple side quests. They’re not required and aren’t very noteworthy in terms of variety since they’re essentially crafting orders. But they’re worth doing, as the rewards are great and will often give you new recipes.

The main gameplay component in While The Iron’s Hot is obviously crafting. Most of the time in games, crafting is a side component consisting of gathering resources and clicking a button. Fortunately, as it’s what you’ll be doing most of the time, there’s a lot more to this than clicking a button. Before you can craft something, you need resources. Resources are gathered on the world map or at points of interest. They consist of ore, wood and other materials. Once you have them, you smelt them into ingots. Which works like most games. However, one great addition is that while something is being smelted, you can play a minigame to heighten your yield. If you take the time to do this and are smart about this, it lessens the grind for materials.

Mix and match

Now that you’ve got ingots, you might say it’s time to craft. Because that’s often how it goes. However, not here. You take your ingots to an anvil and first you shape them into components. This is done through a minigame once again. You are presented with a tetris shape and limited attempts to strike the ingot. You need to break off the obsolete parts to get your desired shape. As the quality of the ingots increase, so does the difficulty.

Now, with components in hand,  you go to a workbench. The crafting interface opens up and you are presented with a grid of nine squares. On this, you place the components into shape in order to build what you want. If you’ve got the recipe unlocked, you simply match the recipe. But you can freeform and experiment however you like. This means, you can craft whatever you want, whenever you want as long as you have the proper materials. It allows for experimentation from the get go, which is great!

You think you know how this goes

As in most games, you start by making swords, axes and so on from iron. The next tier is steel, which you’ll come across after progressing for a bit. You’ll do mostly the same after that, with most recipes being the same but with a different material. At this point, I was thinking I knew what to expect until the endgame in terms of crafting. Because this is what most games do with crafting. New tiers are essentially repeating the same trick. And here, I was pleasantly surprised as well. Because the higher I got, the crazier the items got. Minor spoiler, but I even had to make a submarine at some point! The crafting becomes varied enough to stay interesting for hours on end.

The village you start out in, is run down and initially abandoned. It serves as your home base and it’s up to you to rebuild it. You do this by building all sorts of buildings and recruiting NPC’s you encounter across the world. It’s mostly optional (apart from some story related buildings) but they add useful functions to your gameplay such as increased storage or a store to sell and buy.

Resources in abundance

Games about crafting can also become rather tedious due to a grind for resources. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with While The Iron’s Hot. When you go out gathering, resources are plentiful. And you can easily juggle your resources if you’re smart about them. This is one of the few crafting games where good resource management is properly rewarded. Additionally, while discovering the world map, you’ll come across points of interest occasionally, including dungeons. While The Iron’s Hot is combatless, exploring these dungeons and solving their (simple) puzzles yield great rewards. From raw resources to fully crafted items and everything in between. It’s always worth your while.

Upgrading your buildings and crafting wagon does take a lot of gold and gold isn’t in abundance (at first). This means you’ll need to simply make some money at times in order to progress. Every village has a crafting board which offers randomized crafting orders. They’ll require you to craft a certain amount of items in exchange for resources and gold. And sometimes a new recipe. While they’re repetitive after a while, they’re a good source of income. They’ll sometimes even give you orders for items you haven’t discovered yet. So it offers an extra challenge to figure out how to craft them yourselves (or ignore them if that’s not your cup of tea)

Let it sink in

Every time you sleep to rest (because you have a limited amount of energy to spend), you’ll recollect your thoughts of the day into experience. You’ll level up occasionally but your level isn’t as important as most games. Every time you level up you get to choose a passive buff, such as increased yield from the smelter, cheaper prices at stores and so on. If you level up enough, you even get the ability to skip the minigames. This was a welcome and well thought out change from the designers. Because after a few hours, minigames always get stale and a chore. There’s a perfect balance preventing players from burning out.

Initially the controls seem a little sluggish, especially on the world map. When your character is moving at points of interest, I sometimes even had throwbacks to the old school Prince of Persia games in terms of latency. You get used to it, but it can be something not everyone can handle.

The endgame

When you’re done with the main story, there’s some more side quests to wrap up and new ones to discover. After spending about 10 hours playing the main quest, there were still loads of recipes to discover and orders to craft. I even looked forward to completing the recipe book, which is a huge compliment to the game. It means the crafting didn’t get boring to me after more than 10 hours. 

While The Iron’s Hot has a pixelated art style sporting a charming look. It fits the game well, as throughout the game you get the feeling it’s a relaxing experience without too much pressure. A perfect way to relax. The graphics on the world map seem a little out of touch from the other areas of the game, but it’s not really annoying. Throughout the game you’re accompanied by a relaxing soundtrack which further enhances the experience. Some story beats change tone accordingly and the sound of striking an anvil sounds as recognizable as ever.

Conclusion

I’ve always enjoyed crafting in games, especially RPG’s. They’re my favorite pastime. And I can easily say “This is how you make a crafting game.”. Everyone that enjoys crafting should play While The Iron’s Hot. There are a lot of clever design decisions which are small but essential to keep it interesting. There’s room for experimentation and a lot to discover. It’s also the perfect relaxing experience in between games. It won’t win awards in terms of story or graphics but what it wants to do, it does exceptionally well.

Pros:

  • Great crafting system
  • Room for experimentation
  • Plenty to do
  • No insane grinds

Cons:

  • Sluggish controls at times
  • Art style sometimes feels off

Grade: 8,5

That was it for our While The Iron’s Hot review. While The Iron’s Hot is available through Xbox Cloud Gaming. Be sure to follow us on Twitter right here.