Iron and Steel Pack - Pinball FX 2 Table Reviewby Adam Dileva
It almost seems as if Zen Studios can't do any wrong when they release a new table for Pinball FX 2. Their last few releases have been astounding, so naturally I was excited to see the new Iron and Steel pack release which contains two brand new tables. These days it seems Zen Studio is simply taking popular franchises (South Park, Walking Dead, Marvel) and creating tables based on them, so it was a nice change to see that they've created a new table from scratch, as it's been quite some time (three years actually!).
The Iron and Steel pack contains two tables, Castlestorm, based on the popular game, and Wild West Rampage. Very different genres with very different table layouts and play styles as well. Both tables are unique and suit their setting and mood quite well. The themes for each carries throughout the whole table's experience and are fitting of their respective genres.
So let's start with my favorite of the two in the pack, CastleStorm. If you're a fan of the original game you'll enjoy seeing Sir Gareth make a return as you battle Vikings, Dragons, and other enemies. Once the donkey launches the ball... Yes, the donkey, you'll have a very open bottom play field with many ramps in the upper half the aim for (a common theme throughout Zen's tables). Almost every shot that goes into the upper half is going to hit a target or a ramp, and you'll notice it's quite easy to get your ‘quarter's' worth as there isn't many cheap lanes to lose your ball in unfairly.
The idea of the table, just like CastleStorm, is that you're constantly attacking the enemy's stronghold while simultaneously defending yours. At times you'll have packs of Vikings or ghosts slowly descending downward towards the flippers (your castle), so you need to hit them as they path towards you while also hitting the upper ramps to attack their base. As you'll be constantly hitting ramps in the upper area, you can easily gain momentum in speed, resulting in some awesome shots, allowing for one of many multiball attempts.
There's also a mini playfield you'll frequently get to play in as it's accessed by one of the easier to hit ramps right in the middle. Once you're in the mini playfield the slope is quite drastic, so you need to keep the ball hitting the refreshing targets for as long as possible. The more targets you hit before the ball drops (or reach the cap), the bigger the bonus becomes. It's not uncommon to rack a bulk of your total score in this area if you learn how to hit the ramp to it often.
The table is very easy to learn and play and I really enjoyed it for what it offers. It can be played casually and even the lesser skills players should rack up a decent score as the ball doesn't' drop down the sides or straight in the middle very often. With so many ramps to hit at almost every angle, you'll eventually be able to hit all of them on command and I applaud Zen Studios for making a much friendlier table where each ball can last quite some time.
The second table in the Iron and Steel pack is Wild West Rampage and stars Cindy the bounty hunter who arrives in town only to find the sheriff is corrupt. When you think of the wild west, you most likely think of six shooters, cowboy hats, dynamite, locomotives, duels, and saloons, all of which this table has and more. It stays true to the old west theme and even has the ball flying out the top floor of a building onto a track, just like something you'd see in an old western movie.
The gameplay starts once the locomotive uses its steam to launch the ball into the table, usually right into some bumpers. The lower half of the table has more targets than the CastleStorm table, but the bulk of your shots will want to aim for the ramps in the upper half. Launch the ball straight up the middle to the top and through the saloon doors and you'll see the ball bounce to one of the attached ramps. Hitting this ramp isn't difficult at all, but where the challenge starts to come in is the side lanes at the bottom when there's no kickback. I'm not exaggerating by saying that roughly 90% of my balls lost were due to going down the side lanes, no matter which angle the ball bounced from.
There's a sheriff star badge in the upper left of the table and if you hit it at the right angle and speed, you can rack up some easy points. Hit it in the middle and it'll go down a pit and launch out the top floor window of the saloon. The bumpers beside the flippers are entertaining, as a pair of six shooters fire every time they bounce the ball and play into the table's theme quite well. My favorite part is when you're loading the multiball by shooting a ball into each chamber of a six shooter (each ball is like a bullet being loaded).
If the side lanes didn't drain the ball as often as it did, and seem so unfair in the process, I would probably enjoy the Wild West Rampage table a lot more than I did. If it was a lot easier to earn the kickbacks maybe it wouldn't have been such an issue, but it is, and it's very difficult to keep a ball in play for a prolonged amount of time because of the unfair side lanes. It's great to see that Zen is back to creating new tables from scratch, I just wished it was as fun as the CastleStorm table.
My only gripe, which I believe I've mentioned before in other table reviews, is that the friend and achievement notification still pops up right in the middle where the flippers are, so you better hope that you don't have a lot of friends appearing online when you're on a roll. This may not be changeable and a limitation set by Microsoft, but I've lost a few rounds simply because the notification appears in the exact wrong place (no, I'm not going to turn them off and on every time I want to play). Again, it might not be their fault, but it's worth mentioning.
As I mentioned above, it seems that Zen Studios can do no wrong when it comes to making new pinball tables. They clearly have a passion for it and understand pinball better than anyone else. The cost of entry is very small per table and you can piecemeal whatever tables you like. Both tables in the pack offer varied gameplay, and while I vastly enjoyed one over the other it's still a solid purchase even if you end up only liking half the package.