STAFF REVIEW of Tails of Iron (Xbox One)


Friday, October 8, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Tails of Iron Box art One of my favorite movies growing up as a kid was the animated classic, The Secret of NIMH. The only reason I mention this is because it has a somewhat similar setting, as Tails of Iron has you playing as Redgi, a rat who will embark on a fantastic journey. An adventure that will surely test your combat skills, Tails of Iron has quite a dark setting and plot for how cute the characters and design appear. Don’t let its appealing art style fool you though, you’re in for a brutal and punishing adventure.

The time has come for the rat King to choose a new heir to the throne, so his two sons decide to have a duel in front of everyone to see who is most worthy. Redgi of course wins with ease, but just like the Red Wedding, disaster strikes and the Frog Clan, led by Greenwart, not only kills your father but destroys your whole kingdom in the process. You somehow survive, vowing to take revenge on Greenwart but also rebuild your home, Rat Fort. The Frog Clan is merciless though and it will be a long hard and dangerous fight to take back your home as the frogs too have allies of their own.

While the story itself is your standard fare, somehow they’ve got such an iconic narrator that voices all of the important bits that I had to sit up and take notice whenever he spoke. None other than Doug Cockle, best known as Geralt from The Witcher series, narrates all that happens on screen as you try to rescue your family and restore your kingdom; a tail worth telling.

As you explore your kingdom you’ll encounter many enemies, so you’ll first need to save some of your companions so that they can aid you along the way in your adventure. These companions may fight alongside you in certain areas or boss fights, so you won’t always feel so alone as you explore the handful of different biomes. Each area has a vast amount of underground tunnels, these are rats and insects after all. While there’s an overall map you can see how each tunnel and area connects, there are secrets to be found if you search hard enough too.


As you save your brothers and rebuild your home, they too will reopen their shops, allowing you to craft weapons, forge armor and cook recipes. Of course during your adventure you’ll need to search and kill enemies for the resources needed to do so, but taking the time to do so early on will make a huge difference later when things become much more difficult when you start to take a stand against the Frog Clan.

While you have a main quest and objective, there are a handful of side quests available that reward you with new gear or precious gold. This gold is how you’ll afford to rebuild your kingdom, but these side quests are the aspect I enjoyed the least with my time with Tails of Iron. While labelled a “side quest”, they are anything but. At some parts of the main questline you won’t actually be able to progress any further until you have enough gold to afford the costs needed. This seriously halts any progression to stand still as you take a side quest to do a fetch quest and kill a certain enemy located in a specific tunnel.

Funny enough there’s always just enough side quests to reward you with the gold needed to progress the main story, but there’s another issue as well. Side quests can only be taken one at a time, so you’ll take one, go kill your enemies, hand in, grab a new one and repeat. The problem with this too is that you’ll not only sometimes have to go to the same area repeatedly, but there’s also no fast travel, so you’ll have to backtrack every single time as well. Having to run all the way to one corner of an area to kill a few enemies, run back and do it all over again was frustrating, as I wish I could have simply taken all the side quests at once and not have to backtrack multiple times for no reason. This seriously padded the playtime, to the point where I started to not enjoy myself as much when I was doing important tasks like saving my family.

As you kill enemies you’ll be able to harvest or loot them. Some items you gather act as a form of currency, trading certain amount for other items in shops, or maybe you’ll harvest some cooking ingredients along the way as well, used in recipes that can permanently give you some health upgrades. You’ll also find iron bars and such to craft weapons and armor, so it pays to not run past most enemies, but it certainly does make each journey take much longer than you’d expect. While there’s no manual save system, you can sit at any bench or chair during your journey, as these act as save points. They are quite frequent so there’s not much of a loss in time when you do die, you just have to remember to actually activate them whenever you want to save.


Combat is where Tails of Iron truly shines though. I’ll admit, it has a Souls-like feel to it, as you need to dodge, parry, counter and time your attacks, but once you get the hang of the controls and enemy tells, it becomes much more satisfying. If you try to simply smash the attack button, you’re going to die fairly quickly. Combat is very slow and methodical, as you’ll always be waiting for enemy tells to know how you should react. You have no stamina bar, so you can roll and dodge when needed, something you’ll need to become quite adept with when you’re almost always surrounded in most unfair fights against a couple of enemies.

Normal attacks are done with the ‘Right Bumper’, heavy attacks with ‘Right Trigger’ which can also be held for a more powerful charged up version, ‘Left Trigger’ will hold out your shield and ‘B’ button will dodge and roll. Knowing when to use each type of action and reaction is something you’ll need to learn quickly. Enemies telegraph the majority of their moves, so you’ll need quick reaction times if you want any success. Battles may be slow, but you’ll only have a moment to counter with what action you want. Normal attacks can be dodged or blocked, but if the enemy has some colored lines in front of them, they’re about to do some sort of special move.

White lines indicate they’re about to use some sort of projectile towards you, blockable with your shield. Yellow means they’re about to rush at you and will hurt you if you don’t parry at the right time, stunning them for a few moments to get a few extra hits in. Red lines means you’re going to get massively hurt if you don’t dodge at the right moment, not possible to counterattack. And lastly, if they have a red circle you’ll need to dodge again, sometimes twice, as these are usually the most devastating moves. Because combat is slow paced, you’ll need to be patient and almost always counter until you gain access to heavy two handed weapons that can break through some defenses.

You’ll also get a bow and arrow, eventually a crossbow and other weapons, allowing you to shoot from afar, especially at pesky flying enemies. You’ll amass quite a number of weapons and armor along your journey, each with their own stats, damage resistance types and strengths. While you have to be at specific boxes to change your gear, there are plenty to collect to suit your playstyle. Weapons will range from swords, axes and spears and armor varies in light, medium and heavy styles, all of which have a weight to it as well that needs to be managed.

Your first few battles are probably not going to end well. It takes time to get the combat mechanics down where you don’t have to think about it too much beforehand, but once it becomes natural you’ll be parrying and dodging with precision, even against the massive and challenging bosses. Most enemies on their own don’t pose much of a threat, but it’s usually never a fair fight, sometimes having four enemies all trying to kill you at once. While there are no difficulty options, I assure you it becomes much more fun once you become proficient at combat.


Instead of having potions or estus flasks, you instead carry a canteen that will carry your healing juice. Instead of single uses, you simply drink as much as you want to heal your health, which can be difficult mid battle, but possible. This canteen needs to be refilled, either at specific kegs or gutting certain enemies. Like save points, these aren’t terribly rare, so you’re never too far from a health refill.

Tails or Iron’s greatest strength is its beautiful 2D hand drawn aesthetic, almost as though it came straight out of some sort of kids story book, reminding me of The Secret of NIMH, Mouseguard and Redwall. Even with how cartoonish it can look, Redgi’s world is a brutal and hard one filled with violence and death. Even after a hard-fought battle against some bugs, Redgi will have orange splatter all over his clothes and shield. Animations are done quite well also and even background characters and environments are beautiful to take in.

As for its audio, Tails of Iron impresses for simply one reason; they got Doug Cockle, Geralt, to narrate the game. His raspy tone fits the gloomy setting perfectly and is a perfect performance as to be expected. Interestingly, there’s no actual voice acting elsewhere, as the rats talk to each other in the squeaky gibberish with speech bubbles indicating pictures of what they are trying to convey, which makes sense given the animal characters. The music is very fitting for its tone and each area you explore, but the narration is what takes center stage.

While it may not be as tough as others in the genre, I did enjoy most of my time with Tails of Iron. The constant backtracking along with forced “side” quests really felt like padded hours onto Redgi’s adventure, and this is where it started to tire. When I was progressing my main adventure I was wanting to continually play, but having to go back and forth through the same areas a half dozen times became tiresome. Even so, Tails of Iron will last you roughly 10 hours and you can tell it was designed and created with heart and has a lot of charm to it.

**Tails of Iron was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**




Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10

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