The original Iron Harvest post is still well within my buffer and normally I’d edit in my evolving thoughts, only making a separate post if the original had already gone live. Editing this one in would completely mess up the flow of that one, though, and these blog posts are supposed to be whatever I happen to be thinking about right now, it’s not like I’m bundling them into a collection for sale or whatever.
So what does Iron Harvest’s new World Map Campaign change about my initial impressions? Well, in the World Map Campaign, you only have a handful of units unlocked by default, and the others are only unlocked if you’ve captured the right territory. I tried my first campaign playing as the expansion American faction because FREEDOM, so normally the only units I’d particularly care about here are the engineers, the basic infantry (they have slightly different rifles from the Polish rifles), the M29 Salem MG mech, and the M19 Knox mech destroyer. Now, in fairness, the M9 Attucks artillery is good against both infantry and mechs so long as you can keep them away from the front line, and the machine gunners and flamethrowers are a potentially worthwhile gambit to win at the early/midgame break, overrunning the enemy with slightly cheaper and faster infantry units right as their mechs are coming online, but if you mess it up their MG mechs will tear up all your infantry specialists and you’ll be like 700 resources in the hole from having upgraded your barracks and pumped out some units for a gambit that didn’t work. Infantry specialists take up the same amount of army size as basic infantry, so you could switch to them in the endgame when you have plenty of iron and oil but your army size is still capped, but at that point your infantry are mainly just there to capture resource points while your mechs handle the bulk of the fighting, so there’s not much point in bothering.
But that’s still more useful than the ZR3 Revere, a midgame airship that’s way too fragile to be used in the midgame when there’s mechs everywhere. It could have a role as a fast anti-infantry unit for keeping enemies from snatching your undefended resource points, but it’s not nearly fast enough for that. Or the M22 Stark, a short range mech destroyer that’s better at operating alone than the Knox, but why would you have a single unit wandering around by itself in the endgame? Or the field cannon, a generic unit which is an artifact of the game’s initial release, when the devs seemed to think that heavily defensive strategies were at all viable in this game.
But the World Map campaign changes all of this by locking lots of units behind specific territories being conquered. The M22 Stark is useful because the M19 Knox requires capturing a specific territory near the center of the map, so you’ll probably have the Stark before the Knox. Anti-armor gunners are useful because they’re unlocked from the start, so they’re you’re only good answer to enemy anti-infantry mechs until you get the Stark. Field cannons are still mostly useless because they’re very slow and you always have gunner infantry, but they at least have something of a role in that they can be produced from a basic barracks and are effective against mechs.
Rather than always starting with two infantry squads and an engineer squad, you get to deploy a starting army in each battle, which moves around on the world map. If America’s starting hero Princess Sita (who is actually Arab because of the Lawrence of Arabia plot in the American expansion) is marching around the world map with a bunch of flamethrowers and machine gunners, then she gets to deploy with those units at the very start of a battle. Normally by the time you’re deep enough in the game that you can afford to swap out your basic infantry for specialists, you’re also deep enough in the game that you’re fighting all your battles with mechs so you don’t care, but now swapping those guys out will allow you to start the next battle with some significantly more powerful troops.
And that goes double for titan-class mechs. Titans are very hard to unlock in a world map campaign, but the ability to bring one with you at the start of a battle is huge. Particularly since your enemies rarely have access to mech destroyers (a cluster of which is about the only thing that can kill a titan besides another titan), a titan mech alone is often enough to win an entire battle just by proceeding directly to the enemy headquarters and blasting it to pieces. Actually building the rest of the army is just being thorough (which is still worthwhile, because if the enemy’s army is able to destroy your titan, you’ll have a Hell of a time getting another one).
Some maps start each base off with a free flame bunker. Flame bunkers are really effective against infantry and pretty good even against light mechs. They’re far enough up the tech tree that they’re normally a waste of resources, because the enemy will blow them up with artillery or heavy mechs, but if the enemy has one for free and you don’t have any artillery or heavy mechs yet, the ZR3 Revere might actually come in handy. Flamethrowers can’t attack air units, and the Revere’s rocket barrages are fairly effective against buildings.
Through a combination of reusable armies, making certain high-tier units unavailable, and deploying certain high-tier defense buildings automatically, the world map campaign makes most of the game’s unit roster actually useful, at least at one stage of the game or another. Skybikes still seem pretty useless, and field weapons are still useful only in edge cases (and almost anything is useful in an edge case). Still, it’s a good update.