Iron Harvest was released on Steam back in September of last year, but it honestly feels like it’s been longer than just a few months since I last played the game. Although the game has continuously been improved through free updates, it did receive a small paid DLC back in December, the Rusviet Revolution. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance of checking that out yet, but thankfully, I was able to dig into Operation Eagle, the latest DLC, which is much more ambitious than the previous one. So, what is it all about?
The Operation Eagle DLC brings with it an entirely new single-player campaign, featuring 7 missions with over 25 minutes of fully voice-acted cinematics, and obviously, a whole new faction, Usonia. In case it wasn’t obvious by the name of the DLC, Usonia is essentially the United States of America version of Iron Harvest, or more specifically, the American Union of Usonia. Like every other faction from the original game, Usonia also comes with its own unique units, but, even more important, it brings air units into the game.
Although new units are always nice to have, it’s only Usonia that received unique air units. The rest of the factions just received the most basic ones. However, this is only relevant if you play multiplayer or skirmish. A someone who only cares about the main campaign content, I don’t necessarily mind it, but I understand why others might feel disappointed by this.
In any case, Usonia does feature some interesting units in their army. There’s a mech with machine guns that is effective against infantry, which makes it great for early game and is a cheap way to harass enemy infantry. There’s also the Knox, which is essentially a walking tower with all sorts of weaponry. It’s a mech destroyer, but it can just as easily get rid of infantry. Then, there’s my favourite, this one-of-a-kind stealth artillery tank. This one comes equipped with 3 barrels and they fire in quick succession. It’s a blast (pun intended) to simply sit back and watch these tanks unleash hell from above on enemy troops.
Now, as for the air units, Usonia does have their own set of them, but, other than an air carrier that dispatches autonomous drones to bombard ground targets, they aren’t really interesting. However, they do have quite possibly one of the most badass hero units. The George is a massive airship equipped with various turrets, that also has the ability to activate a medium-range flamethrower barrage. Unfortunately, you only get to use it once in the campaign. Usonia’s two other hero units are Captain Mason and Princess Sita. While the Princess comes with a rifle, she can use her pet bird to track enemy squads, but she can also summon a special squad of cloaked units that excel in melee combat. Meanwhile, the Captain is equipped with power armour that can transform into a turret if the Captain chooses to eject.
In terms of Usonia’s campaign, the story follows Captain William Mason, as he finds himself wrapped in an international conflict over who gets to control Arabia and its oil. Obviously, after Usonia decided to not participate in the Great War between Polania, Saxony and Rusviet, they see the ongoing power struggle in Arabia as an opportunity for Usonia to step forth from its isolationist stance and expand its influence across the world.
This entire operation takes place throughout 7 missions and, although this might sound like too few for some people, I had a lot of fun with them and thought it was pretty well done. It took me around 7 hours to beat it, with the latter couple of missions taking me over an hour to complete. While some missions are more focused on base-building and defending objectives, others rely more on stealth and avoiding enemy patrols. If you’ve played the campaigns of the base game, you pretty much should expect more of the same, which is great. Overall, there’s a decent amount of mission variety, with map layouts that provide multiple opportunities for players to approach their objectives and eliminate the opposing forces.
Still, the ending did feel rushed, as it didn’t provide any real conclusion to the story. After finishing the campaign, I got the feeling that this won’t be the last that we’ll see of Arabia and Usonia. Nonetheless, I do have another caveat to make about the campaign. If you’re playing the game with native voice-acting turned on, you’ll run into weird situations. For example, in a single conversation, you might have a character speaking English, another that’s speaking Arabic, and a third one that’s speaking German. Without having some sort of translator in these conversations, these dialogues just break my immersion. Nevertheless, it’s just a minor thing to keep in mind, as it doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way.
As was the case with the base game, although it’s far from being perfect, the presentation, the voice acting, the gameplay, the mission design, and the soundtrack do not disappoint. Having played the base game when it originally came out, I still find myself listening to the music from that game up until this day. It’s just that good. I honestly can’t put into words how happy I am due to the fact of Iron Harvest simply being a thing. Not only it brought a wonderful universe into existence, but, more importantly, it’s quite possibly the only beacon of hope for the RTS genre in recent years. Unfortunately, the golden age of real-time strategy games is long gone.
Just like the base game, Operation Eagle might not be ground-breaking or a major milestone in RTS history, but it does have its place. The campaign is solid and, as a faction, Usonia does bring a few interesting units into the field. However, air combat, which is one of the biggest additions to the game, feels extremely underwhelming. Furthermore, skirmish players are left wanting unique air units specific to the original 3 factions. If you enjoyed the base game and just want a new campaign that feels extremely familiar, then you’ll probably have a good time with this DLC. However, if you were expecting air combat to be a huge game-changer, then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.