There’s no shortage of crafting games, as the genre has grown and intertwined with several other genres with no signs of slowing down. 2024 is upon us, and we have everything from hardcore survival crafting experiences to cozy, small-town titles that focus on crafting tools for your homestead. That being said, it’s not often we see a game stay true to pure crafting like While the Iron’s Hot, which leads to a genuine experience even if said experience isn’t for everyone. Clocking in just under thirteen hours, I’ve completed the game’s main storyline, various puzzles, and side quests, and even tackled some of the “post story” content available. This leaves us with the burning question of whether While the Iron’s Hot can cast a spark into the industry or simmer out into a puff of smoke.
You begin your journey as a young blacksmith who isn’t content with his current skill level in blacksmithing. To elevate his skill and experience, he hops aboard a ship seeking out the infamous land of Eilian, said to host numerous expert blacksmiths. When the ship gets destroyed, you find yourself conveniently washed upon Eilian, which isn’t quite as the tales described. Befriending an old man, you learn the master craftsman have all left, leaving the land in desperate need of someone with your particular set of skills.
From that point on, you’ll explore different biomes of the island, meet new characters who push the plot forward, and learn Eilian’s lore including exactly what happened between the master craftsmen and the people of Eilian. At first, the narrative seems very promising with the mystery of Eilian’s past catching my attention and my curiosity. Unfortunately, the train stopped there, and the more I learned about the land’s citizens and story, the more bored I became. Characters are dull, with none of them being memorable or well-written. The plot itself doesn’t possess any heart-pounding moments or shocking twists, it simply happened and left me not caring about my experience. That’s not to say that every story needs to be full of suspense or nonstop action, but good stories are ones players remember, and I’ve already forgotten about the story for While the Iron’s Hot.
Even the side quests are copied and pasted throughout the game. In addition to the main narrative, you can pick up side quests or discover a few hidden in the overworld. Ones picked up from the quest board don’t provide any lore or information about the citizens aside from them asking you to make that specific item. The few hidden in Eilian are attached to solving puzzles and mazes, which helped provide a small taste of variety in the gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, let’s move into what you’ll be doing for essentially the entire time with While the Iron’s Hot. Like every crafting game before it, you’ll need supplies and tools which can be acquired by traveling around the island via a top-down overworld that moves to a 2D side-scroller upon entering either a mine, town, or mobile camp. Forging is done with a few different stations, but the process remains the same for the entire game. You’ll be doing this a lot, as the core gameplay loop is picking up quests to craft a specific item, gathering all the necessary supplies, crafting the requested item, and then turning that crafted item in for currency and materials.
Sadly, While the Iron’s Hot gameplay quickly dulls as the crafting loop never changes. There is no contrast between crafting higher or lower-quality items. Forging offers mini-games to play that are static with no significant reason for them being there. It’s a frustrating experience because there are bits and pieces of core gameplay that could be enjoyable, but when the experience never changes past the first thirty minutes, it quickly leaves a negative taste in the mouth.
The most enjoyable part of While the Iron’s Hot is easily its visual and audio presentation. The pairing of retro-themed visuals and cozy and comfortable sound design elevated my experience, as I enjoy those types of games. It’s a give-and-take situation, though, because the visual design of all of the characters isn’t able to show expression and emotion, which makes it harder to care about what is going on in the story. The sound bites and soundtracks played appropriately according to the situation but didn’t elevate the bland adventure.
Overall, While the Iron’s Hot is a short and simple story that foundationally could work if the game’s characters and gameplay were fleshed out to their full potential. That’s not to say this is a game for anyone, as even accounting for my issues with the title, this game will check the right boxes for a select few out there. Lucky for them, it doesn’t take long to figure out whether or not someone will enjoy it, as the first hour plays exactly like its final hours. Unfortunately for me, While the Iron’s Hot misses too many things for me to remember by the time I wake up tomorrow.
Noah is the resident weeb who spends most of his time gaming and watching anime. His goal is to expand his skills while meeting new people. You have probably seen him feeding the other team kills in Overwatch Comp or speculating Star Wars and One Piece. Follow him on twitter @RigsbyNoah.
While the Iron's Hot
While the Iron’s Hot provides an authentic crafting experience for players looking to not engage with enemy combatants, survival aspects, or other variables that come with so many crafting games. With the game’s story, characters, and gameplay repetitive and forgetful to the end, the visuals and soundtrack ignite a spark that regrettably ends up burned out.