Welcome to Waypoint's End of Year celebration! This year, we're digging deep into our favorite games with dedicated podcasts, interviewing each other about our personal top 10 lists, and reflecting on the year with essays from the staff and some of our favorite freelance contributors. Check out the entire package right here!
Following Riendeau putting it in her top ten, I picked up Iconoclasts and just pushed through to the finale last night. I struggle to put a lot of thought or words to what I think about it (Agent Black is way too relatable though), but it was a really enjoyable prod from this varied top ten.
Iconoclasts has been on my radar since konjak was putting out early demos, but when it finally came out, it seemed a little… I don’t know, like the game wasn’t doing anything particularly special. I’ve heard a lot of good things, but I hadn’t really heard anything to call me in. Is there anything mechanically or narratively that makes it stand out, or is it just a really solid Metroidvania?
It takes some leaps narratively in its second half that, when they land, imo they really land. I’ve seen mixed opinions around here on whether or not the narrative risks it takes work (risks in the sense of, if they fail, the story probably ends up feeling overblown and preposterous), but for me most of them did, and by the end I was pretty blown away by the story it ended up telling. Especially in how nuanced I felt its characters were written and the sheer moonshots it was willing to swing for. It does swing for “huge examination of theocracy and belief” but it always feels grounded in its core characters.
Beyond story, its second half is just generally miles better than its first half—everything from the level design to the boss fights to the pacing and depth of the story just takes a huge step up. Those bosses in particular start feeling less like gimmicky, hard-to-read puzzle sequences and more like well-designed Metroidvania boss fights that push you to master your upgrades and moves. If you can make it through the first few hours (the Ash boss fight, for context, is pretty much the low point, and it rises quickly from there), there’s a lot of reward waiting behind it. Which is why Danielle’s commentary on here was interesting, since I’m guessing it probably would have been higher on her list if she’d been able to play past the relatively lackluster first act.
I wouldn’t say that its gameplay is its draw – @diglett did a better job than I could pitching its big concept. I had kinda the opposite experience (I liked it less towards its back half & thought its set-up work was really strong), but I think that while it is mechanically sound, the game’s narrative, while not revolutionary (although a government is overthrown. haha! that’s a joke), is really solid and good character work.
Between the party and antagonists, you get a solid sense of the world, society, and what is at stake, along with the game hitting its narrative themes with consequence and drive. I totally expect this level of cohesion and competency to mean that it will hit home really hard for some people, even if it didn’t for me.
That said, though? Agent Black is very relatable.
Oh, additional thought. The game has recently (well, in September) added a ‘Relaxed Mode’ that seems like it’ll be relevant to some people, especially since difficulty was a major bugbear for folks:
The game lets you reset this every time you load the save (at least it does on the Switch version).
Whoa this makes me really happy. Good on him as a dev. Glad more people will be able to just experience the story if they’re not crazy about the gameplay.
I’m interested, what did you feel were the standout points in the first half? I definitely want to play it again at some point—wondering if there’s stuff I might appreciate more on a second playthrough.