Iconoclasts - Kalli
The Official Soundtrack of Iconoclasts is now available on Steam! Composed solely by Joakim Sandberg, you can find in the DLC section. Relive those multi-stage boss fights!

Patch 1.14 is also live, improving game stability, patch notes can be found in the Community Hub.

We would also like to remind everybody that the Iconoclasts Discord is growing: get help if you are stuck, figure out the most effective speedrunning route and Tweak combos or just hang out with the community!

Thank you all!
Iconoclasts - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alex Wiltshire)

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they underwent to make the best bits of their games. This time, Iconoclasts [official site].

Iconoclasts is a platformer that feels great to play. As Robin, a daring mechanic armed with a wrench and a stun gun, you ll run, jump and shoot your way through sprawling multi-level areas, enjoying precise movements which balance detail and nuance with smoothness. It s a feel that s down to developer Joakim Sandberg s taste in games. Something I always enjoy in a videogame is that feeling, usually when you ve played it a few times, of being able to push through, he tells me. Flow, essentially.

Almost all of Iconoclasts design features are directly about maintaining this sense of flow, of momentum in which you feel like nothing is getting in the way of your intention. And one feature you ll notice when you first start playing the game is kind of shocking. (more…)

Iconoclasts - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

So many people have been looking forward to Iconoclasts for so many years – we wrote our first impressions of it in 2011! – that it’s dangerous to venture any opinions into the fray.

But I fear no danger. Iconoclasts, properly released after all these years, is fine. Kinda. (more…)

Iconoclasts - Valve
Iconoclasts is now available on Steam!

Join renegade mechanic Robin and uncover the secrets of a dying planet. Explore a big world filled with intricate puzzles, interesting characters and menacing bosses in a beautiful platform adventure that tells a personal story about faith, purpose and the challenge of helping people.

Iconoclasts

Robin is a mechanic, but the authoritarian society she lives in doesn’t want her to be. Jobs like this are outlawed for regular citizens, forcing her to keep her tool-slinging talents a secret from One Concern—the sinister religious regime in charge. Even so, she still helps out around the village with repairs, using a wrench hidden in her basement. You can’t keep a good mechanic down.

But after an unexpected run-in with Concern agents, she decides the thing that needs fixin’ most is the world. And so she embarks on a quest to make it a better place, accompanied by a group of like-minded rebels who share her hatred of the society they live in. It’s an engaging premise, bolstered by colourful writing, lavish pixel art, and superb animation.

Iconoclasts is clearly inspired by games like Metroid and Castlevania (if only there was a clumsy portmanteau to describe a game like this), but it has enough new ideas to stand on its own and not feel like a direct homage to either. It’s also a lot heavier on story than these games usually are, with reams of dialogue to click through, a huge cast of characters to meet, and frequent cutscene breaks. It balances pathos and humour pretty well, although I found some of the jokes a little too goofy for their own good.

A grease monkey is nothing without her tools, and Robin’s best abilities stem from the variety of gadgets she has hanging from her belt. As well as projectile weapons, including a stun gun and a grenade launcher, she can batter enemies with her wrench and spin it around like a Wild West gunslinger. And she can also jump in the air and unleash a devastating butt slam.

But the wrench has other, more interesting uses. Around the large, interconnected levels you’ll see glowing bolts, some of which can be swung on to leap over obstacles, and others that operate machinery. The latter forms the basis of the game’s well-designed environmental puzzles, which involve finding hidden bolts and cranking them to slide increasingly complex networks of doors and moving platforms around, creating a path through the level.

She can batter enemies with her wrench and spin it around like a Wild West gunslinger

Otherwise, Iconoclasts is a fairly standard shooter/platformer hybrid—but, thanks to precise and responsive controls, an enjoyable one. Leaping around feels wonderfully snappy, and there’s a huge bestiary of enemies to fight, all with their own distinct attack patterns and weaknesses. It’s evident a lot of time has been spent refining the controls, making them feel just right.

The art is impressive, with chunky, smoothly animated characters reminiscent of SNK’s Metal Slug series, and some beautifully detailed environments. Robin’s journey takes her to a lush forest filled with weird geometric plants, a sun-baked desert, an underwater city, the roof of a speeding train, and other locations, all of which beam with colour and personality.

It’s a challenging game too, especially when one of the big, screen-filling bosses shows up. While they all boil down to memorising a few patterns, some of them are incredibly fast-paced and chaotic. Often you’re accompanied by an AI partner, including shotgun-toting pirate Mina and Royal, a man with telekinetic powers. And you’ll need all the help you can get. 

The level of challenge is nicely balanced, although a few sharp difficulty spikes did catch me off guard. I also had problems with clarity, occasionally unsure where to head next to progress, or how to take down a particular enemy. Sometimes characters will yell out hints during boss battles about how to beat them, but I found the wording of these confusing more than once.

Upgrades called Tweaks bring a little customisation to the game. These can be crafted by finding materials hidden in treasure chests, and offer useful buffs when equipped: holding your breath for longer, doing more damage with your wrench, running faster. And you get to choose which of these you equip, giving you some freedom to tailor Robin to your own specific play style.

Iconoclasts is a fine game, offering both satisfyingly sharp platforming and shooting, and some really smart puzzles. It’s enormous too, packed with secret areas and other stuff to discover. And although I found the humour a little glib and childish at times, it tells its heartfelt story well. A lot of Metroidvania games go for a bleak, downbeat atmosphere, but Iconoclasts is infectiously vibrant and sunny, even if the story does occasionally venture into dark territory.

Iconoclasts - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

iconoclasts2

It’s an odd experience to have followed the development of a game for almost a decade, only to have it blindside you. Iconoclasts, the slow-cooked passion project from prolific developer and highly talented sprite-artist Joakim ‘Konjak’ Sandberg might look like your average Metroidvania-type platform adventure at first glance, but that’s not the whole picture.

Konjak cites semi-obscure Genesis/Megadrive game Monster World IV as his primary inspiration. That’s not a game I’ve played so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Thankfully, I came away very pleasantly surprised by Iconoclasts’ unconventional flow and strange story.

(more…)

Iconoclasts

Joakim 'Konjak' Sandberg is not very health-conscious. For the past seven years, he's been developing Iconoclasts full-time completely on his own. It's been a heady mix of design, delays and, occasionally, depression, but Sandberg's masterwork will finally release on Tuesday, January 23. When I sit down to talk with him, he says he'll try to remember to take weekends off next time, and maybe he could stand to plan things out a little more. But looking back, he's proud of how far he's come on his own.

We first played Iconoclasts in 2013, two years before it hit Steam Greenlight bearing an optimistic 2016 release date. But Sandberg started working on it in earnest in 2010, and the original idea for it came three years earlier. With art inspired by Monster World 4—an old Mega Drive platformer which was re-released in 2007—and gameplay inspired by Metroid Fusion, it was the biggest idea Sandberg had ever taken on. Compared to his previous projects and experiments, Iconoclasts stands out because of its size alone, but also, he says, because of its ambitious story.  

Iconoclasts is set in a world where everyone's jobs are decided by The One Concern, a sort of government overseer, Sandberg tells me. It's a world permeated by a fuel known as ivory, which is considered holy and used to power various machines. The mechanics who build and repair those holy machines command almost priest-like respect. So obviously you can't just decide to be a mechanic. That doesn't stop Robin, the main character and a so-called 'rogue mechanic', from doing just that after learning about machines from her father. 

Robin's nest  

"It is quite narrative-heavy," Sandberg says. "It's interesting, because I didn't have a script. I made the whole game just like I made games before: I make it as you play it. Which is not something you really should do if you want to have a view of your scope. You don't really know when it ends when you do that.

"At the beginning, the story is how I was thinking at the start of my 20s, and at the end it's how I was when I was reaching my 30s. It was always the intent that it starts very typical, very happy, sort of cliche, then turns into something darker. That's sort of how an adult mind shapes, I guess."

If you cut Iconoclasts in half, you could count the rings on it just like a tree. But rather than the game's age, you'd be measuring Sandberg's. He got into making games as a teenager through the development group Clickteam and, after a few years of tinkering with small ideas, started Iconoclasts in his early 20s. He's now heading into his early 30s, and that gap is reflected in Iconoclast's story. 

"It is sort of a growing-up story, but not in terms of love, in terms of attitudes toward people," he says. "Robin is the center of that. She doesn't speak, so she doesn't have much more character than is implied from others and what you get a feel of from talking to other people and helping them. 

"I'm a big fan of characters and I'm not a fan of lore. I want there to be character arcs. I go by feel when I write these things. Every single character is held back by something they want to be, but that they don't let themselves be because they feel the world wants them to be something else. Their conflict is being bitter about that and taking it out on each other. Robin, as the central character, succeeds and fails to get them to be more open about what they want. 

If I don't finish this, I've thrown away five years.

Joakim Sandberg

"At the start of the game, Robin lives alone and all she wants to do is help people. She's the happy young person who thinks you can help anyone if you just believe. Across the game, she meets people who've lost the ambition to achieve what they want to do in their lives. In a way they're bringing her down, trying to convert her to their line of thinking. The point of those characters is that, for as long as she can, Robin stays positive." 

Sandberg spent some of Iconoclast's development trying to stay positive and find motivation himself. For about six months around the end of 2014, he says it was hard to even work on the game. Finding his current publisher helped, but eventually, he says, it came down to "if I don't finish this, I've thrown away five years." Sticking to an art style he decided on almost 10 years ago was also challenging, he explains, as were the many factors that led to Iconoclast's long development.

Stuck in  

"It's a big game with one person," Sandberg says. "Relative to other games, I actually think I was fast to do this with all the breaks and losing motivation from time to time. What takes all the time for me—and bosses are always involved to do too—is I decided early on to have animated cutscenes, which was hard to get motivation to do and took forever to do. Making gameplay, it feels like you're actually creating content. Making a cutscene, which takes longer to make than a level, feels counter-intuitive. 

"And of course I went back and changed things. Stuff I wrote in the beginning was not stuff I wanted when I was 30. I mentioned I couldn't get a sense of scope. At the same time, if I wrote a script… It's not easy to write, but it's easy to write a lot. If I had a script before I made the game, I probably would have had something even bigger in scope, before I actually got a sense of how hard it would be to make. I think that's a benefit of making it up as I go." 

Sandberg says some of his best ideas were born from his on-the-fly schedule. For example, Iconoclasts originally had much more complicated power-ups. But Sandberg didn't want it to feel bloated—he wanted players to have "just exactly what they need." So, he pared back the upgrades to emphasize finding the right strategy as opposed to stronger gear. That process ate up a solid chunk of 2017, a year Sandberg confesses he can scarcely remember. 

Looking ahead, Sandberg expects he'll still be busy after Iconoclasts releases. He'll have plenty of post-launch maintenance to do, for one, and he already has an idea for his next game, which will be smaller in scope and different to Iconoclasts—something "I want to do rather than something I'm going to design to be successful," he says. But for now, as nearly a decade of helter-skelter development comes to a close, he's got just one thing on his mind: "I hope people enjoy it." 

Iconoclasts will be available on Steam from January 23.

Iconoclasts - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Iconoclasts

A few indie passion projects years in the making have finally come to fruition this year. While it’ll be missing December by a couple weeks, we’ve now got Iconoclasts to look forward to, an ambitious metroidvania by Swedish solo developer Konjak which will finally launch on January 23rd after over ten years of development.

While the release date was announced over a week back, and accompanied by a trailer, we’ve got a little treat for those late to the party; A longer ‘rough-cut’ uploaded recently, featuring a little more gameplay and a little more of that gorgeous full-screen character animation.

(more…)

Iconoclasts - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Iconoclasts

I’ve been writing about videogames going on about eight years now. For the majority of that time, I’ve had one eye firmly glued to Iconoclasts, an ambitious metroidvania by solo Swedish developer Joakim ‘Konjak’ Sandberg. It’s been in development over six years now, and is finally, tantalisingly close to release.

Word is that Iconoclasts is now effectively feature-complete and in the final stages of development (testing, bug-fixing and balancing) and I’ve heard some very positive sounding rumblings from playtesters. Come and check out a few minutes of fresh, mostly-uncut gameplay footage within.

(more…)

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