Xbox Exclusives Spotlight: Song of Iron

By Heidi Nicholas,
It's time for another Xbox Exclusives Spotlight, and this time we're veering away from from the futuristic, cyberpunk world of The Ascent and into a dark and brooding world of axes, arrows, and the anger of vengeful gods. In other words, if you're looking for a gritty Nordic adventure to fall into, you should definitely have Song of Iron on your radar. Check out everything we know so far, in our round-up here, with help from solo developer Joe Winter.

What is Song of Iron?

Song of Iron is an action-adventure game in the works from creator and solo-developer Joe Winter of Escape, and is set in a ruthless Nordic world where, it seems, everything else is trying to kill you.

When does Song of Iron launch?

We don’t yet have a specific release date, but Song of Iron is expected to launch for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One sometime in mid 2021.

song of iron gameplay trailer

What’s it about?

One of the first things we learned about Song of Iron was that you would be embarking on a quest to find the Great Temple of the Gods in order to save your people. But we didn’t yet know how this would save them, or why our character had been chosen, so Winter elaborated on this for us, explaining that “at the very beginning of the game, a loved one is killed while your home is burned. Their dying wish is for you to save their people. They pass to you an heirloom, a necklace given long ago by the gods to be used only in the greatest need.” This necklace has to be taken to the temple, where it “binds” the gods into granting their help. And, as if you weren’t already up against enough with the creatures of Song of Iron and the world itself out to get you, Winter adds that you’ll also be fleeing a pursuing enemy. “The road is hard, but to make it harder the army that attacked your home was looking for this necklace and so will pursue your every step.”

One intriguing piece of info about Song of Iron told us that “with the blood of your ancestors and valour regained along the way you can fight on,” and we were curious about how this might work. According to Winter, “the necklace is key. As you make your way through the world you will realize it is more than just a token. It is the foundation of the magic abilities like fire axes or lightning arrows, which you will discover through the game.”

song of iron gameplay trailer

How does Song of Iron play?

Fire axes and lightning arrows lead us right into talking about Song of Iron's gameplay. The combat is described as “intense, visceral, and dangerous,” and you’re going to need to strategise: everything you come up against is trying to stop you, and if you’re not careful, you’ll lose your arrows or break your weapons. As Winter explains, “no weapon in the game is special” — it’s the necklace that imbues them with magic and power. “The flaming axe is just an axe, but the power of the necklace lets you change it. I wanted to do this so players never felt the need to keep one specific weapon,” Winter adds. “I hope it lets players feel free to throw their weapons, fire a ton of arrows, and dive in headfirst to fights.” Winter continues, “I really hope people have a great time in combat, I really want an experience where players are just having fun being a powerful force of Viking.” When not fighting for your life, you’ll be exploring and forging a path through the dark and brooding landscape, with the whole of Song of Iron’s mysterious Nordic world unfolding before you. Speaking of...

song of iron gameplay trailer

What’s the world of Song of Iron like?

“The world of Song of Iron in my head is enormous,” Winter tells us. “There are so many stories to tell, something I try to hint at throughout the game almost entirely through environmental storytelling. I always love a game that shows instead of telling. Games like Journey, Inside and Shadow of the Colossus are major influences for me in this regard.” In the trailers we've seen so far, our character can be seen journeying into forests and ruins, and forging through snowstorms and fire. “Song of Iron is a harsh world where there is danger everywhere, and this has forced its inhabitants to become very hard to survive,” Winter continues. “You play as one of the strongest.”

Song of Iron plays with a side-on perspective, and we wondered how this might have affected or challenged the sense of scope and scale with Song of Iron’s mythical world. “The hardest thing I think is exploration,” Winter says. “Had it been full over the shoulder, exploration would easily open up. That said, I think this perspective actually makes selling the scale of the world easier... I think mystery often does a better job of expanding something than being able to show 10x more ‘stuff.’ I hope this is true for players of Song of Iron. I can't wait to see their reactions.” Song of Iron’s side-scrolling perspective should also help to boost your sense of immersion. “At all times I want the world to feel real. Something that, while incredible, could just maybe be possible,” Winter explains. “I echo this through the combat, level design, story and so on. The side view surprisingly helps the immersion because I can more easily control what is seen and how things unfold in the game. I kept the depth of a true 3D game by building the levels as if they were a standard 3D adventure, while simply keeping the player on one line. I really think there is something great about seeing someone in the background or foreground charging at you.”

song of iron gameplay trailer

Any news on Song of Iron achievements?

We don't have the full Song of Iron achievement list yet, but we did get to ask Winter about his process when designing them. “I think the hardest thing has been to come up with fun achievements that go outside of simply getting 50 axe kills or 20 headshots so on,” Winter muses. “I have those of course, but I also have a few fun references to some of the best fantasy works out there. Some difficult challenges and some more light-hearted stuff. I hope the mix makes it fun for everyone to go hunting.” The world of Song of Iron is as brutal as its combat, and we were curious as to whether this would be reflected in any particularly gruelling achievements. “I have been considering a ‘one life only’ mode, maybe your audience can tell me if that's a crazy idea,” Winter says. “But in general I don't think things will be too hard. I know for myself when an achievement feels way out of reach I tend to give up on it. So I hope to give everyone a chance at least. Not that they will be easy though,” he concludes.

In our complete guide to Xbox exclusives for 2021, we suggested that Song of Iron might be ideal for fans of Niffelheim, Unto the End, and Last Kingdom — the first for its hostile Nordic world, the second for its depiction of a gruelling epic journey, and the last for its focus on Viking combat and strategy. What do you think? Will you be keeping an eye on Song of Iron? Let us know in the comments!
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Heidi graduated with an MA in English Literature, and now enjoys writing news, reviews, and features across TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. When she’s not writing, Heidi is usually either looking for her next RPG, or trying to convince the rest of the team to hear about yet another delightfully wholesome game she has found.