Blacksmith Master Impressions – Pig Iron

One of the hobbies I’ve wanted to get into for a long time, but never had the space for, is blacksmithing. Honestly, I blame Fred Saberhagen and Robert Adams. There I was, an impressionable young boy, going through various fantasy novels when I pick up The First Book of Swords and found myself wanting to feel what it was like to heat iron and shape it with nothing but patience and repeated hammer blows. Reading the author blurb at the back of every Horseclans novel didn’t help. Ever since then, I’ve had a deep and abiding interest in blacksmithing. Probably won’t ever end up on Forged In Fire, but it’s a subject which fascinates me. You can only imagine how utterly disappointed I was when I finished the demo for Blacksmith Master.

Blacksmith Master puts you in the role of a blacksmith who’s just opened up their smithy in an unnamed medieval realm. You’ll take contracts to fulfill certain orders of weapons and regular tools, make coin, and build up your business. As you grow, you can step back and let hirelings do all the hauling and pounding while you handle expansion details, going from a simple smithy to a foundry and boutique weapon and durable goods shop.

Not exactly the sort of puddling forge I had in mind.

The visual side of Blacksmith Master utilizes a low-poly aesthetic, less blocky than Minecraft, but not “smooth” by any stretch. Whether this is iterative for the development process or the final look, I’m not entirely certain. It’s certainly whimsical and low impact in terms of system resources. The hirelings all look to be visually randomized, which is nice, though it also kind of begs the question why we’re stuck with the same look on our particular avatar. The UI is fairly clean for having a lot of items to deal with, but some of the indicators are a lot bigger than they really need to be. Beyond that, there’s not much going on. You can fiddle with lighting a bit by adding different sconces or lanterns, but it doesn’t seem to have much of an effect either functionally or aesthetically.

Audio isn’t much more exciting, unfortunately. There’s a couple of tunes which play in the background but which fade out of your perceptive threshold fairly quickly. You’ve got a lot of hammers clanging and saws rasping, the sound of coins jingling when you make a sale in your shop, but outside of that, there’s just not anything particularly noteworthy. No voice acting, not even Simlish, to give you an indication of how your employees are feeling. It’s not exactly quiet, but there’s a lot less in the way of auditory indicators of “activity” than you’d expect.

For certain values of “help.”

The bulk of Blacksmith Master‘s gameplay, at least in the opening phase covered by the demo, could be summed up in two words: gross inefficiency. You’re walked through the process of creating an item either by blacksmithing or carpentry (for wooden items), which means going through the same little rhythm mini-games specific to each step in the process over and over. Get through the mini-games without missing a beat and you’ll get a bit of bonus coin for creating a “perfect” item. I cannot begin to tell you how quickly the process went stale. Unfortunately, the other major system of production involves hiring people to work the forge for you. And God help me, I felt bile and vitriol normally only heard out of Gordon Ramsey as I watched them work.

Apparently, it’s beneath the smiths you hire to haul their finished work out to the delivery carts which are waiting to receive the goods you contracted to supply. It’s also apparent that your assistants (who move items) are the proverbial ninety-eight pound weakling, since it takes them two hands and who knows how much effort to carry a single item. It doesn’t matter if that item is a tankard or a mace, your assistants’ loads are determined by item, not weight. Over time, they will gain experience and can be trained up to carry bigger loads, but it’s a pain in the ass when you’ve got a big order and your smiths are filling the “delivery chest” faster than the assistants can clear it out. Worse, it’s apparently too much to ask for a hierarchy of tasks. Nope. If you’ve got an assistant who’s hauling ore, and your ore box is full, they’ll keep hauling ore instead of helping run it through the smelter to build up the stocks of iron ingots. And when you’ve got a few blacksmiths working on fulfilling contracts as well as creating products for your shop, you run low on ingots fairly quickly. The only job that you can’t apparently do yourself is the “design” work to unlock new items to produce. Which strikes me as pretty ridiculous, since they could have implemented something like word puzzles or “sudoku”-type activities. Instead, you’re basically paying one guy to constantly generate new ideas. Like I said, gross inefficiency.

*slaps two iron ingots on either side of a smith’s head* “What are you?!”
“I’m a moron laminate, sir!”

The real kick in the teeth: there’s literally no point to anything you’re doing. It’s either you playing rhythm games or watching your little ant farm go about generating coin for no grand purpose beyond piling it higher and deeper. There’s descriptive text to the contracts about why the request is being made, but there’s no larger story. It’s a business sim with no feedback, no sense of stakes, and no competition to help you up your game. It’s missing a purpose, a goal for the player to try and attain. I don’t want to be the Henry Ford of fantasy blacksmithing. I want to be the Bob Loveless of fantasy blacksmithing.

I’m well aware that I only had the demo for Blacksmith Master. If it was supposed to motivate me (or anybody, really) to keep an eye on the development process and ultimately put down money to purchase it, it has signally failed to achieve its objective. I’m sure there’s probably a lot of work left to do, but as first impressions go, Blacksmith Master is already broken beyond repair.

Axel played this demo of Blacksmith Master with a code sent by the developer.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments