If you are looking for an authentic review of Iron Kingdoms D&D 5e you have landed at the right post, since, in this review, we will not only review it but also compare Iron Kingdoms 5e and the preceding 3.5 edition (Borderlands and Beyond) and (Monsternomicon, Requiem, and the new Witchfire adventure)
So without any further ado, let's dive into it.
Understanding Of Classic 3e Game
I'm aware of the classic 3e game material and understand the settings as well. The original 3e line essentially created an RPG scenario from the ground up, which eventually spawned a tabletop miniatures game.
The 5e material is heading in the opposite direction, using the tabletop game environment as its foundation and constructing an RPG on top of it.
Borderlands and Beyond focus on the Hordes material, while Requiem focuses on the Warmachine tabletop game content. Rather than delving too far into the weeds and minutiae, the background and backdrop are thoroughly explored.
It doesn't require any additional backstory to play (which can be quite tough given how Privateer spreads their knowledge among hundreds of supplements and (sometimes unfinished) fiction works that seldom see second print runs).
The RPG line takes place after the recent huge upheaval in the return of the Infernals, setting and a substantial section of the populace leaping through an art deco clockpunk stargate into space to begin a really boring and uninteresting sci-fi miniatures game.
However, more current PP material from the miniatures game has discussed the Orgoth's rebirth and their fresh invasion of Khador, among other things. It's not so far in the RPG, but it makes most of the first setting book 'canonical,' for whatever that's good to anybody.
There are also substantial knowledge gaps as a result of the universe being separated into 9 monthly book releases, which are oftentimes disjointed and difficult to assimilate. For example, throughout Requiem, we are told that something strange and awful is occurring in the Elven realm of Ios, but we are never told what it is, despite the fact that Iosian elves are playable race in Requiem.
The Borderlands and Beyond release (which is still not publicly accessible) outlines what's going on, although it's unusual to have everything split apart like way. Similarly, there are large gaps in the coverage of the Legion of Everblight; Skorne is barely addressed, Cyriss is only referenced in the history, and there are no playable Gatormen despite the fact that they dwell in a territory surrounded by regions/races that are covered.
I anticipate that this content will be expanded upon in subsequent books, but it now creates significant gaps in the line (although some are slowly being released as for-pay pdf-only enhancements). Even if they've just scratched the surface of Hordes, you've got the fundamentals of the core Iron Kingdoms/Warmachine covered.
They've announced a future Cryx-focused Kickstarter, which will most likely go live after the Borderlands and Beyond hardcopies are released from shipping limbo (they've stated that they always want to have the previous Kickstarter delivered before launching the following one).
I can't say much about the more sophisticated and famous classes, such as Warcasters and Warlocks, or the Warjack customization systems or the overwhelming emphasis on firearms. An alternate mechanism for racial ability score enhancements seeks to disrupt the link between race and ideal class.
There are also obvious balancing concerns, such as Ogrun being far over powerful as melee combatants due to their ability to hold a two-handed weapon in a single hand. It has been discovered that Warlocks have a significant class-breaking exploit; this may have been patched in the final release as a consequence of feedback. Some of the subclasses, for example, are fascinating.
In contrast, others are plainly placeholders (created in the attitude of 'we need a fighter subclass for this book, quick, think something up!' rather than 'oh yes, [archetype X] is something we really need to cover owing to its relevance to the setting.' It suffers from the traditional 3pp problem of introducing new core classes when they're probably not technically essential - Gunslinger, for example, could easily be a fighter subclass.
Overall, I assume that mechanically, player options from this book would be somewhat (but not much) more strong and maybe less extensively playtested. Be prepared to veto or house rules for GMs, especially if you accept non-core 5e content.
There are comments regarding how 'traditional' D&D classes and so on fit into the scenario - sometimes the answer is 'not good,' but it's your game.
Versions Of The Third And Fifth Editions
Between the first 3e publication of the Witchfire modules and the current day, there was so much material added to the setting in the minis game material that they're nearly distinct settings. The line represents the fact that 3e Iron Kingdoms was D&D with firearms and steampunk.
Warcasters and Warjacks and the like are outstanding characteristics of IK in 5e, parts of the setting pulled mostly from the miniatures game that was not at the core of the original modules.
Firearms, for example, changed from prohibitively expensive to extremely prevalent between 3e and its home system.