2 Dec, 2012
When you think online multiplayer experiences on the PC, you usually think of grinding for experience points in MMORPGs, or racking up kills in a modern first person shooter. It’s good, then, that a game like Guns of Icarus Online has come along.
In Guns of Icarus Online, you are playing the role of a crew member aboard a steampunk aircraft. You can play either in third person or first. Third person is not only a preference, but a way to see what your character is dressed like, necessary if you would like to see your purchased clothing in action. You change your looks and your primary crew function in the look and role tabs, respectively. You create loadouts for each role (pilot, engineer, gunner), then choose which role you’d like to fill in the upcoming match.
So this is where Icarus stands out amongst its multiplayer fellows: As a gunner, you are needed to play the game like any other shooter. The opposing team shows up, and you try to shoot them down. No players take any damage, which would be a very interesting series of events if an entire crew could be killed. The only thing taking damage is your ship, and that’s where the engineers come in. To me, the engineers are the second most important role in the game. They keep the ship afloat, repair the weapons, and put out fires. Really, I think the gunners are third in importance, with the pilot being the first. Other players may disagree, but if your ship doesn’t fly right, you can’t fight, and if you don’t have a good pilot at the wheel, you’re as good as kindling.
Icarus is not just a shooter: what makes this game so interesting is that you are relying on your team in ways that are mostly ignored in an FPS. Your team is what makes or breaks you. If your engineer is standing idle, or your gunners aren’t on the right side of the ship, it affects your chances of winning.
Game types for Guns of Icarus Online are separated into the following categories:
Anglean Raiders- team control point, night map
Duel at Dawn- team deathmatch
Battle on the Dunes- deathmatch
Water Hazard- deathmatch, natural obstacles and numerous cloud banks
Desert Scrap- single control point team battle
Fjords – 2 vs 2 deathmatch
King of the Flayed Hills- team resource collection battle
Scrap on the Dunes- single control point team battle
Sandbox- practice map
My favorite maps are “Anglean Raiders,” “Desert Scrap,” and “Duel at Dawn.” I wonder if the developers have more maps in mind, but what else could there be besides deathmatch and capture point modes? I’d be happy to see what they come up with in later revisions. “King of the Flayed Hills” was not a map that seemed to be popular at all, so I’ve yet to experience it.
Most of what you’re going to feast your eyes on is within the game. The ships you crew look great, and each class of ship is configured differently. Character models are solid, but not extraordinary. You’ve seen these character designs before, even with the customizations in hair, face, etc. The costumes and clothing are what makes Icarus characters unique. In the actual maps, the world is a wasteland. We don’t learn much about what has transpired in this steampunk world, but we definitely know that war has made quite a mess. Ruins poke out of the sands. and these airborne warriors are fighting for the scraps.
You’ll be lucky to have enough time to see the sights, because you’ll be too busy keeping your ship in one piece. A pilot has the best chance of taking in everything, and he or she will enjoy seeing ships flying in the distance, or cloud formations just over their heads. If you have an HD rig, you will not be disappointed in the options available to you in Icarus. I have a PC that’s over half a decade old, with an HD video card; it runs pretty well for me. There were a few hiccups, but I blame that on the developers still having to work kinks out.
Music and Sound
When I started the game for the first time, I was met with a theme that communicated mystery, danger and a thirst for discovery. That’s it for music, though! Being a multiplayer-only title, a musical score did not seem to be a priority for the devs. Sound within matches is good, but nothing special. When an engineer is repairing a ship part, you get a familiar metal “Clang!” and when parts are repaired fully, you get a noise signifying that everything is fine. The loudest it gets is when your ship is being attacked and is on fire. I’m not looking for the characters to be fully voiced, or scream and shout, but the game is somewhat bare when it comes to sound events. There are lots of people with headsets, though, so quiet moments have the potential to be filled with chat about team coordination.
So far, the social aspect of the game has been positive. There is text and voice chat, and members of the Icarus team have even popped into the chat to see how everything is progressing. In the chat box, clicking on a player’s name in chat allows you to join their game, along with the typical ignore/block features. There isn’t anything new or novel in the social features, meaning that if you cherish all the trappings of multiplayer, you will be satisfied with Icarus‘ setup.
After purchasing Guns of Icarus Online, your job is basically done- unless you want to customize the look of your pilot. Your customized look is divided between all of your roles. You can make your pilot look vastly different from your engineer and gunner. Each role can have the same hats. goggles, and hair, but clothing is unique across roles. The Icarus team have also talked about customization of ships. So far, all you can do is rename all of your ships, which is free. One has to wonder how far paid customization will go, since it is the only revenue stream after the game is purchased. Maybe they’ll have shoe customizations, or gloves?
There is no in-game currency. The cost is displayed in real world currency, and when you decide to pay, the Steam window pops up, and you pay through their system.
Guns of Icarus Online (version 1.1) is not in the best state it could be at this time. It’s a humble indie title that’s venturing into territory that’s very much welcome when others are just content to make slight variations on subgenres that are popular at the moment. With time, this could be a spectacular online experience. As it stands, however, Guns of Icarus Online needs a few more whacks with a wrench. Guns of Icarus Online is available through Steam for PC and Mac.