“Calling all loyal citizens! Take charge of your destiny and gain valuable SKILLS for the future! GUNNERS – ENGINEERS – CAPTAINS – All needed for cargo transit and airspace defense! EXPLORE strange lands! CAPTURE valuable resources! TRAVEL the world and DEFEAT pirate scum! JOIN THE AIRSHIP RESERVE!
What We Think:
There is a severe lack of games wherein each player acts as a crew member on a ship, each completing a goal for the greater effort of the vessel. Fewer still take this concept and apply it to a ship-to-ship high seas pirate battle. Guns of Icarus (Online) is exactly this, but on blimp-style airships rather than at sea.
Developed in Unity by Muse Games, Guns of Icarus Online is the evolution from the original Steampunk-themed single-player of the same name (minus the online of course – read our review of the original game from 2010). Since then the game’s aethetics have been polished and improved substantially, but in what ways has the core game been updated and enhanced particularly now that online PvP has been introduced? Read on…
The way Guns of Icaurus Online works is this: in a typical game there are two teams, and on each team there can be two to four airships respectively. All the classes have their roles and perks. They even have unlockable costume sets. On each airship there must be at least a Pilot, and up to three crewmen. The role of the Pilot is obvious, but as a crewman you have the choice between an Engineer or a Gunner.
While you can begin a match with only a Pilot, it’s not recommended as that not only handicaps an under-crewed ship, but it also defeats the purpose of this genre of game. The developers have stressed that their focus was on building a game that required real teamwork to reach victory. So once you are crewed up, a 2v2 is a good place to begin. 2v2 actually means two teams of two ships, so if each ship is fully crewed, you’re actually looking at a team of eight players per side.
The difference between Engineer and Gunner is not in what they can do, as anyone can operate a turret or cannon on your dirigible, but rather in the benefits of their specialization.
Engineers have tools that allow them to make faster repairs to damaged systems and even put out fires, while Gunners can set abilities to fire incendiary ammo or have larger clip sizes when using the ship’s armaments. Anyone can take the captain’s wheel too, but the Pilot has special skills optimized for maneuverability.
Gunners and Engineers need to pick and choose which abilities they want to use in a given match, and so must the Pilot. The Pilot also gets to choose which style of ship he’ll fly, of which there are enough variety to get by. They each have a different deck lay out, turrets, as well as armor and speed.
In-game, everything feels OK. Just OK. Shooting the turrets is great. Bullets appear to have proper inertia when firing off at long distance targets. You can damage other ships’ turrets as well, but there is little indication that the hull of a ship is near collapse.
There was a bug a friend and I encountered while playing the game for review; for him the pilot and wheel disappeared. I told him I was there and steering the ship, so he wrote it off as a minor bug. Then it happened to me where I could not see the steering wheel at all, and the game would not let me get hold of it. As the pilot, this was crippling! Since we both saw this happen to varying effects, it was way more common than should be permissible at this late stage, so close to release.
The only other thing the really bothered me was how “floaty” the interface and controls were. The Mouse sensitivity was incredibly squirrely by default, but that can be solved with a quick trip to the options menu. The bit that irked me most was how, while running around on deck repairing the broken bits on the ship, it just felt like a Half-Life 2 mod. The repairing mechanic needs an overhaul entirely. Even a minigame to be completed like those in Puzzle Pirates would be welcome.
What’s more, the game appears to sell itself as an MMO. Or at the very least with a persistent world map that changes hands and contains an economy and neutral villages. But all I could find was the above-described flee team deathmatch. [In an interview with the developers at PAX they did discuss their intention to eventually roll out adventure-driven DLCs that would introduce more of a campaign element – Editor]
The game is fun, unique, and has some nice customization options for your ship and character, but a lot of promised features appear to be missing. The game just feels unfinished. What’s there is very fun, indeed, but indeed, it is missing too much.
It’s a good effort, but I can’t see it sustain itself or a player-base over much of a long period. As a multiplayer-only game, if the community leaves, then there is no more game left to be played. As of this moment I rate it 2.5/5. If more content is added, and the bugs ironed out, I would happily grant Guns of Icarus Online an extra point.