Guns of Icarus Online – So You Want to be an Airship Captain?
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Guns of Icarus Online is a steampunk-themed airship battle game, truly an original title all to its own. It’s actually the online version of the highly successful single player game also developed by Muse Games. Teamplay is key now as “everyone has a job to do,” while on the airship. Gameplay has a large focus on tactics mixed with chaotic action. With its mixture of different elements – such as FPS, RTS, and MMO – you will definitely be a unique experience.
The game takes place in a post-apocalytic world with a mixture of steampunk and dieselpunk themes. Civilization is scattered far and thin, and the only way to travel across the scorching deserts and massive canyons that make up a majority of the land is by air. Pirates, scavengers and other sorts clash regularly, and battle is common. The only thing you can rely on in this world is your airship and your crew.
Steampunk/Dieselpunk theme. If you are a fan of the steampunk or dieselpunk genre, you will have a blast in Guns of Icarus Online.
Crew-based Gameplay. You will have to work together with your crew. Everyone has a role on an airship, and you will have to rely on your crew mates to fulfill theirs.
Three roles to choose from. You can play as a Gunner, an Engineer, or even as a Captain. Each role has its job and differential mechanics to make the game feel fresh.
Six airships to fly. The Junker, Galleon, Goldfish, Squid, Spire and Pyramidon are all available to you to outfit and fly.
Equip Yourself. You are free to choose what items you spawn with, as well as what turrets your airship spawns with.
Five Maps. There are currently five beautifully designed maps you can play in. Each has its own backstory to help get you in to the mood.
Fitting Music. The music really helps make you feel like you are in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world.
Guns of Icarus Online does not have many features. Fear not, this is not a bad thing and more features are planned for the future which I will discuss in the final verdict. It has just as many features as it needs to accomplish its goal: a team-based airship battle game. And boy does it accomplish this. I was completely satisfied with what is available at launch. I really enjoyed the big emphasis on team gameplay. The selection of airships was impressive, with each having its own strengths and weaknesses. Muse Games truly did a marvelous job.
The graphics in Guns of Icarus Online are high quality. That is the simplest way to explain them. Not only does it have beautiful textures and atmospheric effects – such as dust clouds and smoke – it also has lots of little touches. These include potted plants sitting on the deck of your airship or hanging lanterns. Also, watch out for all the beer bottles laying around. The lighting and explosion effects were superb and really added to the experience of being in a fast-paced battle.
The articulating parts of the airship, like the propellers and turning gears, engross you further into the world with believable realism. There is a filter effect that gives the graphics a slight “old time” movie feel. This combined really well with the steampunk theme. All together the graphics made for an awe-inspiring experience. If you are a fan of steam or dieselpunk, you will be in for a treat.
Guns of Icarus Online has your typical FPS control scheme. Movement is done with WASD. To interact with the world, you use the E key. M for map – That sort of stuff. You use the mouse to aim and shoot, just like most games. Left click will shoot whatever gun you are manning, or use whatever tool you are currently holding. Right click will zoom in so you can get a better look at your target. Everything was smooth as could be and worked very well.
The user interface was nice and fit well with the theme. It provided you with relevant information and was not cluttered at all. This means you can focus on what is happening. At first, it can be a tiny bit confusing to understand. This will quickly clear up before the end of your first game. Overall, it was a pleasant experience using the user interface.
Customization in Guns of Icarus Online is decent. There is not a lot of it, but there is enough to make you happy. You can choose your character’s gender, skin color, hair color, eye color and set facial details such as scars. After the initial character creation, you can further customize your looks by purchasing steampunk-themed clothes from the cash shop. These clothing items are purely cosmetic and are fairly cheap.
There are three roles you can choose to play, and you can freely switch between them in between games. You get to customize your loadout for each role. So, as a gunner, you can customize what types of ammo you take in to a match. As an engineer you can pick what types of repair tools you take. The Captain can choose from items that will increase your airship’s maneuverability. You can also decide what loadout your airship has. This is limited to just choosing what turrets the airship spawns with. These range from long range cannons to close-range flamethrowers. You can also name your airship, which people have been having a lot of fun with. I will never forget the time I spent serving on the Yamato.
The community was friendly and helpful. I did not see anyone insulting anyone else, but it is a competitive game so it may be likely to happen. I saw a lot of people getting in to character, doing their best to talk as if they were an airship pirate. Something I really enjoyed was how much the developers interacted with their players. Whenever I got on to play, I noticed at least one Muse developer in the chat, answering questions and just chatting it up with the players.
Currently, the gameplay in Guns of Icarus Online is pretty straight forward. You join a game, choose which airship you want to crew and then get straight to the combat. Or, if you are a captain, you wait for a crew. There are currently six airships to choose from ranging from small to large in size, with various strengths and weaknesses. The way you play is largely dictated by what ship you choose for the match. Galleons will move slowly, while having massive fire power. The Squid rounds out the opposite end of the spectrum, specializing in outmaneuvering larger ships while witling them away with smaller guns.
Something that becomes very evident early on is the need for team-work. If you want to be successful, you must work as a crew. This means you need balance repairing and manning the guns. This can be hard because each airship can only have a maximum of four crew members. The built-in voice communication helps a lot with keeping your crew organized. And if you cannot use a mic for whatever reason, there is a crew-only chat channel that you can type in.
It can take a bit to figure out what exactly you are doing, especially if you neglected to read the manual like most people will (guilty). Combat is very chaotic and fast-paced. This means you have to always be on your toes if do not want to die. One thing you will need to learn early on is how to repair your airship’s components. This is done by taking out your repair tool, which every class has access to, and left clicking on the component that is damaged. Repairs are on a timer so once you repair a component, you need to wait a couple of seconds before you can repair it again.
You will need to compensate your shots for height and turn rate. If you are going up, your shots will go a lot lower than where you are aiming. If your captain is making a sharp turn, you will need to aim ahead or behind of where you want to hit. It might take you a bit to get used to since this is a lot more compensation than we usually need to make in a typical FPS game.
Piloting the airship is just amazing. The moment I got behind the wheel, all my steampunk dreams became a reality. This is why I love games so much. Of course, piloting can be stressful as well. You have to constantly change your speed while making sure that you are lining up shots for your gunners. Doing your best to make sure your guns are always in position to hit the enemy can be hard. It will take a bit of practice for you to be able to efficiently make use of your height, speed and turns.
The combat itself is just an all-around great time. My mind raced each time we clashed at high speeds with another vessel, explosions ringing all around. This has to be the game that inspires the most communication with teammates of any online title in recent memory. It is just spectacular. I was completely pleased with the experience and hours flew by while I was playing.
When searching for matches, I was a bit bothered that I could not filter for number of people in a game, ping, or anything actually useful. You are left with just the ability to search for games by name and map. I did admire how quickly the quick match option put you in to a game. Even if there are only eighty people online, or all the way up to five-hundred, it only took about ten seconds to find a game. Of course, with quick match you have no way of seeing how competent your team is before the match. It is extremely annoying when you go in to a game only to find out that your team refuses to communicate or listen to what you have to say. Death follows quickly when crews don’t work together.
I had a blast playing Guns of Icarus Online. I am a huge steampunk fan and I really enjoyed being able to have my fantasies of airship battles come to life, even if in a virtual world. The music, and all the sounds really, helps immerse you in to the experience. The future looks bright for Guns of Icarus Online, too. The developers plan to release an online adventure mode sometime. This mode will contain a lot of RPG elements as well as the intense multiplayer aspect. I did hear that they will charge extra for this game mode, so it will be a DLC. The only thing I could wish for would be the ability to board enemy vessels like you can in Air Buccaneers, but even without that feature the game is still fantastic. I want to congratulate Muse Games on a job well done. Thank you for the exceptional game!