Guns of Icarus Online is an upcoming team based, steampunk airship simulator on the PC

Guns of Icarus Online is an upcoming team based, steampunk airship simulator on the PC

Guns of Icarus Online is an upcoming $20 multiplayer battle arena game from MuseGames that asks you to participate in a different kind of battle. The zeppelin is king in this world, and the airships have been transformed into weapon platforms that sail and stream across the sky, armed with flachette weaponry, mortars, and machine guns. The game tasks you with wreaking mayhem in Skirmish matches where your objective is to either destroy the opposition or capture resources. The communication and teamwork between your crew is more important than the size and power of your ship, and that focus on teamwork and the realistic roles of the crew are the hooks that Guns of Icarus Online slides into the player. You need to be able to lead, or at least listen, execute, and do your job. Guns of Icarus Online will no doubt draw some comparisons to Team Fortress 2 for its stylized characters, first-person perspective, and focus on teamwork, but that's where the similarities end. The real meat of the game comes from a ship's crew acting, well, like a ship's crew. You customize and create one character and outfit them before each match, assigning them gear and a class. There are three classes, keeping clutter to a minimum. You'll know what you have to do.

The classes are well defined

The captain chooses the ship their team will serve on, steers the rig and tags enemies by outlining them with a white box. The captain can also utilize in-game team chat to issue commands to their crew if they don't have a headset. The crewman/gunner class is most adept in the seat of a big-ass gun, firing mortars and cranking out bullets. They have the ability to use incendiary ammo, which causes extra damage and sets components of an enemy ship ablaze. The engineer's primary responsibilities lie with the ship: they repair the engine, balloon, fans, and guns of the ship by whacking the components with a wrench. They also put out fires.Each class possesses a unique set of equipment: The captain has a spyglass, the crewman has incendiary ammo, and the engineer has a fire extinguisher. These items give players an advantage for sticking to the class' specializations, but there's nothing to prevent a captain from doing repairs, or an engineer from steering the ship. This could have diluted the experience; if everyone is equal, no one is special. The classes made sense once our ship was on fire and the engineer had to run from the bow of the ship, where he'd been steering, to the engine to douse the flames. “Everything is on fire!” my team said, and I felt powerless to help with my gunner. I understood how useful my spyglass was when it was my turn to serve as Captain. While the game breaks teams into red and blue, ships don't fly bright banners of their color. Tagging enemies with the spyglass reduces the likelihood of friendly fire, giving your gunners a proper target to aim at. You may be able to help certain jobs by acting out of class, but it won't be optimal.

Sailing into a perfect storm

Guns of Icarus has a distinct pace about it. The game encourage careful, deliberate planning instead of constant bombardment, and Captains must steer their ships into optimal firing position without exposing themselves. Guns need time to reload and the fire rate is far slower than modern day weapons. An engineer repairs with a choice of two wrenches: one that repairs a lower amount but features a fast cooldown, and another that heals more for each hit with a longer period between whacks. All these things must be balanced. The game is much more about teamwork, coordinating resource and time management than skillful kill shots. When an enemy is taken down, the kill goes to the ship, not the player, who delivered the final blow. What this means during matches is that instead of a constant high of adrenaline and frantic shooting, there is a moment of calm before each engagement, with spikes of excitement in the brief, fleeting moments of combat. This pacing is Guns of Icarus Online's greatest strength as well as its biggest weakness. On one hand, you feel like members of a real ship's crew. You are not the almighty war hero who can run forth and kill as you please. You have to wait and cooperate, and everyone is expected to pitch in. On the downside, this can mean long periods where not a whole lot is happening for your character if you're a gunner or engineer. Things liven up quick once the rounds start volleying, but waiting for your captain to steer the ship to its proper place is a test of patience. Some will flunk that test, wanting something more immediate. I found myself firing our ship's mortar off into nothingness several times while wishing for a proper target.

A single-player MMO that isn't either one

Guns of Icarus Online is a follow-up to single-player adventure game Guns of Icarus, a game where your character, Captain Gabriel, transported mysterious cargo across the ravaged landscape of the world. At launch, Guns of Icarus Online will only support Skirmish matches, but MuseGames has plans to return to a more single-player feel by implementing Adventure mode, where players will establish and participate in PvE content as well as a trade-based economy. Towns need supplies and you'll help foster their economy or, alternatively, drive them to ruin by attacking trade routes. It's a quasi-sandbox design reminiscent of EVE Online, but the designs aren't quite in place yet. For now, Guns of Icarus Online is a multiplayer battle arena only. That's unfortunate, as I enjoyed the look and feel of Guns of Icarus Online more than I did the combat, and I'd gladly explore the world MuseGames has built up around these concepts. In an age of empowerment and dis-empowerment fantasies, Guns of Icarus Online is that rare game that chooses neither path, and instead asks that you work as a team to find success. Those looking for a team-based challenge will find plenty to love with Guns of Icarus Online; It isn't particularly fast or brutal, nor is it a constant rush of excitement, but it gives you a sense of place and purpose. That's a rare thing in multiplayer games. Guns of Icarus Online is coming to the PC, and there is currently no release date announced.