Typically when playing a multiplayer game you have to maintain perspective of what’s happening on the entire battlefield. Points to capture, teammates to assist, enemies flanking your position, these are all things you don’t have to worry a whole lot about in Guns of Icarus unless you’re the captain of your flying zeppelin. It’s not so much that I neglected the other responsibilities aboard, so much as it simply wasn’t my role to manage and lead a crew in cutthroat air ship combat. As an engineer, I had enough on my plate keeping my ship in the sky.
When Jeff Burke and I jumped into our first game together we were presented with four groups of slots – each one representing the available positions on separate ships. We saw that two of the ships already had a captain and, naturally, joined one of those ships as neither of us were about to attempt the leadership role just yet.
Thankfully the captain was understanding towards our incompetence. After all, he had put hundreds of hours into the beta, and an influx of newbies was to be expected, since the game had just been released. We soldiered on through probably a dozen or so games that first night, I became comfortable with at least the fundamental duties of the engineering role and as I’ve put more time into the game I’ve begun to grasp the true depth of the gameplay.
When you find yourself on a good, communicative crew, this game is an absolute blast. The concept really works, and you and your teammates will chatter away about tactics, the best loadout for the situation, what guns to try in the next match, and what part of the enemy ship to fire at. Unfortunately, when you find yourself on a silent crew–a microphone is a must in this game–it’s quite another story. With nobody to talk to and no way to effectively communicate with your crewmates, you’re going to find yourself bored and frustrated. I can’t tell you how infuriating it is to have an uncommunicative captain who refuses to turn the three degrees required so you can bring a gun to bear on an enemy you can plainly see, or the silent engineer who decides to man a gun instead of safeguarding the ship. The amount of fun in this game is directly tied to your choice in crewmates.
Gunnery in this game is fairly straightforward–point your gun or rocket launcher at the enemy until they explode into splinters–but there is a bit of depth as well. There are a variety of different guns, each with their own abilities. Some might be best used to destroy your target’s balloon, while others are better at destroying components. Two guns deserve special mention, though. The first is the hwacha, a korean multi-rocket launcher that sends 20 explosive darts toward your target. It’s an absolute blast to fire, and watching a dozen explosions blossom on your target’s hull is really gratifying. The other weapon of note is the field gun–a long range howitzer with a zoom function that’s extremely accurate at long range. Hitting targets at a distance isn’t trivial in Guns of Icarus Online, so pegging an enemy ship at 3 kilometers gives your a sense of real satisfaction, though the community is asking for this gun to be nerfed a bit for better balance.
Different airships have their own unique characteristics and layouts, so familiarizing yourself with each ship is as important as learning the maps of your everyday multiplayer shooter. When you don’t know your way around a ship, your movements are cumbersome. The ships are visually distinct, and after a few hours you’ll be able to tell each ship from afar, which will help you and your teammates figure out how best to attack it. The maps themselves are large and complex, so if you ever want to be a decent captain you will need to learn as well.
Guns of Icarus provides solid gameplay and a unique experience which, according to many of the players I talked to who sunk hundreds of hours into the beta, is extremely challenging and satisfying. It was interesting to hear how many of them had quit their previous multiplayer addictions, including games like League of Legends and World of Warcraft, to commit to Icarus full-time. Still, from my relatively brief time with the game I can safely warn you that it is still far from complete.
The main reason I say Guns of Icarus is not complete is, well, it’s not. Right now only the PvP component is available with the adventure/exploration portion still being worked on for a future content patch. The game’s website provides some details on what to expect from this missing component, but it’s far from an in depth preview.