Icarus launched on December 3rd of 2021. Generally speaking, the story is simple – the United Development Agency (UDA) has sent you four light years away to the planet Icarus. Terraformed as a possible alternative to Earth, the UDA populated it with everything you’d find here – trees, grass, rivers, mountains, and fauna including deer, wolves, boar, scorpions, jaguars, brown and polar bears, and more. The intention was to recreate the best parts of our world, but unfortunately the exotic materials buried deep in the crust of the planet caused the terraforming to become somewhat corrupted. Your job is to complete the various missions to overcome the challenges, including scouting, killing off creatures that have become mutated, gathering resources, and setting bases of operation.
Players at the time complained that the game felt too much like Earth. Developer RocketWerkz undertook an impossible task, setting an impossible update cadence of applying a significant patch every single Thursday. Somehow, now almost two years later, they’ve not missed a beat, and in August they launched their second expansion – Icarus: New Frontiers. If you wanted something entirely different and alien, well then do I have good news for you!
We spent some time playing with the developers, hitting the first two missions of the game as a big dysfunctionally fun team. Before we get into this review, you can check that out here:
While much of the planet Icarus was successfully, or at least mostly terraformed, the Prometheus region is almost untouched. Raw and alien, this zone was restricted and declared off limits for prospecting and missions. Now, the UDA has sent you to this zone with completely new zones thanks to the discovery of several new and valuable materials. It’s always about profit, isn’t it?
New Frontiers is aptly named as the new maps couldn’t be more alien or dangerous. New biomes include swamp lands, volcanic areas, and alien grassland biomes, but many of the existing biomes also see an update. For example, instead of a hard transition from a forest directly into a polar area, you might work your way through an area where tufts of grass and the occasional tree or shrub poke through the snow. It makes for a far more believable, albeit still alien environment. Each of these biomes contain new challenges, requiring new methods to overcome them.
It wouldn’t do to introduce all of these new biomes without creatures to inhabit them. Bluebacks look like a blend of an oversized armadillo and a turtle. Dreadwings, as the name suggests, are a murderous blend of pterodactyl and bird, but more angry. Needlers make porcupines look positively pedestrian. The worms have eaten their Wheaties, growing to a size that makes me downright uncomfortable. It’s the Dracs that’ll give you nightmares, though.
Dracs remind me of a hairless mutant version of the Terror Dogs from Ghostbusters, blended with the face of a vampire and the eyes of an evil Tarsier monkey. You’ll see them off in a field, or more accurately you’ll see their big red eyes. They’ll be sitting in the distance, watching you. You turn around, do some work, and then turn back around only to find that there are now three of them, and they are a lot closer. They sit, they watch, they wait. When you least expect it, and with almost no sound, these creatures pounce on you and will chew you up in the blink of an eye. You’ll hear them screech-howling in the distance, but it’s when you don’t hear them that they are scariest. The RocketWerkz team did a fantastic job making something as alien as it is nightmare inducing.
Not everything in the New Frontier is out to murder you. There is a new tameable horse-like creature available to ride. The team stated that they are looking for ways to make the Bluebacks rideable. I’ve not found a new beast of burden to pull a cart yet, but with a weekly update cadence, that could happen in the blink of an eye.
Ultimately you wouldn’t risk your neck and become Drac-chow without a reason. There are fourteen new missions in the biome, as well as six chained narrative missions that spell out a cohesive story. You can also utilize the SMPL3 Communication Interface to pull in additional objective missions in the middle of your outing to obtain additional rewards. All of these outings are either directly or in direct support of obtaining the new resources unique to this biome.
Digging in the dirt is a big part of Icarus, and now there are five new resources to gain. Obsidian, Scoria, Crystalized Miasma, Supercooled Ice, and Clay, combined with the already-established resources found in the rest of Icarus. These can be gathered, harvested, and mined to craft over 100 new items. This is a huge moving target as the team continues to add more items with every patch. Literally as I write this, the team has added a whole new set of craftable carved wood decorations, improved angular building materials, and added a few new building object variations that should enable all new structure designs.
One thing that Icarus nailed right out of the gate is that it is absolutely gorgeous. The RocketWerkz art team are wizards of their craft, and we are the beneficiaries. New Frontiers offered the team a new opportunity to craft alien and bizarre horizons. The sky can be purple, blue, orange, green, red, and more. The flora in this new area can be downright Seuss-ian in nature, with giant puff balls on top, looking like something out of The Lorax. The lava areas are bright streaks of orange and red, moving and dangerous. Swamps contain mutant alligators that are the size of a small car. Each biome is meticulously crafted and alien, but mesh into the established lore of Icarus nicely. It’s another home run graphically with New Frontiers.
One area that continues to be a problem, even 90 updates in, is performance. Even running on an RTX 4090 I can occasionally get major framerate hitches and without any immediately apparent reason. The team continues to add improvements, but this remains a well-seated problem.
If you’ve not logged into Icarus for a while, the game has changed so dramatically for the better that it’s hard to believe. 90+ weeks of active engagement with the community has yielded new maps, missions, mechanics, monsters, and more to fill out the world, and new building mechanics to allow you to build absolutely magnificent buildings to call home. Whether you are a seasoned veteran (my wife and I have over 600 hours combined at this point), a newcomer, or a returning player, there’s always something new on Icarus. New Frontiers brings a completely new and alien adventure – just watch out for the big red and ever-watchful eyes.
Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.
Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.
Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
ICARUS: New Frontiers
With gorgeous new vistas, fresh new technologies to build, and over two dozen new missions, this expansion pack delivers the alien world we’ve long been asking for.