November 9th, 2012 | By Alex Wilkinson
Many people think that being a captain of a steampunk ship is an easy life. You glide through the clouds, pillaging when you feel like it, drinking all the rum you can get your hands on, and, of course, defending your ship from all manner of bilge rats by blowing holes in their ships.
It’s true. Many of these things are indeed the perks of being a captain – along with drinking moonshine at the helm, but this helps you get through the day. What they don’t tell you are the hours you slog behind the wheel on a vessel trying to navigate the treacherous – yet beautiful – skies. Aye, it’s a pirate’s life for me.
Guns Of Icarus Online (GoI) came out just the other week, just before Halloween, swooping onto the PC. GoI has been lovingly developed by the highly talented bunch over at Muse Games and, not trying to spoil anything, it’s rather good.
Before I even get into the real meat of whether or not it is worth your hard earned money I need to point out GoI is entirely online. There is currently no single-player so it relies entirely on the online community to ensure there is a game to play. I am pleased to report that playing at different times over the day I could always find a number of people playing.
Not massive numbers, but steady. With several full, 24-man games going on, I found you never really had to wait too long for a game. GoI seems to offer enough players, and from my experience, mature players, to game with.
You may have heard of GoI before, but where you ask? Well Muse Games also created Guns Of Icarus which was a forerunner to GoI. Very much in the same vein to the new release Guns Of Icarus was a smaller browser based game that spawned a lot of the concepts seen in GoI.
In GoI you take to the skies in these wonderfully created airships that have been created in a distinct steampunk style that really do look fantastic. Divided into two team — the classic red vs blue — you and your crew must work together to destroy the enemy and complete the objectives of that particular map. Currently there is Team Skirmish, Control Points, Resource Race, and King Of The Hill.
Each ship has a four-person crew – with any missing roles filled in for by AI – but must always have at least one Captain. Although I don’t like how you are allowed to have more than one Captain class per ship, I feel it should just be locked to one. To round off your ship’s compliment you will need, preferably, an engineer and gunner at the least. As each role brings their own specialties.
I really like how Muse Games allow specialization but not to the extent that you must only do the role you originally signed up for. As a Captain you get three perks in the captain class which allows you to — in theory — perform your role better than say a gunner steering the ship.
Each class has additional perks when selected but will drop the perks in the classes you are currently not playing down to one. For example as a Captain you will be able to take three perks in your load-out for Captain but will still retain one perk in Gunner and Engineer, which allows for a bit of multitasking.
This is great because at times in the heat of battle when cannonballs are hurtling at your ship and fires are ravishing the deck, you can hop off your position and valiantly aid the Engineer. Or conversely move your whole crew to the guns and blow the hell out of all that oppose you.
There is even an in game shop where you can spend a little extra money you may have lying around on all manner of customizable cosmetics. It has long been known you do need to also look the part.
Alongside the load-outs and cosmetics you can as the Captain select which ship to take into combat. Each ship has advantages and disadvantage, as Muse Games try to balance the game whilst encouraging variety. Captains can also customize the weapon points on their ship. Whether you favor bombarding or close quarter combat you can fit your ship your way. This of course, creates a great deal of extra customization, strategy, and above all, fun.
The game plays from a first person perspective. I find this restricted field of view to work wonders in really drawing you into the game. This becomes very noticeable when trying to carefully work the ship through narrow corridors of sheer cliff edges whilst trying to guess where the balloon stuck to the top of the craft ends and the rock begins.
I can tell you now that people are not too forgiving when you end up pinballing around these rocks, but at least it keeps the crew alert and busy – I really am a caring captain.
I did have some trouble however realizing which color I was fighting for. There seems no obvious way to tell other than finding one of the small flags attached to the masts of the ship or holding the Tab key and finding your name from a sea of players. I do like how GoI has friendly fire however and enjoy the confusion of wondering if that ship you have been shelling for the past minute is friend or foe – they often wave the white flag of war. I would just like the HUD to have your teams color somewhere and maybe a minimap for the captain.
For the most part the gameplay runs fine. GoI does however suffer from various glitches throughout the game. I think a lot of the problems I got were down to lag spikes but both the start and end of the match where a bit glitchy. I would wait for a little while at the end before it officially ended the match which was a little bit irritating but Muse Games are working on this.
GoI is also controller enabled, however you would not realize this from the game. It does allow you to configure the gamepad in the controls menu, but does seem a little bit thrown together. A controller map would really help when visualizing the controller properly. You are also not able to navigate the title menu solely from your gamepad or even bring up the options menu in game, from what I could see. Also in game the commands would not change to the controller equivalence of keyboard bindings so I was forever being told to move with WASD.
The graphics and overall visuals in GoI are fantastic, it really is easy to see where Muse Games spent a lot of their time when developing the game. GoI contains many rich maps that resemble many exotic and interesting locations. Each with their own unique obstacles jutting out into the sky-box to really create interesting and diverse maps to play on.
This was always my principal concern with a setting above the clouds: I wondered how the sky-boxes from map to map would vary. Muse Games did great work at giving each map its own personality through these various obstacles and distinctly drawn landscapes giving great variety to GoI.
GoI offers a very fun and well designed new game. The whole idea of ship warfare may date back long before video games but the idea of putting them into the sky is really what pushes GoI ahead. Of course GoI was not the first multiplayer airship game but it does pull it off in a very commendable fashion.
The gameplay really is great fun and you can spend hours fulfilling different roles on all manner of ships, however GoI is still a way off being finished. With glitches, bugs and some unfinished sections I feel it’s still a bit of a diamond in the rough.
Muse Games are working on the game all the time with constant bug fixes, working strongly with the community to address all the problems in the game. Give it another month or two and I am sure GoI will be well polished and most of my issues will no longer exist. Even as I wrote this they patched out one of my principle problems with the score boards having individual score on them – this is why my screenshots have so many zeros.
If you are looking for a very involved multiplayer game that relies greatly on teamwork, set in a fantastic new universe, and can get past the paint flaking at the edges and some rust building up, you will have no problem enjoying GoI as the gameplay and design really are well put together. But the game could just do with another lick of paint.
Guns Of Icarus Online is available from Steam for $19.99. Be sure to follow all the latest developments in GoI on the official site here. If you are interested in following future developments from Muse Games their official site here.