Review: Guns of Icarus
Let me start this review off as a warning, this is not necessarily what most people would call an Action game, nor is it your traditional shooter or aerial combat game. I had very high hopes upon seeing some of this game’s trailers and having been starved for steam-punk games with airships since Crimson Skies of the Xbox days, I’m pretty sure a lot of people way over-anticipated what this title would bring forth. The game takes place in one sole ever-present location which is nowhere. Although there are different “levels” the only difference you will see is in the color of the sky. Every level takes place the same way, you defend your airship until a timer runs out, or if you are playing survival mode until your ship crashes in a fire.
A lot of what you are tasked with doing in this game feels like a chore. While you are going through the game’s paces, you feel like nothing you do really matters and while you are holding out waiting for that surprisingly fun action to kick in; it’s just never there. The simple fact of the matter is this game is a time management game. That being said, it is a fairly dull one at that with very little redeeming quality or replay value.
While playing, early on, you begin to feel like an over-worked slave to some faceless, implied entity sending you on your missions to make him millions while your life is treated as a privilege to you shall you complete your work with great haste while valuable cargo is destroyed if you cannot prove worthy of the task. This sounds like some sick CEO’s twisted scheme and the average over-worked citizen’s nightmare. But wait, there’s more!
Players do not get to fly the airship. Players will not be targeted or hit directly by enemy planes and airships either. The player is by all means invincible, so take that worry of dying off your mind for once. The plus side of this game is there is basically no loading time to speak of. The downside is that the game completely consists of running around your ship using turrets and repairing cargo and ship mechanisms. Are Muse Games trying to tell us that Steam punk culture is ridiculous and all we would ever have in place of electronics are constantly failing machinery?
The graphics are definitely not groundbreaking but they are decent. The radar is helpful to keep you from becoming disoriented in the anti-air combat. And the five damage meters for each part of the ship help are helpful as well, once you get used to them. Parts of your ship will even be lit on fire as you are attacked by growing swarms comprised of a few different types of fighters as well as the occasional enemy zeppelin. The only gripe here is that the animations look completely silly while you are “repairing” your airship. This basically consists of your character wailing his arms around with a wrench aimlessly while you generic looking parts move around a little. While it certainly is a budget title, the lack of realism in this aspect takes a lot away from the game, because it didn’t have that much to it to begin with.
There can be huge swarms of ships, but as long as the player has repaired things it doesn’t matter. The game boils down to managing your actions to the highest efficiency by micromanaging every second in a monotonous, drone-like fashion. There isn’t much threat of failure, since you simply have to last as long as the flight. Even the harder missions will let u get by just running around repairing by priority. Cargo bay and engines come first, zeppelin, rigging, and the rest of the ship after accordingly.
Shooting with your friends in this game may look fun from footage that has been seen. Sadly, this serene ideal is blatantly abused the minute the tide of battle starts to tip against your team. When it comes to healing your ship, there is no partial repairing, so you must stand and repair a part all the way at once before walking away. With the typical order of rank occurring if players already know each other, the game feels too automated. Again, the feeling like your actions have no consequences on the game causes you to get bored and slip up and then for micro-second mistakes you are punished by the entire flow of the game turning against you for the rest of the round. You can enjoy this type of game, if you have an obsessive compulsive disorder. You might also like it if you enjoy genuinely wasting your time.
The story is pretty much the way it seems. There is not one. You are shown some brief artwork in between levels and while characters are mentioned nothing really registers since it is not said out loud through a little invention called audio. The only cut-scene to be found in the game will occur when your ship crashes and burns in flames or when you accidentally fall off of the airship. When you fall off the airship, you just see a cut-scene of yourself climbing back up on to it. If there is some type of story I assume it is that time travelers have enslaved mankind and spend their days torturing our descendants with the cruel joke they call “employment” in the future. The title screen reads “This is not the future I expected” from the exhausted and apathetic main character.
Weapon selection almost saved this game. Players get to customize which types of turrets go where on their ship. Six customizable locations (two on the left, two on the right, one on the front and one on the back) serve to spice things up a little bit from mission to mission until you find which setting works best for you. Weapons are upgradable and include rocket launchers, Tesla laser weapons, Gatling guns, and cannons of varying capability. While these weapons all sound great in theory, in practice they leave a lot to be desired. The entire airship idea is called into question as you realize you may be shooting your own ship at times, not to mention serious blind spots in your defense.
Even in online multiplayer gamers find themselves doing too much repairing and not enough shooting. When you take the game online this game is a more fluid and satisfying experience. However, I cannot shake the notion that the core mechanics of this game have nothing to do with how many planes you shoot down or how far a ship progresses in a virtual environment, but merely choosing your battles and knowing when to just run around repairing everything like the suicidal maintenance guy that you were born to be.
Replay value is looking pretty grim for this title. If you were hoping for Steam achievements you can keep on hoping because there are none. These may be added at a later date via patching, but I would not hold your breath on that one. The missions are separated into branches which can prolong or shorten the player’s experience playing through the campaign. Mission paths are selected based on the desired difficulty for the next level. However, in order to go back and play levels you may have missed out on, you will need to create a separate, new campaign and start over.
There is not much to say about this game. It feels like the creators may have fallen short of realizing whatever vision was once had for this title. I think the game is sadly not worth the price tag of $9.99 and should probably be avoided like the plague unless the developers are willing to take it back to the drawing board with innovative downloadable content and/or re-designed sequels. While some people who picked up this title may be redeemed by the multiplayer and endless modes to this game overall it is a very generic and incomplete feeling game. Unless you are a fan of time management, or have 3 friends who are and don’t mind letting you get all the action, this game is probably not for you.
Game-play footage from the online multiplayer co-op campaign:
System Tested On
Operating System: Vista SP1 Home Basic (64-bit)
Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Q9400 @ 2.66GHz 1333FSB 6MB L2 Cache 64-bit
RAM: 2 GB Corsair Dominator® DDR2-1066
Video Card: 1 GB Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT
PC System Requirements
OS: Windows XP or later
Processor: 2 GHz CPU
Memory: 512MB (XP), 1GB for Vista
Graphics: Dedicated Video Card w/128MB of memory
DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c
Hard Drive: 100MB
Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compliant sound card
Mac System Requirements
OS: OSX 10.4 or later
Processor: 2 GHz Intel CPU
Graphics: Dedicated Video Card w/ 128MB of Video Memory
Hard Drive: 100MB