All Out Sky Boat War In Guns of Icarus: Alliance

 The above video is a video version of the review you can read below, a transcript if you will. Enjoy choosing which one to view!
Guns of Icarus: Alliance places players in an ongoing online war, working together in their crews on board aerial warships to take down the other factions, set above a derelict, and destroyed remains of an old civilisation.

Before I get talking about Guns of Icarus: Alliance, it’s worth a delve into the history of Muse Games’ steampunk themed, air-warship battle title. The first of the three outings for the series was Guns of Icarus (later renamed Flight of the Icarus) back in 2010, originally released as a web title -and later ported to PC & Mac- the game saw you playing as the captain of ‘The Icarus’ as you and your three members held off increasingly difficult waves of enemies.

Jump forward to 2011 and Muse Games had set up a Kickstarter project at the end of 2011 with the intention to raise $10,000 to support funding of their newer imagining of the game with the name, Guns of Icarus: Online being given. The project was hugely successful with an overall total of $35,237 being raised when funding closed in 2012. The full version of Guns of Icarus: Online launched in October of 2012 and had plans to be ported to PS4, but those plans are still in development. Our Editor-in-Chief, Dann attended March 2017’s EGX Rezzed where he spoke about Guns of Icarus: Alliance with Muse Games’ community representative, Wendy Fritscher, who confirmed that the development for a PS4 version is certainly happening. You can keep your eyes on Big Boss Battle for his article soon.

Guns of Icarus: Online was – unsurprisingly – an online only title. It also brought seven ships for players to sail, and featured fairly big maps for the ships to sail the skies amongst, and the crews of the game were four members a ship. There were three classes to choose from, Captain, Gunner, and Engineers, and those classes would determine certain roles on board the ship. Players were to work together against the other team in a PvP environment, with crazy stranger players smashing their ship into yours, players standing around not repairing the right turret, and those that try to act out a scene from “Hook” but instead of jumping off the ship and flying back up and around it, they just fall to their death in a shameful suicide.

Guns of Icarus: Alliance arrived on the 31st of March 2017 as a standalone title which not only kept the PvP (Player Vs Player) game mode that can support 32 players, but also introduced a co-op. PvE (Player Vs Environment) mode. This allows players to join together and fend off the enemy AI. It has also brought better ships, more guns, bigger maps, and a deeper story with an ongoing war taking place. In reality, it’s a rebuilt version of Guns of Icarus: Online.

So, let’s get to the review. Hang on ye’ scurvy dog.

 

Guns of Icarus: Alliance takes place amongst the skies of a wasteland of which, The Great War destroyed the world below. Four factions sail the clouds, with each faction fighting for territorial gain in a constant war where they each try to fight for the success of their plans. The Fjord Baronies are a faction of whom are fighting to reclaim their heritage and fufill an ancient prophecy. The Anglean Republic savage the lands for remains of forgotten technologies, in hopes that they can return the world to a what it once was, a fabled paradise. The Mercantile Guild don’t see how the world can be salvaged, and so instead turn to greed, gathering anything they can sell for a good price. The Order of Chaladon, usually secluded from the world, they have suddenly emerged in an attempt to repair the world at whatever cost it may take.

I chose the Anglean Republic mainly because the characters shown on the faction choice screen had fancy coats. But let’s skim over the fact I joined a selfish group of people because I was blinded by fluffy coats that you don’t actually get in the game.

Guns of Icarus: Alliance let’s you see your factions overall, worldwide stats. Allowing you to see what the total number of members within that faction sits at, how many territories have been conquered and lost, how many ships your faction have destroyed, and how many ships your faction have lost. Factions can have a message, and have resource goals, but more on that later. There is a map that shows the types of information you can view. You can view battles that are going on around the world, Missions, in which factions complete missions to gain more resources, and the resources tab shows the available resources around the world.

Let’s start getting a bit more into the action.

Players can customise their crew, and each player gets three classes, with one crew member per class that is customisable. Example, a Pilot character can undergo some character customisation and then saved, and then an engineer can have their own personal look, as can a Gunner. It’s worth noting though that only the clothing and accessories can be changed per character, you can’t, for example, have a lighter skinned pilot with green eyes, then choose to have a dark skinned, brown eye’d engineer. Also, genders are the same throughout all classes depending on what you choose. Ideally I’d have liked to have seen you be able to choose between having totally different characters per class if you felt like it. I wanted my Gunner to be a woman, but I wanted a man to pilot the ship. There are a wide range of clothing, accessories, and dyes (You can change your clothing with dyes) to purchase from the in-game store that does require the use of real world money.

When in the lobby of a server, you can choose what role you wish to undertake, unless you choose to be the Captain, then you’re automatically placed as a Pilot character, but otherwise you can choose to be an Engineer or a Gunner if you take any of the other slots. There are four slots per ship, and each ship has one Captain. When players spawn onto their ship, they’re basically dumped in the centre of the hull together, and then they run away to their positions and prepare for the oncoming battle.

The compulsory tutorial mode is designed incredibly carefully, with a wonderful mixture of humour in the dialogue to keep the vocal instructions fresh and not so boring that you lose track of what is being said, and the methods being nicely linked up in an interactive step-by-step system that rapidly, but cleverly eases you into the game. After the three compulsory tutorial levels you’re on your way to the proper matches.

First things first, I played Guns of Icarus: Online, and while I did enjoy it, it didn’t feel particularly gripping. I remember joining a match and feeling like a new recruit, stood around amongst the more experienced ranks as they rushed all of their tasks in the heat of the moment, while I stood around clearly lost and confused about what was going on. I didn’t play it much after that experience because it felt like a title that I’d need to play with friends, and through voice communications.

Guns of Icarus: Alliance seems to have changed this feeling though.

For some reason, despite being incredibly similar to the Guns of Icarus: Online gameplay, you feel more connected with your crew, whether that’s because the command wheel feels more intuitive, or whether it’s because the theme is so simple to pick up that you don’t need to shout orders at your team all the time…I felt like I was part of a working crew, I felt like we were all connected on the same level, regardless of rank, regardless of experience. It was a nice feeling. Pilots will take to the helm and begin popping the ship into sail, Engineers will begin buffing up weapons and adding perks if they have chosen such tools, and Gunners will man the guns and mark out the enemy ships with their spyglass.

Everyone has a role, and the match won’t be won if a player is acting as a solo war hero, the Pilot needs help knowing where enemy ships are, they also need to instruct the Gunners where their targets are and in doing so must position the ship so the best guns for the job get it done. The Gunners don’t carry much in terms of tools as most of their time should really be spent on the guns. Should their guns take damage and an engineer is busy repairing the balloon – for example – they can repair it slightly with a repair tool if they choose that during the character load out screen. As for Engineers, their job doesn’t really start until a battle begins. Parts of the ship begin to set alight, and at the same time a gun is being taken down. Engineers need to strategically think on their feet, should they rush to the ship part and quickly fix that and hope to make it to the guns afterwards, or do they keep the guns going and hope the ship doesn’t sink to the Earth. What’s also cool, is that everyone can mount the guns if needed. A Pilot, Gunner, and Engineer can all be mounted on guns while the ship has been locked into a steady cruise through the battlegroun…skies, should I call them battleskies? Makes sense.

Guns of Icarus: Alliance holds many game modes. You’ll be able to fly the skies in co-op mode in, Inflitration, Assault, Intercept, Defence modes, and Search and Destroy mode is another which takes place across 36,000 square meters. The PvP game modes are King of the Hill, Crazy King, Death Match, VIP Deathmatch, and Novice deathmatch. All of these game modes not only link up to your character progression, but should you choose an area of conflict on the map to reinforce, or deploy, the effort you earn in every match counts towards the conflict until it has ended. Modes are fairly self explanatory, for example, Defense sees players defending structures from the enemy who plan to destroy them, King of the Kill sees teams fighting for control of one area on a map, Search and destroy sends waves of enemies after the players, with the team having to seek out drills to destroy which will suppress enemy spawns.

Graphically the game looks wonderful, with shadows and lighting looking nice and high quality, and textures bringing a unique art style to the game. The characters look almost like a slight caricature, with cheekbones sharper than razors, and eyebrows with a strong brow game. The boats are, just like the characters costumes, heavily steampunk inspired, and the world around and below you looks nice to view, but doesn’t really draw attention to itself. The game also uses a weather system in which battles can find themselves taking place in a storm where visibility is heavily reduced, and others taking place in clear skies or more. While I could rave on about the graphics looking rather nice, and nautical themes being present in sky boats, I want to talk about the interface more than anything.

Not the command wheel, that’s actually a fairly nice touch, but the actual interface is so…cluttered. You’ve got the damaged ship part icons all around the edges of your screen if you’re not looking at them, you’ve got the who killed who box at the top left along with hints that I keep forgetting to see if I can turn off in the options. There’s the navigation/compass in the top centre, and in the top right you’ve got the score. Bottom centre you’ve got your tools, and the bottom left hosts the chat panel. Bottom right is the ship health. Now, while it’s all very nicely laid out, and when you’re playing a match if doesn’t distract too much, but it is incredibly daunting for new players. Not only that, but the menu elements are all very confusing, with icons symbolising things that aren’t exactly clear. It’s a jumbled mess, but it works. Weird.

Control wise, the game plays rather well, buttons are easy to press and nothing feels too far away. The only controls that bother me are the piloting controls due to you having buttons for accelerate, decelerate, turn port ways, turn starboard ways, float upwards, and sink downwards. It just feels like too much during the heat of the battle, but then, I guess that’s where dedicated, and experience pilots will excel, while I’m more attuned to whacking things with a hammer.

The sound effects sounds great, and the music sounds incredibly dramatic, but the dull hum coming from the ship can become almost bothersome after a lengthy period of time, but hey, that’s giant steampunk’equse air boats for you! Noisy blighters

Muse Games have got a lot planned for future updates for the title, and there’s a PS4 title in the works. Dann will have a piece on the website from when he tried the title out on launch day during the EGX Rezzed event in London this year, sadly he missed the cake that they were giving away to all of the players at the event. Not sure I can forgive him for that.

All in all, Guns of Icarus: Alliance is a very solid standalone update to the orginal, Guns of Icarus: Online, and while I can see the huge difference between the two, at the same time, Alliance really does feel like it’s just a remastered, and improved version of Guns of Icarus: Online. I highly recommend grabbing it and getting some friends on board, especially if you’re going to use voice chat communications with them, but if jumping on with strangers is your bag, then so be it as the game certainly makes you feel welcomed, and not in any way lesser than the more experience players. Although some people will try and claim they know everything. But that’s life.

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