Guns of Icarus: Alliance – PS4 Review
Guns of Icarus Online originally launched in October 2012 as a Steampunk PVP game. The concept was that players worked together as a crew on an airship, which is incredibly cool, but the PVP-heavy environment did not really suit me. Then in 2017, Guns of Icarus: Alliance came to life re-engineered (if you will). The original game just felt like one game mode and that was it – it was hollow. This iteration of the game features PVE missions with a smart AI, character customization, and six factions that are doing battle over this world. That’s probably my favorite thing about the game right there: Players influence the world through gameplay, completing missions, and spending their coins on reinforcements for this war. Now it’s coming to Playstation 4! While I enjoy the concept of this game immensely, I was hoping to see more players in this weekend access. Thankfully, it does have PC cross-platform, and it is easy to communicate between the two. But does it translate well to PS4?
The most important thing to note is that I am a considerably new player – I have not played Guns of Icarus since my first PAX West, which was around 2013 or 2014. I have not had a ton of experience, and Guns of Icarus: Alliance more than makes up for that with its new player experience. Before you can queue, you are required to take at least one of the Tutorials for the game classes, and before you can try the tutorial for Gunner or Pilot, you must play the most important, fundamental role – Engineer. A game that makes you learn the most important role first? What is this world coming to? Engineer is the most important role on the ship, and you absolutely “must” know what to do as an Engineer in order to play this game successfully. You can still pilot the ship and shoot the guns as an Engineer, but you might be lacking some of the tools you can use for that job. I’d rather have three Engineers on board along with a pilot any day. That way everyone has at least a few Engineers tools to fix things.
The tutorial will take you across all the parts of the ship, highlighting the things you can fix, what the basic tools will do in terms of repair time and amount, and preventative measures like icing down a part so it has a temporary defense against catching on fire (which does happen. A lot, actually). The teaching method is thorough, intuitive and it’s also pretty entertaining at the same time. Each class has equippable items that you cycle through with the D-Pad, and no matter what class you are playing, you have one item for each of the other classes, which you set in your character menu. It’s all very easy to understand. You can adjust your presets to what you’ll need for a host of situations. Personally, in PVP I prefer to be an Engineer, but in PVE, I Pilot. That’s because the AI is amazingly smart, and does learn from their mistakes. This allows me to learn a role, while also having an amazing time playing the game. That’s important.
There are quite a few customization options for both character and ship to boot. When you represent a faction in the game, as you progress you unlock new outfits for your player character, and each character class has its own cosmetic profile too. So you can look fancy and noble for piloting, and grungy and ordinary as a gunner if that’s what you want. You set the items you’re equipped with, the Ship you pilot, customize what guns you want on it as well. I appreciate that all of the guns and ships are available in the game right off the bat – no grinding to unlock them. Each has their own default settings, stat ratings, and difficulty to use, so you have plenty of time to find the ships that work best for you. Each of these ships has a gorgeous 3D model, where you can give them a Figurehead (available in the online store), add decals to them, et cetera. This game “does” have an online shop, but it’s only cosmetics, which is a definite plus in my book. For PVP, you have access to everything you could desire, but in PVE, you can unlock cooler ship models, gun types for said ships, which unlock as you level up with a Faction. You can switch factions if you desire but does come with a reputation penalty, so I’d probably stick to one at a time unless your faction is really losing the world war and you’d like to be on the winning side.
One of the beauties of this game is that it’s 100% skill-based. Guns of Icarus is not a game that you can spend money on and get better at, it’s all dependent on your skill and your ability to work as a team. If everyone is working together, magic can happen. Communication is key, as well as situational awareness. The main menu lets you pick between PVP and Co-Op (PVE). When you enter the PVP screen, you’ll see the list of maps players have set up, as well as how many players are presently in the game. You have several different filter options (Status, Mode, Size, Locations), and you can also create your own match if you desire. The only negative I find here is that I’d like a little description of each match type for PVP/PVE. For creating Custom PVP matches, you have VIP Deathmatch, Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Crazy King, each with a choice of maps and number of ships to set. If you so desire, you can set a password to make it private, and better still, if you want just Playstation 4 players, you can select that as well.
PVE has more objective-based missions, with Defense, Infiltration, Search & Destroy, Assault, Intercept and Blockade to pick from, as well as certain maps for each mode. The actual gameplay is fairly simple. Depending on your role, you’ll either be piloting the ship, keeping it repaired, or shooting down enemy targets and blowing up enemy bases. I seldom see the pilot actually leave the wheel, but I’ve done it once or twice when we desperately needed to take some shots at an enemy and the ship was on fire. the gunners and engineers will likely be running around, moving from turret to turret, or the various parts of the ship (Hull, Balloon, Engine) to put out fires or repair them. It can be a little hard to see while actually steering the ship, depending on what style of ship you are piloting, but no matter what it can be frustrating to figure out if you’re about to run your airship into a mountain or building and get the altitude just right. It takes practice, but it can admittedly be a little vexing. Your goals are clearly displayed when you open up the map, and while that’s great, I’m torn. I’d sort of like them to be displayed at all times, but you need all the visual you can get in this type of battle.
As a gunner, you need to be aware of what types of guns are on the ship, what they excel at damaging, and if they are long/short range guns. Reloading can be time-consuming, so you don’t want to waste shots, and you don’t want to waste your big damaging shells when their shields are still up. You have fast, long-range Gatling style guns for stripping shields/hull of protections, then you want to switch it up to the heavier guns to deal the real damage. Having communication between these two positions is incredibly important. Or have them close enough together where one player can adequately move between them. Guns have limited rotation depending on the gun and where they are positioned on the ship, so being able to talk to your pilot and get the ship rotated correctly is ever so important. That is the ultimate skill in this game: communication. I feel like a microphone is an absolute “must” for Guns of Icarus. You might not “like” talking to other players, but it will make your job much easier. As for the Engineer, you need to know where all the stations are and have a nice variety of repair tools for all of them. You need at least one item to put out fires, and I’d say two for faster/slower repairs. Even when things are safe, and you are winning fights, it would behoove well of the Engineers to be doing preventative maintenance: Do not for any reason just stand around doing nothing. If there’s no maintenance, hop on a gun and get ready to pop shots! It is so important to always be aware of what’s going on around you.
Each mission has their own goals, and it’s nice to know that even in Co-op, you can play without being too frustrated. I said it earlier, and I cannot stress enough that I enjoy the AI for this game. They do their jobs on the ship, and I’ve won far more Co-op matches than I lost. There is a type of mini-game in Guns of Icarus though in the Co-Op/PVP, and that’s the World War. After you select a faction, you can put in work into your factions battles, clearly displayed on the “World” screen. It will show each color-coded faction, what territory they control, recent important events for various factions, and even has Monuments to past battles on the map. Each faction is working towards resource goals because a war cannot be fought without resources. As you complete missions and battles, you receive coins to be used in territories on the world map. This is a tactical strategy game played with your entire faction online, so, it seems important to be able to know where your faction is doing well and put efforts in that direction so they don’t go to waste. This in no way changes actual gameplay, but can increase your “War Efforts”, ultimate goes to changing the narrative of the game. It’s a delightful concept to see the efforts of all the players in the world going into figuring just who is the greatest world power.
Visually, this game is absolutely gorgeous. The airships are all majestic, each map is highly detailed, and it’s easy to see everything once it comes into vision. Each map has a theme that makes sense, is aesthetically pleasing, and many of them are pretty open and easy to navigate. Of course, there are going to be mountains and canyons to travel through, but they all make sense from a geographical standpoint. The music is pretty peaceful, but for the most part, players are kind of on the quiet side on the mic. This is both a blessing and a curse: It’s important to be able to talk to your team in this game, as there are not a lot of shortcut commands (there should be more), but I’m just waiting for the slurs and swearing to come over my headset. So far, it’s been nothing but teamwork and positivity, but the nature of the Internet will inevitably rear its ugly head.
Fly in the Sky: 3.5/5
I enjoy Guns of Icarus, despite not really caring for this kind of game. The ability to play PVE/single-player really makes it a lot more enjoyable for someone like me, but I wish there were more of a single-player narrative/campaign. What is on offer “is” good, despite that. I do worry about the player base though, because I’ve only seen a max of 6 people on at any moment in time during this past weekend. That could very well change when the game goes live, and I have no idea if that is both PC/PS4 – but lord I hope not. The game is incredibly sound mechanically, and the Playstation 4 controls are succinct and work remarkably well. There’s no confusion, it’s not hard to do a single thing. Everything makes sense, and every position works just fine on a controller. I’d wager it’s actually a bit better playing this on a controller. I appreciate that it’s a skill-based game, without any way to pay for an advantage. There are a lot of people who slag it off on Steam, saying it’s a terrible game, but I’m willing to bet those are people who only lock-in as a Gunner and get upset when they lose a match because they aren’t willing to do something else. This is a team-based game, and if you can’t be a positive member of a team, guess what happens? You lose. This could very well reinvigorate Guns of Icarus and get more people on board.
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