Truth be told, Guns of Icarus has been sitting in my Steam Library since Christmas. I received it as part of the Indie Flight Pack and never did get around to playing it. When we were asked to review it, I had hoped it was a gem that was right here the entire time just waiting to be played. What I found was a good idea hampered by bland visuals and difficulty that never felt fair.
The game concept is fairly simple. As the sole member of the crew of the Icarus, you are ferrying cargo to settlements in need. Along each route, sky pirates will assault you. They come in a variety of shapes but, other than the pirate zeppelins that you encounter, I never was able to discern what made them different. The Icarus has six mounting points for weapons and starts out with four Gatling guns: two port and two starboard. You’ll also need to tend to the repairs on the Icarus. The cargo bay, two engines, zeppelin, and rigging all take damage independently. In the tutorial mission (and I use the term “tutorial” loosely) you only need to worry about the Cargo Bay and Zeppelin.
Once you complete the tutorial mission and get to choose your next route, you’ll have the opportunity to add weapons. These are earned by delivering cargo. There is one set of rewards to choose from for finishing the route with 51% – 80% of cargo surviving and a premium set to choose from if you manage to arrive with over 80% intact. I was disappointed to find that the premium tier wasn’t awarded in addition to the base tier.
Weapons come in four flavors, each with a super version: Gatling, cannon, tesla, and multi-rocket. It’s a good idea to have a mix of each type so you can target enemies regardless of range. As you progress, you’ll also earn additional armor, which is crucial for survival.
Each level starts off simple enough, but in every single stage, I hit a point where I was overwhelmed, the Icarus was on fire, and I was running around making repairs while the enemy forces became too plentiful for me to combat. It simply wasn’t fun to survive every level just barely. Worse, you can fall off the Icarus. Given the clunky movement controls, this happened more than once, costing me valuable time to make repairs. Worse, if you begin making repairs and move away before they are 100% complete, you lose all progress. Too many times, with multiple parts of the ship reaching critical damage levels, I moved out of range just before the meter turned green, negating the time I had invested in making the repairs.
Movement is handled with keyboard WASD keys and the mouse for looking. As you approach a gun or repair point, you click the left button to take control or initiate repairs. When on the gun, the left mouse button is used to fire. To exit the gun view, simply move away.
The goal of the game is to reach the “Into the Breach” survival mode. Once you reach that point, your available guns and armor are locked. You cannot go back to other routes. Your only option is to start a new campaign. Thankfully, you can reach “Into the Breach” in about an hour. The idea is to explore new paths and earn different sets of rewards. The map reminds me of Star Fox. There are branching paths with legs marked with different difficulty levels.
You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the story. There really isn’t one. After you choose a path, there is a postcard-style image shown with text. If there is something deeper than “shoot the pirates and reach your destination,” I didn’t find it.
The graphics and sounds are bland. On the highest visual settings, I often found myself staring a monotone clear sky. The fire and smoke effects are unimpressive and lack any sort of transparency. This becomes problematic if one of your engines is on fire and you are using the rear gun. You simply won’t be able to see through the fire and smoke, even a little, to target the attacking forces. The night levels are simply unfair. You just can’t see anything. Your best hope is to fire blindly and hope you ignite an enemy’s engine to light part of the sky.
There is a multiplayer mode, which seems like it would be a more enjoyable way to experience the game. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to get into a game to test it. Having people man guns while others repair makes much more sense than a lone individual piloting and defending a ship.
The core concept of Guns of Icarus is sound. The execution is lacking in nearly every aspect.
Review copy provided by publisher.