Players looking for teamwork-based combat will find Guns of Icarus Alliance an interesting play, albeit a bit confusing at times.
Gameplay Video + Commentary
Type: Single-player, Coop, Multi-player
Genre: Steampunk, Action
Developer: Muse Games
Publisher: Muse Games
Release date: 31 March, 2017
What’s it about?
Guns Of Icarus: Alliance is a follow-up to the 2012-game Guns of Icarus: Online, being planned initially as a DLC but later on released as a standalone game. GoI: Alliance promises team-based online fights in a steampunk world ravaged by the Industrial Revolution, where machinery scorched the land, poisoned the water and almost destroyed humanity. Humanity is known for its resilience, and of course, did not fall that easily. The surviving societies found a way to continue trade, exploration and war — the skies. Unfortunately for those still alive, resources have become scarce and everyone has different points of view on how the world should be from now on. The cultural shock after multiple years of isolation and the scarcity of resources have led to a war between the four major nations.
Such a setting is probably not anything new to those who have played 2012’s Guns of Icarus: Online and even the older Flight of the Icarus as it is the foundation of all PvP warfare in the game. While players join nations and are able to fight for territory in this persistent online campaign, with each faction striving for dominance over territory, members fight in skirmishes through the map to gain gold and a foothold of land. However, that’s not all! Faction leaders, elected by their efficiency and contribution towards the faction, can put up special faction goals and missions which help create a cohesive offensive — or defense — against the enemies, awarding participating players with special in-game items.
Alright, even though that all sounds very exciting, it is troublesome to find people to play with. In fact, during one of the recordings with our member JimDeadlock, it took about 15 minutes to find a suitable match. Of course, players looking to set up matches with multiple friends won’t have as much trouble, but even with friends, the adversary team would still need regular players. According to SteamCharts, the average player base for the last 30 days is 36.3 players, a notable loss of, approximately, 70% when compared to the previous month, with 120.9 players. The enormous loss of players and the fact that the community is divided between two game modes (PvP/PvE), makes for sparse low-population servers, where only the most dedicated players play, making it hard for new players to keep up.
What about the gameplay?
After finding a suitable match, three classes are available: Gunner, Engineer, and Captain. The gunner class is responsible for laying down firepower, keeping the enemy at bay and making sure the ship survives a firefight. Although responsible for gunnery, the gunner has access to one engineering tool for emergency repairs. Meanwhile, the Engineer is supposed to defend the ship by repairing broken machinery, hull, armor and weaponry. The engineer is the only class allowed to equip multiple tools, such as the fire extinguisher to deal with incendiary attacks. And, obviously, the Captain is responsible for keeping the ship in check by yelling orders and commands, positioning the ship efficiently in order to make the most of its weaponry, fleeing when necessary, and, just like the gunner, captains have access to one engineering tool for emergency repairs.
Even though each class has a specific job, there are no in-game restrictions to prevent captains from using weaponry themselves, engineers from piloting the ship, or gunners playing as engineers! It is important to note that, while no restrictions are in place, it is way more efficient to use the correct class due to its buffs and tools available. For example, the Captain has access to multiple buffs (speed, damage, thrust, elevation), therefore, it is better to have the actual captain piloting than a random gunner, whose buffs are gunnery specific; incendiary rounds, shrapnel rounds, heavy rounds. Another good example is leaving the engineering to actual engineers, as they have access to special tools such as fire extinguishers, mallets, wrenches, anti-fire spray… the list goes on.
With that properly explained, the actual gameplay can be described with ease. After joining a ship and waiting a couple of minutes for the captain to arrive in the combat zone, players will find it hard to identify enemy ships, as it is poorly shown and from distance, one may confuse allied ships with enemy ships. Enemy ships and allied ships are indistinguishable from a distance unless the map is used. By using the map, players can find out where all allied and known enemy ships are at, and, by comparing the position of allied ships to one’s own ship, they can guess if the ship right in front of them is an adversary or a friend. This is troublesome and takes important seconds of the Captain. Such a trouble plus confusing captain controls make for a hard experience in the skies.
By pressing the W (default) key, Captains can make the ship rise up, while pressing the S (default) key makes the ship go down. This is especially annoying as there is no clear visual indicator that the ship is currently going up or down — after pressing, it keeps going up/down indefinitely, until the opposite key is pressed — making combat more complicated for players that are not yet used to the game’s controls. This is not necessarily bad, and one can argue it’s part of the learning curve everyone experiences when playing something new.
When engaging in PvP combat, players are required to join one of the four major nations. The four major nations have their own uniforms, insignia and regalia that is made available depending on one’s rank. Among the major nations are Fjord Baronies — faithful believers of the Creed, The Order of the Chaladon, the self-proclaimed healers of the world, The Mercantile Guild, wealthy traders whose only objective is to profit, and The Anglean Republic from the icy lands of the North.
Each faction strives for dominance over territories, fighting skirmishes to protect — or takeover — strategic points. Players willing to participate and help their faction can choose to be deployed in any of the given territories. By deploying in a territory currently at war, Effort Points won through PvP matches go towards their faction’s power against the defending/attacking faction. After a certain amount of Effort Points have been gathered, the faction who gathered the most Effort Points in fair proportion (smaller factions do not require as much Effort Point as bigger ones, for balance) wins the territory, with participant belligerents being rewarded for their honorable victory. Apart from the territory itself, the winning faction receives the territory’s resources, which may be food, oil, lumber, medicine, tools, water, et cetera.
It is good to remember that even though the idea of a persistent world where player nations fight is definitely amazing, the lack of people to play does no good to the execution of the concept at hand. At the time of this writing, there are about 49 players in-game. 6 PvP servers, three are full, one in Europe and, of the two left, one is password protected… this means of 6 servers, only one is truly playable. Meanwhile, in PvE (Co-op), there are 7 servers, three password protected, two in Europe and two in the US, this means of 7 servers, only two are truly playable (better than PvP, at least.).
As faction members prepare themselves for military operations, their captains will notice the possibility of customization. Indeed, customization! Not only can players customize their very own in-game character, but ships can also be customized according to one’s preferences.
Captains can customize their pre-made ships with new painting, decals, themes, figureheads and brand new weaponry! The bad part of the ship customization is that micro-transactions are required in order to customize a ship to one’s liking. For example, the Octopus figurehead is currently on sale for $4 USD, while the Royal theme is on sale for $6 USD. On the other hand, decals are much cheaper, starting at $.75. Whether this is acceptable or not for a $19.99 USD game is up to the user, but personally, I think it’s a bad move to restrict even minor customization behind paywalls. In their defense, the money goes towards free content for all and is 100% cosmetic only.
On the other hand, weaponry is made available and unlocked through level ups. A Fjord Baronies soldier can unlock the impressive Seraph Tempest Missiles for his Goldfish ship at level 4. Different weaponry features different distances, going from the very short range “Flamethrower”, to the very long range “Mercury Field Gun”, a scoped cannon.
Captains not willing to spare a coin will find the customization very lacking in terms of options, limiting themselves to customizing in-game cosmetic drops and weaponry only.
Standalone? What are the differences?
In comparison to Guns of Icarus: Online, released back in 2012, Guns of Icarus: Alliance features PvE (Co-op) mode. To be honest, there is no better explanation than that of the developer himself. Read more about this on the “To All Guns of Icarus Online Owners” Steam Forums post.
We debated over this a lot and discussed this (on) Steam, and the recommendation was to go with a full release and remove the old DLC upgrade. Content DLCs can be low on content and high on price, and it complicates purchase process for anyone new to the community. We believe in what we’re offering, and we want to avoid the impression specifically that this is a cash grab. Alliance is more than a DLC, it is its own game. Sure it is built in the shoulders of Guns of Icarus Online, but there’s no denying the amount of new content in Alliance. Not just art, or ships, but entirely new mechanics, a new way of storytelling, and just a completely different style of play from the original.
Players looking for intense teamwork based ship combat will be a bit disappointed by the current state of Guns of Icarus: Alliance. But wait! They won’t be disappointed because the game is terrible and worthless, no! The major issue is a lack of a player base, restrictive micro-transactions and confusing enemy/ally distinguishing mechanics. Hopefully, those will be patched in the future, and Guns of Icarus: Alliance will then be a worthy follow-up to the famous Guns of Icarus: Online game.
The game is worthy of a “Save for Later”, a respectful grade for a game that is not indispensable, but can provide enjoyment. If looking for a very fun teamwork-based ship combat game, I recommend checking out Blackwake first instead of GOI: Alliance.
It is wise to note that the in-game player counter says “98 players online”, while SteamCharts shows “49 players in-game”. This difference is likely to be because the counter includes both Guns of Icarus: Online players and Guns of Icarus: Alliance players.