Muse Games’ Guns of Icarus Online has been receiving a fair amount of attention of late with the indie developer keen to introduce the innovative airship based gameplay to an eager audience through a series of closed beta testing phases. Electronic Theatre was given the opportunity to jump aboard, picking up our hammer and proving our worth as the latest crew member.
Three roles are available on each airship, with a full crew consisting of four players. Each airship needs a Captain, but only one, and the crewmates can choose between the Engineer and the Gunner classes. Just as with most class based videogames, every class can do the majority of essential actions, but it’s the specialities that make the choice for you. And of course, your ability to customise the classes is that which makes you willing to experiment.
Each character class comes with five skill sets; three from their own class and one from each of the other two. Not all of the skills are currently finalised, with some still being built, but from Electronic Theatre’s time with the videogame it was easy to see the direction Muse Games are heading in. Skills offer a specialisation in areas of the gameplay that your character will only be average in otherwise, but each does come with both this unique advantage as well as disadvantages. The selection of skills is a finely tuned double-edged sword, and one which will take some careful balancing from the development team to perfect. New skills can be unlocked by achievements in-game, further inviting the player to experiment with the options available to find their perfect custom class.
Once aboard your vessel the action takes place from a first-person perspective. Players move about their airships manning guns, repairing areas or taking the helm and controlling the direction and speed of travel. In order to make the most of the opportunities available players must work together to establish a plan of attacks; do you take advantage of a blind attack on a distant foe, or come around for a high-powered flanking assault and risk being spotted? Your strategy won’t just depend on your team, but also the airship you pilot and the weapons mounted upon it.
The build of Guns of Icarus Online that Electronic Theatre experienced featured four different airships (with more being added at a later date a distinct possibility) with the captain choosing the right one for his team. Airships range in turning speed and have very different layouts, with the choice therefore having a significant effect on the way the videogame plays. Airships are customisable in the same manner as characters, with different types and amounts of guns mountable on each; airships have different amounts of slots for weapons, and weapons can take different amounts of ammo.
Taking the airships into combat is a surprisingly swift mechanic. Prior to playing Guns of Icarus Online it could be believed that the videogame would play more like a flight combat title than a first-person shooter, but this is not the case. Guns of Icarus Online plays more similarly to a tactical multiplayer combat videogame than one which revolves around air vehicles, and thankfully so: it’s a refreshing take on a hugely popular formula.
The gameplay modes presently available include your typical deathmatch and king of the hill types, as well as the unique resource capture gameplay. Muse Games intend to add a free-for-all deathmatch map as well as co-operative player vs. enemy (PvE) gameplay mode. Night based maps are also one the way, which will of course add new measures to any tactical gameplay, as well as the potential for an ‘adventure mode.’ When speaking to Muse Games it was confirmed that there was already discussion on the matter, and should the videogame perform ‘moderately well’ it could be added after launch, but at present it was an uncertainty. As were the bigger ships currently being referred to as ‘behemoths,’ which are intended to offer capacity double that of any other ship, but obviously paying the price when it comes to speed and manoeuvrability.
There’s clearly a lot of potential ingrained into the base product of Guns of Icarus Online, ready to be added in modular updates in just the same way that each of the beta testing phases thus far has seen new components become part of the standard fit each time. There’s no denying that Guns of Icarus Online was a bug ridden experience when Electronic Theatre played, but this early on in development that’s to be expected; what is unusual however, is that even at this stage Muse Games could simply patch a few holes and prettify the packaging and they would have a saleable product on their hands. Exactly where the team will take Guns of Icarus Online before it’s autumn release is arguably the most enticing aspect of this innovative airship combat videogame.