Top hats, steam-powered gadgetry, airships, and clockwork. Steampunk is pretty popular with modern storytelling. From Sherlock Holmes to Batman, stories have been told in this rich setting for a long time now. Guns of Icarus Online is a new form of the old trope, now joined with the soon to be minted Guns of Icarus: Alliance.
Previously, Guns of Icarus Online was a love letter to the genre, setting you on a balloon airship, taking on opposing airships. For those not versed in steam-powered lore, an airship is like a zeppelin mixed with a pirate ship, complete with guns and cannons. This series sets players as a crewmember on board one of these flying monstrosities. The player takes on one of three roles: Pilot, Gunner, or Engineer. Pilots are at the helm, steering the ship in and out of danger, maneuvering around structures and mountains, while trying to help avoid opposing gunfire. Gunners take hold of all of the guns on board the ship, tactically choosing to shoot from one cannon or another machine gun, while having to fix small fires and mechanical issues with them. Engineers are there to solve engine trouble and put out fires to keep everyone in the sky. In the original game, the multiplayer modes pitted players against each other in epic battles. This time, the game takes on new life.
Guns of Icarus: Alliance takes a whole new turn from the original’s formula, making the game almost entirely new and improved. Instead of just utilizing Player vs. Player combat, Alliance gives more options to team-up settings. I spoke with Matthew Hartman, community manager for Muse Games, at PAX East 2017 about the matter:
“The biggest change right off the bat is co-op! It’s no longer just the little death matches. You’re now fighting against an armada hoard controlled by an AI Director, who is sending planes, ships, giant bosses against you in different ways every time you play as you try to complete different objectives. Sometimes you’re defending a base, sometimes you’re wiping out structures, sometimes you’re chasing a convoy. Sometimes, you’re setting an ambush. All these things are feeding into the game and it plays differently every single time.”
Hartman also went on to explain the differences in graphics between games.
“If you look at Guns of Icarus Online, and then look at a screenshot of Guns of Icarus Alliance, they’re not the same game in a lot of ways. We got to upgrade our Unity engine, which our teams geeked out about, because they had so many more options for lighting, for particle effects. And they’ve taken full advantage of that in Alliance, while our design team could take full advantage of fighting AI. We’re going to create Black Hole Guns, Corrosive Gas Clouds, Bouncing Tesla Monstrosities. Things that if you were running PVP, people would be like ‘This isn’t fun! I just got shot by Black Holes!’.”
I played Alliance during my time at the Muse Games PAX East Booth; we played a round of the new team-up mode, running an airship with Howard Tsao (Team Lead, Muse Games), Matthew (Community manager, Muse Games), and an AI forth character, along with 4 players running their own airship on our team.
Immediately, I noticed more options in the main menu, streamlining the experience. Different quick presets and options made the drop in and out much simpler. With the addition of 36 new costumes total, 18 new hats, and the ability to dye new parts of clothing, I had a lot to do in a short amount of time before our match started. I quickly customized my character and chose to be a Gunner, taking gun-mount on our Spire ship (which is a taller style ship that I’ve used before in the normal game).
I was told to keep my fire on the incoming airships and about the different types of guns to try on that side of the ship. We took down a stronger boss on our own while trying to maintain the objectives and missions. In the end, we lost due to the enemies over-running our base. The experience was extremely exhilarating despite our loss.
The developers came off as super approachable and they seem to thoroughly enjoy playing their own game just as much as their community. They really love their community and they showed it while we talked, explaining how they love playing with fans as much as they do each other. After the match, they informed me that Guns of Icarus Alliance will be out on Steam PC, Mac, and Linux on March 31st, 2017. When asked about other systems the game may come to, Matthew explained that Sony reached out to them, specifically, and they’re currently working on a Playstation 4 version. “Hopefully, there will be something to announce very soon.”
Personally, I’m excited to get back into the newly minted game and get some friends to play with me. This new title is definitely better if you have people you can yell at, instead of faceless allies. You wouldn’t think it based on the more deliberate ship flying premise, but this is the kind of game you can sink many hours into and still have your heart beating out of your chest at the end of every match.
Pre-orders for Guns of Icarus Alliance are already available on Steam.