Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with the Guns of Icarus development team and test out the upcoming Alliance content patch. Although the initial focus of the game was cooperative PvP, the Alliance DLC will incorporate a PvE metagame. Starting on August 1, all owners of Guns of Icarus will be allowed to test the Alliance game modes in the Open Alpha, which will conclude on August 8. Anyone who pre-orders the DLC, which is available for $14.99 on Steam, will also receive an exclusive badge.
A Brief Overview
For those unfamiliar with Guns of Icarus, it’s a co-operative, steampunk airship combat game with RPG mechanics. Players can assume the role as the pilot, mechanic, or gunner aboard an airship crew. No one is required to constantly play the same role, but the more experience you gain the more skills are unlocked for each class.
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These crew mechanics are what make Guns of Icarus truly unique, and who doesn’t want to pilot a steampunk airship? Being able to captain your very own ship and have your friends manning the guns is a completely different experience than doing everything yourself. This type of gameplay is what players have been asking for with other titles for a very long time. Piloting a Starfighter solo is one thing, but heading out in that capital starship with an entire crew of living players is the dream for many individuals.
Furthermore, in Guns of Icarus your avatar can actually walk around the ship has to physically take control of the various guns or repair damaged components. Your character doesn’t come equipped with any weapons, attacking is reserved to the ship-mounted weapons, but it will have a set of skills unique to its class. Every class can technically do the job of the others, but they’re going to be less efficient at it, and the long reload time for the mounted guns promotes players to work together and constantly switch battle stations.
Until Alliance is introduced, however, Guns of Icarus is completely PvP oriented with a number of different game modes ranging from Deathmatch to King of the Hill. The thing is, not everyone wants to blast other players out of the sky, and the ability to work together with a common goal in mind has its own set of rewards. With the introduction of Guns of Icarus: Alliance, the multiplayer game will come full circle and include something for just about everyone.
The baseline for Alliance is to include a number of PvE game modes. Currently, there are four different game modes with a total of seven unique maps. I had a chance to test each of the available game modes, and they’re all well-designed conceptually. Of course there are still some bugs to work out, but that’s the point of an Alpha test. Each one feels completely unique from the others and an A.I. “Director” controls what happens during each mission.
This means that you can play the exact same scenario, on the same location, multiple times in a row but the experience will be different. Maybe the first time will be a walk in the part, but the second playthrough an untimely boss spawn could turn the tide last minute. It’s not exactly procedural generation, but the variety in the spawns will keep things fresh for the most part.
The first new game mode involves assigning one ship in your fleet VIP status. It’s the job of everyone else to protect the VIP while your team goes around extracting resources from specific points on the map. While the other ships can be destroyed unlimited amount of times, if the VIP gets blown up once then you’ve failed the mission. This definitely seemed to be the most difficult game mode because a single slip up means doom. Moreover, once you’ve secured items from the three objective points, you still need to escort the VIP safely to the extraction point.
Our second playthrough was relatively straight forward: destroy the enemy outposts. Instead of having a VIP in this mode, the fleet has a certain number of respawns available. I can definitely see this one inducing a bit of team rage if one ship constantly dies over and over. Despite the straight-forward objectives, apparently there is a lot of strategy that can be utilized here. If enemy ships stay alive for too long near a base, they’ll call for reinforcements, which means that on higher difficulties stealth and coordination will play a key role to succeeding.
The last two game modes I tried out definitely seemed to be the most unique and involved more than simply going from point A to point B while killing everything in-between. Base defense offered a multi-faceted experience and really pushed the idea of teamwork. In order to succeed, your team needs to simultaneously fend off waves of enemy planes, destroy drill objectives and retrieve enemy cargo to repair base damage. There’s a lot going on, which means that roles need to be delegated properly or certain objectives prioritized. Thankfully, players can die unlimited times, so that relieves some of the stress, but it’s very easy to tunnel vision on what’s going on right in front of you.
Finally, the last game mode involves chasing down enemy airships that have captured your resources. Not only do you need to chase down your stolen cargo, but there are also friendly refineries that need to be defended. This makes the game mode a race against time because the cargo needs to be retrieved before your final refinery is destroyed.
Additionally, there are two more game mode concepts currently in development: Survival and Ambush. These are relatively standard concepts that we’ve seen in other games before. Survival will have players move to certain objectives and then withstanding an enemy onslaught. Ambush will involve multiple enemy convoys that need to be destroyed before reaching their destinations.
A World of Strategy
Including PvE modes in itself is a great step forward for Guns of Icarus Online, but the faction system is going to create a living world. When players login for the first time, they’ll be asked to join one of the four factions: the crafty Mercantile Guild, sagacious Order of Chaladon, honorable Fjord Baronies, or devious Anglean Republic. With strategy, you can try aces game.
Once a part of a faction, players can interact with the world map and deploy to certain locations, which will affect the next mission. As they play through missions, Alliance currency will be earned that can be used to fortify faction-controlled regions on the map. This creates a virtual Risk board where players can make an impact both in and out of the game. Territory will shift based on player contributions, which will lead to player-driven changes throughout the game’s history.
New Ships and Guns
An update just wouldn’t be complete without a bunch of shiny new toys. Along with the PvE content, Guns of Icarus: Alliance will add four new faction ships: Anglean Corsair, Chaladonian Shrike, Baronite Crusader, and Mercantile Magnate. And new ships also need new guns in the form of the Charybdis Gas Mortar, Heyoka Guided Missiles, Aten Lens Array, and Februus Weaponized Coil.
From what I was able to get my hands on, Guns of Icarus: Alliance is an essential addition that expands the cooperative enjoyment of the game. A more diverse arsenal of ships and weapons increases the depth while the PvE and world map scenarios will give players more options than simply PvP. If you’re interested in giving Alliance a test drive, the Open Alpha will be available for all current players next week.