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Game Info:

Guns of Icarus: Alliance
Developed By: Muse Games
Published By: Muse Games
Released: March 31, 2017
Available On: Windows, Mac, and Linux
Genre: Action, Adventure, Simulation, Co-op
ESRB Rating: None
Number of Players: Online Multiplayer (2-16)
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Muse Games for sending us your game!

Forming a functional team is equal parts joy and curse, and in this age of suspicion and disconnect, the process is more complex than ever. Clashing egos, poor communication, differing interests: the world seems geared specifically to squelch relationships. It’s a good thing then that several games try to break down these barriers. Some meet this noble goal with unprecedented success. Some barely scrape the mark, but now Guns of Icarus: Alliance, the upgraded version of its original, flies in from the offices of Muse Games. You and your crew must coordinate if you expect to send your rivals packing.

Guns of Icarus: Alliance’s story builds upon ‘what if.’ What if our planet prospered thanks to a grand industrial movement? Then what if cultural collapse followed? You see, this land relied on steam power, but the overused fumes fouled the ecosystem. With clean air, water, and food supplies dwindling, it’s no surprise the nations would fight. Whether to keep what they have, for power to control their neighbors, or to protect what greenery remains, factions like the Fjord Baronies, the Mercantile Guild, and the Chaldean Order each believe in their cause. On the humming backs of their armed airships, they escape their spoiled earth. Thus, quarrels have flown to the skies. That’s where you come in. Whose side are you on? What will you fight for?

This is a great premise. It’s as easy to grasp as it is fascinating and lays a nice foundation for a world that’s ever evolving. Mapped territory lines change according to the players’ victories and defeats. Plus, the development staff continues to update and increase their content by adding new ship types, new customization options, and increasing the number of factions from four to six. They even wrote in depth descriptions for each group to help inform your choice. Now, the story does lack actual plot. You get a beginning without a closing, but that’s ideal for games aimed for an endless feel. However, I felt an emotional disconnect. Despite six factions to join, who I picked determined little. Each faction just has one or two outfits, ships, and guns exclusive to them. You can help your team’s territory increase, but it’s not like you can actually explore the world your affecting. There is also a special log that acts like a history book that records the winnings from topnotch players. It’s certainly nicer than sitting high on a scoreboard. Unfortunately, unless said flying ace is a friend, it would likely matter little to the average Joe, and that’s as close a narrative as you’re going to get. The developer’s efforts on the backstory are unmistakable. Guns of Icarus did plenty to get me aloft, but if it just let me anchor myself long enough to get attached to its people or something, I’d probably feel less aimless.

Guns of Icarus Alliance
Highlights:

Strong Points: Interesting Concept, Good Co-op, Fun Ship Designs
Weak Points: Unforgiving Learning Curve, Disengaged Story
Moral Warnings: A couple un-choice words; Moonshine use as fuel; Risk encountering crude players

After picking your team, you then can decide how to contribute. There are four roles every airship needs: Gunners to chug out the bullets, Engineers to keep the tub floating, and pilots to steer the whole kit and caboodle. However, it’s best to orient yourself in every field. Being an engineer doesn’t mean you can’t shoot, and gunners are encouraged to pitch in with the fixing if they can. Just understand that your tools and skill sets will suit your role far better than another’s. Meaning, unless it's urgent, it’s best to leave certain tasks to the experts. It’s as much a realistic concept as it is smart and encourages player flexibility. The fourth and most important job, though, more often than not, lies with the pilot. Pilots captain their ships most of the time, and as captain they must coordinate their crew for strategic advantage. ‘Repair the engines!’ ‘Man the port guns!’ ‘Cease fire!’ You know - keep everyone in on the plan. Captains are also responsible for equipping their ships and hiring recruits. This can be done selectively or randomly, or you can resort to AI crewmen. They are equal parts obedient and brainless, but they’ll do the trick.

Now, before I get into gameplay, it’s important that I discuss presentation. Why? Customization plays a heavy part in your experience. Your avatar, your ship, your loadout, your battlegrounds: nearly everything is decided by the gamer. Thus, it’s important for Guns of Icarus to not only have a diverse lineup but a good-looking line up. In this reviewer’s opinion, they did a decent job. Unfortunately, you don’t have much to decorate your character with when you first start. You’re not allowed to mix and match what few clothing sets you’re given, and there were no varying hairstyle options. (Three hats don’t count, developers.) However, there’s no need to despair. Most attire, hairdos, and color dyes are unlockable. Of course, you can buy some items if you’ve got some spare change, so there’s that too.

The game’s aesthetics are nice. The landscapes beneath you range from lush, mountain villages to clouded peaks dressed in twilight fog. Fun battle music kicks in once the action starts, and dark thunderstorms invade the skies, whenever a warmonger arrives to knock you down. It adds decent tension and works well, but it’s the artists’ steampunk style that sells this game’s visuals. The ships in particular look both cool and functional. Like if someone had the money and knowhow, it’s conceivable to build one of these things. For a bonus, each type of floating fortress is easy to tell apart. It’s a good thing too, since each kind of hull has its fair share of pros and cons to consider. Even your cannon options have stats and just as intense detail as your craft does, so don’t just ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the sails and shiny brass. Check out all gun and ship combinations that fit your play style. Guns of Icarus may not be stunning, but its diverse design work definitely scores a win.

Matches are structured in one of three modes that have modes within modes. These are player versus player; player versus environment; and wars. Whether you play against other people or computer AI is what distinguishes the first two. You can join or create a match. Creating matches involves selecting difficulty levels and choosing an objective, such as search and destroy, defense, infiltration, intercept, or assault. There can be anywhere between two to sixteen players in a match. Wars on the other hand are a continuous affair that can last a good while. You first get your faction to agree on a mapped place of interest. Once you lay claim on enemy territory, war is declared, and the other factions will ally with or against you. Battle after battle will determine the winners, and what results are recorded in the game’s annals. Now, it’s a no-brainer that the first two modes are basic bread and biscuits, but the idea behind war mode is pretty neat. The ‘story’ is written by the players themselves. On the downside, there aren’t any characters you can familiarize with, but for what it is, it’s a very unique approach. So unique, I hope future developers look into it. It sounds like a gateway to a whole cornucopia of new possibilities.

Guns of Icarus Alliance
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 76%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 5/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Control wise, everyone’s role runs in a similar format. You move around with the W,D,A and S keys, use the spacebar to jump, and ‘shift’ to boost your stamina. Your mouse is your camera. Left and right click will perform actions and the scroll toggles your tool selection. As an alternative, you can choose your tool using the numbered keys instead. Lastly, the ‘E’ key lets you interact with the artillery or helm. For the most part, inputs are responsive, and the control scheme is fine. However, selecting my tool with an irritatingly sensitive scroller often had me overshooting my intended choice, and the alternative numbered keys are awkward to hit. However, communication is where it got ridiculous. There’s a whole catalogue of key inputs for talking with others. Problem is, whenever you’re under fire, you can’t just let your character sit there. There are enemies to blast. Fires to put out. Rock walls to avoid. You’d have to let yourself stand useless while you struggle to tell your team the game plan. Easiest way to interact is through a microphone. Unfortunately, you have to hold down ‘C’ or ‘X’ in order to speak to anyone. It’s awkward for your fingers, and it’s super dumb, especially as a pilot! I’ve got one hand controlling the camera. My other hand is busy steering. Why then should I have to hold down another key just to issue orders? If my mic were constantly active, my fingers wouldn’t have to play twister, and my responses wouldn’t run the risk of not being heard. Communication is vital for co-op survival. It should not be this difficult.

Results will vary from person to person, but in my experience, being a gunner is where it’s at. If you’re the type that prefers clear goals and direct action, you’d probably agree. The ship’s guns are picked by its captain, but you choose your ammo. Each cannon and bullet choice have their specialties, whether it’s for tearing hulls, destroying engines, or the like. I wished those guns had full range of motion though. Sometimes, I’d be lining up a shot, but then my target flies too high or my ship keeps rotating the wrong way. It can be annoying, but in my opinion, the engineers get the worst end of the stick. They have to know the structure of every ship type by heart. Everything tends to break at the same time, so it doesn’t help to run like mad in random directions. Engineers can temporarily buff up the ship by adding flame retardants or upgrades. However, when you’re just one person on an airship in a war zone, fixing everything is an endless task - especially if you struggle with prioritizing. As for piloting, it is a fair challenge. These iron birds kinda drift, so steering one is great if you can predict where you’ll end up ahead of time. Some maneuvers are very tricky and require some practice. In fact, just about everything must be practiced, but getting said practice in is near impossible.

This leads to my biggest complaint. Guns of Icarus has the meanest learning curve I ever experienced. To elaborate: my whole ship burst into flames; I, the engineer, have seconds to put them all out, and I hardly reached the second smoking equipment before I failed the tutorial. You heard me - the tutorial! And it happened - twice! Directions are rambled in chunks too fast for players to comprehend. Doing anything while they’re talking risks skipping instructions that aren’t repeated. Then you’re ordered to perform snappy quick. You know what that’s like? It’s like your skydiving teacher summarizing parachute instructions as he shoves you out the plane door! In fact, the whole game is a newbie nightmare. Menu options go unexplained. Gameplay modes are given little detail. Even the online manuals say little if nothing on these matters. Seriously, I underwent heavy research and trial and error just to figure most of this stuff out. I couldn’t even test all the ship types. That’s because practice mode won’t work without an online buddy. Most everyone playing nowadays has been playing this game for a while, so it’s rare to find anyone willing to help a freshman. Thank the Lord a few considerate gamers sacrificed their time to help me out, but it shouldn’t be this way. It’s unfair to newcomers. It’s unfair for veterans. It’s unreasonable.

Amidst the bangs and booms, Guns of Icarus: Alliance, I am happy to say, does play it pretty safe. The game itself limits its violence to explosions. Neither blood, charred remains, nor body parts are involved, and pilots can use moonshine not for drinking but for pumping extra juice into the tank. From what clothing options I found, I didn’t see anything inappropriate, but I did read about some buyable items that support LGBT charities. I heard not much else beside one use of h*ll and a*se. I guess if I were grasping at straws, I’d note that some of the factions’ backstories are less honorable than others, but that’s almost inconsequential to the game itself. Guns of Icarus comes off as pretty upright. However, there is one crucial factor no developer can control: the human factor. Some of my fellow gamers used a few *ahem* uncomfortably ‘colorful’ words during my playthrough. There is a language filter in the settings menu, but I don’t remember it being very effective against the cussing. Well, let’s put it into perspective. If you buy games hinged on working with people, you play at your own risk.

Guns of Icarus: Alliance is the ultimate test in patience. Gunners must wait for their shot, Engineers can’t fix every breakdown at once, and piloting Captains have to be lenient both to his ship and his crew. Potential players, don’t buy this game unless you intend to stick with it. You have to be willing to fail in order to learn its paces. Although, in retrospect, if you’ve read this review, at least you’re better prepared to navigate this thing than I was, so guess what? You’ve already won half the battle. The loose story may not be to everyone’s tastes, but its premise is imaginative and offers as much as it should. The gameplay is fun when backed by a good crew. Plus, those steampunk designs are topnotch. As I observed, dealing with other people is challenging. It’s easy to irritate each other, and we can sometimes be downright rude. However, when loyal players have your back, this game can offer experiences not to be forgotten. Just don’t forget: When playing with guns or people, always handle with care.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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