Game Review: Guns of Icarus
Release: May 12, 2010
Developer: Muse Games
Available Platforms: PC
Players: 1 (Up to 4 Online)
ESRB Rating: N/A
When I was younger I didn’t have any game consoles or a good computer. I had a Gameboy Color and an aging PC passed down from my father. Gaming for me did not involve drifting through the tracks of Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64, or running down a stream of Elvis impersonators in GTA on the PlayStation. Instead I was digging through the bargain bins at stores like KB Toys and Ross (yes Ross used to sell video games). This upbringing has left me with a fondness for goofy and low rent games and an appreciation for core fun game play mechanics despite a otherwise flawed execution. After playing Guns of Icarus I could see myself as a child, rummaging through the bins of budget software that almost stretched above my head.
Part inventory management, part defense game, Guns of Icarus has you playing as the pilot of an airship named The Icarus. You are tasked with manning different guns on your ship to protect it and your cargo from succumbing to the relentless attacks of pirates. You also have to balance between shooting and repairing as your ship will take damage to various systems and crash if left unattended. At the end of each level you are awarded new guns based on how much cargo you saved, and get better equipment if you play harder levels. You manage what guns you place on your ship and where you place them before each level.
The game lets you select what levels you want to play by choosing routes on a map, if you choose the upper routes each level will get progressively harder, the lower routes easier, and the game lets you adjust your path after every mission so you can change the difficulty as you play. Each level has your ship flying in a straight line to get from city to city, with an ever increasing length in-between them. It doesn’t matter what path you take, the game has 18 different levels but they are all just a variation of one. While the spawn patterns of the enemies change and the backgrounds vary between a couple themes, they are essentially identical in terms of gameplay. One level actually had a unique twist, starting your ship out with destroyed engines, which makes you move much slower. I got slightly excited and expected I would have to choose between gunning down the first wave of enemies or repairing my ship to get away faster, but I was able to repair both engines and then stand around on deck for a while before I could even see the first silhouette of an enemy in the distance.
The ability to choose your path seemed unique at first but levels ended up being either impossibly hard or completely void of challenge. I was able to complete the hardest levels with the highest ranking till all of a sudden I wasn’t able to even make it half way through without dying completely despite having the best possible weapons. Once you get to the harder levels the enemy airships are able to destroy every part of your ship in a few seconds, and by the time you repair the last piece they have already destroyed the first one again. If you take all the lower routes the game can last as little as 25 minutes, and as much as an hour if you take all the upper routes.
This is the most bare bones retail game I have ever played. There are maybe a dozen total textures and animations. The singleplayer campaign is devoid of variation or unique content and the game never develops. There is no established story or setting, and your character doesn’t even have a name. Guns of Icarus reminds me of the late 90s, a time when a deluge of budget titles were made for the PC. Guns of Icarus doesn’t have fancy graphics, an original soundtrack (in fact it has one track that features the repetitive clanging of bells), or an immersive story. It has one hook, one single concept stretched out to an entire game. However that one concept does have something to it.
Sitting behind the barrel of a cannon or machine gun as you blast away at enemy ships, and having to run between gun stations and scale the decks to fix your ship is fun despite its shallowness. It does one thing, at the blatant exclusion of everything else. After playing this game I was amazed at how lacking the game was, but at the same time I wanted to play more but was frustrated with the poorly designed single player.
I noticed that the game had a multiplayer option and jumped into that hoping to find a bit more depth with other players. Unfortunately the game stopped receiving updates quite a while ago and has since lost its entire player base. I was able to coordinate a game with a Steam member after browsing the forums for a bit and we even found a random third player. However every other time I looked there was no one playing at all, and its 99% likely that will be your experience when you go online.
The addition of other players did make the game more fun and helped to counterbalance some of the games flaws, by allowing people to man the guns while others repaired. But the multiplayer is just as bare bones as the rest of the game. Not only can you not see the names of the other players in game, you cannot type or talk to them, making it impossible to coordinate any sort of teamwork.
If the game had a little more depth anywhere it could be something more. You are always delivering vague “cargo” from one place to another, but you are awarded for completing only basic goals such as protecting 40 or 80% of this cargo, instead of having a more complicated economy where you could actually buy and sell things and purchase or save for weapons. If a damage system had been implemented to allow you to shoot off the wings or engines of the enemies there could be more room to enhance your skill in combat, but it’s nothing more than a simple hitpoint set up. The only thing this game does have is some charm as a unintentional tribute to the simplicity of the budget brand; and it’s a reminder that the PC platform is unique for its ability to let anyone create, no matter how small. Sure Guns of Icarus isn’t the best game, hell its not even a good game, but it is something I am glad I’ve played. The developer, Muse Games, is working on a sequel which hopefully will expand much more on the concept they created here – and result in a game that’s more modern and substantial.
– The most basic game imaginable
– No Online community
+ Intrinsic, unexplainable fun in its base concept
5 out of 10