To slightly misquote Wordsworth: "We wandered lonely as a cloud. That floats on high o'er vales and hills. When all at once I saw a crowd – and unleashed furious destruction upon them from our steampunk airship."
Guns of Icarus Alliance hits the PlayStation 4, providing seriously frantic player-vs-player or player-vs-environment steampunk airship combat. This is a game where you don’t crew your ship alone, but rather must work with either other players or an AI team to fight an ongoing war between six elite factions vying for control of the skies.
There is much to take literally ‘on board’ as you prepare for the fight. First up you can choose your role between Pilot, Engineer, or Gunner and go through an obligatory quick tutorial. These show you the basics of how to repair your ship’s armour, engines and cargo areas, gun airborne enemies down, and what it takes to dominate the skies. This is a game where you win together or go down in flames together, and it can be a lot of fun.
In order to battle in the unfriendly skies of Guns of Icarus on PS4, you’ll need a PlayStation Plus account. However, in a nice move, Muse Games has made this cross-platform, so you'll be able to take on players on Steam.
Key to survival and victory is how quickly you are able to conduct running repairs whilst engaging enemies which include nimble fighters, massive weapon platforms, and other airships much like yours. If you try to go lone wolf and just sit on a gun emplacement, the chances are you’ll be crashing and burning very quickly. It's the team-work of rebuilding damaged components, putting out fires, putting boosts on your weapons or engines at strategic points, and of course, unleashing hot metal death on your enemies that makes this such a rush.
As you begin to get your sky feet – and have chosen one of the six factions to fight for – the options open up in terms of set up. Picking the style of airship you fancy, be it a nimble craft or a bruising broadside, deciding on how best to equip it with chain guns, rockets, air mines, and even tesla weapons. Even your character has a nice range of customisation available, as well as progression via levelling up.
The game gives you the feeling that every victory or defeat plays part of the larger campaign, and will affect the tides of fortune in the larger war. Tactical choices such as where to deploy on the world map in order to progress your faction's land grab, or to secure strategic areas, feel like they carry weight, and failure hurts. Winning, however, brings with it not just bragging rights for your team, but access to upgrades for your airship, including better weapons, hulls, and perks.
Controlling your character is easy enough and can be in first or third-person, depending your preference – we found the default first-person allowed for a more immediate reminder of which tool your holding, as in the heat of battle you don’t want to be whipping out your hammer when you need the cooling spray or wrench spanner.
One nice touch is that the AI enemies learn your habits, so if you find and stick with a crew of pals online, you will need to adapt your strategy over time and give some real thought as to how you approach the various game types.
Voice chat, which works across both platforms, is the best way to keep your human crew up to date on what needs doing and what you’re up to so you don’t all rush to the same damaged area to repair while an enemy rips you apart, laughing at your lack of return fire.
Graphically everything looks good, with a Fortnite-esque feel to it and decent draw distance as you fly through various mission maps, marvelling at the sheer canyons and sun sets – or setting course for a suspicious cloud bank that might be harbouring enemy forces.
With the game supporting up to 32 players across eight airships in any given game, Guns of Icarus Alliance has the potential to become something of an obsession. The need to work together in order to win makes every game fresh, although picking up a noob on your randomly assigned team can seriously hamper your chances. There is the option to set private games, so you can plan loadouts with pals before taking to the unfriendly skies.
Guns of Icarus Alliance is a bold new addition to the PlayStation multiplayer roster. If you're in the mood to invest some time in becoming the best of the best as a team, there is much airborne fun to be had on board your shiny steampunk airship.