Guns of Icarus Alliance: PS4 Edition Review: 99 Dead Balloons

Dust off your brass monocles and tophats and get ready to take to the stratosphere in this steampunk-inspired dirigible-fueled FPS.


The story of Icarus is one of the more well-known tales from Greek mythology. It’s sort of a long story, but the gist of it is a guy makes wings out of wax and feathers so he and his son, Icarus can escape from prison. But Icarus flies too close to the sun and his wings melt. While the message of over-ambitiousness is a bit heavy-handed, I feel it’s an appropriate metaphor for Guns of Icarus Alliance, a game that seems to have a lot of potential, but may have jumped the gun in a few ways.

Dread Zeppelins

As far as MMO’s are concerned Guns of Icarus Alliance has a great concept behind it. In a post-apocalyptic world factions battle in the skies for territories using steampunk-style flying ships. Players can take on the role of a Pilot, Gunner, or Engineer on an airship decked out with a variety of turrets and fight for their chosen leaders in PvP deathmatches and various PvE missions. Outside of the main battles, there’s a metagame going on in the world map that allows players to contribute the gold they win in matches to fighting for control of various zones.

Before a match begins, pilot classes can select their ships and weapon layouts if they happen to have anything beyond the standard starter gear unlocked. Up to three more players can join a ship’s crew as gunmen or engineers, and if enough players can’t be found by the time the match starts the remaining crew gets filled with AI characters. Up to four ships can team up in both PvE and PvP modes in an attempt to conquer the skies and the natural resources of an area.

Combat is the real meat and potatoes of Guns of Icarus Alliance, and at first, it’s all rather enjoyable to take in, but that luster fades quickly into a monotonous routine. Piloting isn’t hard to wrap your head around, but it’s also the most mundane position in the game. Steering the airships is like controlling a tortoise that’s been strapped to some balloons. While captains can issue a menu of orders to the crew, there’s really not much need for it if there are no AI players, since most of the time it’s fairly obvious where players should be focusing their attention.

Since gunners and engineers can both man turrets I had a hard seeing the point in having a class separation between the two at all. Yes, gunners get more special, but the tools that the engineers carry seemed to come in much handier overall. Plus, engineers can carry one type of special as well, and both classes can carry one of the captain’s special moves as well. This means that the only real difference between classes is how many skills from a specific group one of them can carry.

But it’s not like either position is terribly enthralling. Turrets tend to have very limited range of motion and since gunners have no say in how a ship is tricked out, it can leave one side of a ship more vulnerable or if it doesn’t have a mix of weapons that destroy enemy armor and cause heavy damage once that armor is gone it can be a pain to take out enemy airships and other targets.

As for engineers, they probably have the most repetitious and dull task of them all. This class spends most of its time running around the ship banging its various components with mallets and wrenches to repair damaged hulls, engines, turrets, and the ship’s health, plus putting out fires as they occur. Jumping around the ship, trying to keep things running for aggressive captains and not really participating in the combat gets old extremely quick. It doesn’t help that the sound effects of tools clanking on metal loses its headache-inducing charm even more rapidly.

Flying The Not-So-Friendly Skies

While there are several PvE types of matches that include defending player bases, attacking AI drill sites or outposts, or taking on waves of opponents in a survival mode, everything boils down to flying around and fighting other ships. While the missions seem interesting the first time around, they quickly lose their luster and become part of the “lather, rinse, repeat” process that seems to permeate nearly every aspect of Guns of Icarus Alliance. It doesn’t help that PvP matches are limited to just team deathmatch rounds.

Visually, Guns of Icarus Alliance is stuck in the past with last-gen consoles, which makes sense given the fact that this essentially a port of an older PC title. It’s color palette and character design both remind me of the Fable series, Fable 3 in particular with it’s darker colors, only with a little more vibrancy. I’m not much for the lanky, vampiric looking character models either, but I do have to give them credit for having some amusing and creative outfits available even for new players. There are probably a lot of people that will appreciate the art style though, if not purely for its steampunk aesthetic.

Every other feature in the game is sort of a mixed bag. It’s impressive that they found a rather unobtrusive way for PS4 players to communicate with PC players, and cross-platform compatibility is always welcome. But when you put up the nice little features here and there up against the big picture things don’t look as great. At some point, the various in-game factions even become pointless since players have to level up with each and every one of them in order to unlock all the content.

If Guns of Icarus Alliance was a F2P title, I would almost encourage folks who are into the steampunk lifestyle to check it out, but it’s hard to justify a price point for a game that feels so repetitive in its gameplay style and outdated in the looks department. There just needs to be more below the surface to keep a game like Guns of Icarus Alliance engaging. For now, though, it's another example of a game with a great idea that flew too close to the sun.

This review is based on the PS4 release. The game key was provided by the publisher. Guns of Icarus Alliance was made available for PS4 on May 1, for $14.99.

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Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

  • Clever Concept
  • PS4 & PC Cross Chat
  • Some will dig the Steampunk Style
  • Repetitious gameplay
  • Mundane classes
  • Annoying clanky sound effects
  • Last-gen Graphics
  • Lack of variety to PvP Match Types
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