Before I begin, let me clear a few misconceptions that are common in the negative reviews:
"♥♥♥♥ the micro-transactions in a $15 game."
The in-game store only sells cosmetic items such as costumes and ship decorations. You cannot gain an in-game advantage by paying $$$. Half of the catalog can be earned without paying real money by levelling up your classes and doing achievements.
"Long waiting times in lobby, takes forever to find/start a match"
This problem has been solved in the latest patch with the addition of an actual matchmaking system. The lobby now has a time limit.
"This game requires voice chat."
There is a voice and signal command system accessed by pressing the V key that allows you to give a variety of commands spoken by voice actors. Voice chat is no longer required, especially if you are an Engineer or Gunner as you most of the time you receive commands instead of giving them.
"New players are stomped by experienced players."
True. However there are new player-only matches that cannot be entered by experienced players. New players are automatically put into these matches, although they may opt out of them. Also, the new matchmaking system is effective in avoiding stomp matches as long as there are enough players online.
"Balanced matches are hard to find."
This problem has been solved in the latest patch with the addition of an actual matchmaking system, except when there are less than 50 players online.
It's actually quite good for Unity graphics. There is 12x AA, water reflections, real-time shadows, dynamic lighting and a post-processing filter available.
This is usually caused by unexpected bugs in new patches that are quickly fixed.
Low ping is not required to play this game since it is not a twitch shooter. I live in Hong Kong and regularly play with no issues on US servers (150ms ping) and EU servers (200ms+ ping).
"Huge rebalancing between patches."
The latest patch contains the first major buff for any weapon in months.
"Shallow game, no strategy or skill required."
This is like saying Counter-Strike is shallow and requires no strategy or skill because it is a game about shooting back at enemies on de_dust2. In fact Guns of Icarus not only has a lot of high-level strategic depth, it also gives many opportunities for players to show off and excel with their mechanical skills. Examples of high-level play include ship positioning, flanking, ship loadouts, and min/maxing of engineering efficiency and gun damage. Examples of mechanical skills include engineering parkour tricks, reactionary piloting, and using hard-to-aim or long-range guns. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xK9hOU92chE
The game's long-time competitive community (going all the way back to beta) is a testament to the depth that this game actually has.
"Lack of new gameplay content."
Mostly true only for the PvP mode. In the latest patch two new 2v2 maps have been introduced. There is plenty of new cosmetic content every patch. A co-op mode where you fight AI ships is in the works for 2015 and has already been demoed in September at PAX 2014.
"Game gets boring."
If you like the game, appreciate its strategic depth, play with the mindset of improving yourself or simply find and play with friends, you'll discover this game's longevity in the same way people have played Counter-Strike or DotA for a decade.
"The community is horrible."
This question needs to be answered in two parts: trolls and the actual community:
1) Trolls are introduced every time this game is on sale. Since they only buy the game to troll around, they leave after a week or two to troll the next multiplayer game on sale.
2) I won't deny that a sizeable portion of this community is made up of largely veterans, or that a precious few veterans can get extremely elitist, abusive and salty towards new players. However these people are quite rare and are drowned out by a mass of helpful and friendly players that are happy to help cooperative newbies.
"The game is dead (no one playing)."http://steamcharts.com/app/209080
This game can hit 500 concurrent players on weekends without sales. Weekday numbers peak at around 300. Most players play in American and European timezones.
"No Australian servers."
This is true because the "Oceania" server is actually located in Singapore (lol wtf devs) and the cost of renting servers in Australia is too much for the small indie studio that developes Guns of Icarus. However, low ping is not required to play this game, and there is a sizeable population of Australian players, including an entire clan (Sacrilege).
"No co-op/VS bots mode."
This is in the works for 2015. The co-op mode has already been demoed at PAX 2014 as recently as September. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACr0aUNSXoY
Now for the review:
What should I know before playing: This game requires a lot of teamwork. Individual skill is rarely enough to win a match. Not listening to the captain's order or recommendations, running around the ship instead of cooperating with your fellow crew and leaving your allies to die while you try and fly past the edge of the map is not fun for anyone. It will only cause your ship to die over and over again while your team loses in five minutes.
This game has a steep learning curve (except flamethrowers, lol.) While most of the game's basic knowledge can be grasped within a few matches, the intricacies of piloting, the efficiencies of engineering and the specifics of gunning will take you many deaths and many losses to get good at. Very few people have truly mastered everything the game has to offer even with thousands of matches in game.
What's really good in this game: The requirement for teamwork combined with the setting and competitiveness of airships haphazardly wrecking each other makes for some truly magical highlight moments, as well as providing an environment that fosters communication and encourages friendships.
The game's high skill ceiling allows for continuous self improvement. It feels great to discover something new about the game, learn ways of maximising the efficiency of your ship, or find out how to beat a specific strategy and apply this knowledge in the next matches you play. As you cleverly circle into a Pyramidion's blind spot while you maintain your gun arcs, you smile as your recall how, once upon a time, you didn't know how to accelerate or decelerate.
JK it isn't that romantic. In reality you'll just suffocate yourself laughing while you crush an enemy ship into a building as your teammate is burning them into a crisp.
The huge amount of possible combinations of ships and weapons makes sure that, most of the time, no two consecutive matches will have the exact same ships in play. Also, you can experiment with new load outs or strategies and feel awesome when they work.
What's meh: Dealing with unresponsive teammates. In game that relies so heavily on teamwork, having crew members that refuse to change classes, take stupid loadouts and then steal the gunner's gun can get extremely frustrating.
Crazy King. Due to the large size of maps and unfamiliar mechanics, Crazy King games are either stomps when one team has captains that don't know how to play the mode, or drag into long stall-fests when both teams are tryharding.
Flamethrowers. Playing with flamethrowers is easy but playing against them is needlessly frustrating for new players. Fortunately flamethrowers are disabled in newbie lobbies and flamers are easily hard countered with the correct knowledge.
Analogy using another game: FTL, but your crew are real people.
Would I recommend: 11/10 would fly again, especially once you make some in-game friends.
There is simply no where else to get Guns of Icarus Online's unique blend of teamwork, strategy, airship flying and crazy highlight moments.