PAX East 2014: Guns of Icarus Online's expanding environment

If I don't look at you, you can't shoot me out of the sky!  I think?  Those are the rules, right?
PAX East taught me that I am apparently not the right person to pilot a ship in Guns of Icarus Online. In my defense, I was trying to do what my ship was designed to do. The co-op mode on display is all about delivering supplies to a final point on a map, and I was flying the fast scoutship. So I figured, why bother slowing down? Why not just jink left and right and avoid anything in my way?

As it turns out, the reasons to not do that are quite simple: The boss encounter at the cargo dropoff requires two people, and you need to actually retain control of the point rather than just wing to it at full speed. So I may have sent my ship crashing to the ground in a tumble of burning wood and broken steel. (By "may have" I of course mean "I definitely did this.")

This isn't a failing on the part of the game, just a failing on my part for trying to bull-rush through something. But it's still fun; the game gives players a variety of things to do while they're busy crewing the various stations across the ship. And it's just one place the developers are going with the game.

Hard to port?  Starboard?  Hard to whichever way is the one away from the shooty and hurty bits.Co-op mode is fairly straightforward on the whole. Two ships progress along a course to a final location, with someone helming the ship and other players repairing damage, manning the guns, and occasionally glaring at a pilot who isn't paying enough attention and doesn't give those guns a proper field of fire. There are several enemy ships along the course as well, ranging from heavier frigates to light fighters buzzing about.

While enemy ships along the path are avoidable, the final point of the course has a healthy pile of enemy craft, and taking control of that end point uses a presence mechanic like most capture points. While there's nothing keeping you from rushing to the end rather quickly, odds are that your faster ship won't be able to successfully beat a cluster of enemy craft by its lonesome. You need to work together as a group rather than rushing in alone, as I discovered.

Although the inclusion of co-op play is a notable shift from the game's current PvP structure, it really serves as a natural growth of the game's nature. The AI-controlled enemy ships run on the same rules as normal player ships, with individual components sustaining damage and being torn down in an engagement. It's also just the first component of the game planned for the future; there's more PvE incoming, even though it's taken a while to be brought in.

Based on the size of the team and resources required, it's unlikely that the game will ever be able to be a completely full-featured open world experience, but the game's team is dedicated to producing a fully fleshed-out world with places to explore. Even if you'll never be able to treat it as a full MMO, there will be more to the game than just shooting other players -- or even just shooting other AI ships.

Massively's on the ground in Boston during the weekend of April 11th to 13th, bringing you all the best news from PAX East 2014. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, Landmark, or any MMO in between, we aim to have it covered!
This article was originally published on Massively.