New Zealand’s contribution to the world of survival simulators is finally playable. Icarus, the latest adventure from DayZ creator Dean Hall, has been gearing up for its November 21 launch. People who have preordered the game will already have access to a couple of biomes, though. So it’s worth answering the question: Just how the hell does Icarus work?
The game, available only through Steam for $38.65 right now, is a survival adventure where you and up to 8 players do your best to survive and explore the environment. You start by dropping down into the world of Icarus from a space station above, with the goal to bring back a series of resources within a set timeframe.
What’s the story behind Icarus?
Icarus‘s hook is that the planet is uninhabitable due to certain exotic resources on the planet that caused a prior terraforming attempt to fail. That’s why you need to run missions on the surface, but when you get there, it’s your responsibility to forage the food, water, shelter and oxygen necessary to stay alive.
What do you actually do in Icarus?
Obviously, survive. A bit like GTFO, Icarus puts you in a cramped, claustrophobic little pod that eventually opens up once you hit the surface of the planet. From there, it’s on you to immediately deal with your surroundings.
If you’ve just made a new character, you’ll only be at level 1, which means your access to certain skills and crafting materials will be locked. So what you’ll want to do is run around, grabbing whatever loose bush and rocks you can find. You’ll especially want these:
Stone is basically the resource you’ll have the least of early on when it comes to crafting. It can be a bit tough to see — especially once it gets dark — so run around and keep your eyes peeled out. Unlike a game like Craftopia, you can’t just wail on a bigger rock with an inefficient weapon or your fists to grind out the rock you need to get crafting. You’ll need loose stone, and you’ll need it fast. That stone will let you craft your first pickaxe and axe, which lets you start chopping down trees and carving up the bigger resources.
The key with Icarus is that each session is a one-time only matter. “Once you’ve claimed a prospect and landed on Icarus, you must return to your drop ship and leave before the contract time concludes,” the developers wrote. “Once you have left Icarus, you cannot return again.”
How does character progression work in Icarus?
At the top left of your screen you’ll see a level and XP meter. You’ll get XP every time you collect resources, kill predators and complete mission objectives.
With each level, you’ll get extra tech tree and talent points. The progression in here is pretty straightforward: you can’t build bone arrows until you’ve unlocked stone arrows first, so if you want a wood bow, you’d better wait until you have two talent points so you can at least craft stone arrows.
The tech tree itself is a massive scrollable horizontal page, and it’s largely split into a couple of things. The first half of it gives you access to specific recipes, things that improve your combat and crafting abilities. The second half unlocks all your building needs, things like trapdoors, different floors, different types of walls. There’s also multiple tiers, all of which become available after reaching a particular character level.
The talents are split into four trees, ranging from combat, survival, construction and a separate branch called “solo”:
Each of these talents will buff various things, like movement speed, maximum stamina and regeneration, combat efficiency, reduced resource usage when building, less depreciation of your axes and pickaxes, and so on. You can also get skills that reduce your water, food and oxygen consumption, skills to improve yields from gathering or hunting, and skills that reduce the encumbrance of gathered resources.
All of your talent and tech tree investments will carry over, although that brings us to the next point…
What happens when you die in Icarus?
Well, it depends when you die.
But let’s cover the main parts first. In the bottom left of the screen you’ll see a few bars. The bar with the cross is the obvious “This Is Your Health Bar”. Don’t let that drop to zero. But you’ve also got a set of three boxes: your oxygen (left), hunger (middle) and hydration (right). If any of those drop to zero, you’ll start losing health until you die. The temperature gauge on the bottom left will also indicate what environments put you at risk. If it swings too far into the cold, you’ll start dying of hypothermia. Conversely, if the planet’s too hot, you’ll die of heatstroke.
Weather events will also be a factor, and you’ll get warnings on your HUD that such an event is on the way:
Here, you can see the incoming changes in weather and roughly how long it’ll last. In this instance the storm dropped the temperature low enough that I had to either run to a different map sector, or I needed to quickly find/build shelter to survive.
But what if you can’t do any of these things and happen to die? Well, two things will happen, depending on how much time is left in the mission.
- If there’s time left in the mission — you’ll respawn back on Icarus in one of two places. If you built a bedroll, you’ll respawn there. If you didn’t, you’ll still respawn somewhere on the world — but you won’t have any control as to where it is. Any progression you made — that’s your talents and tech tree blueprints — will be saved. Any inventory materials, however, will be lost.
- If time in the mission has run out — you’ll die and you’ll lose all character and talent progression. If you don’t think you can finish a mission in time, or you’re not going to return to the game before the timer runs out, high tail it out of there!
Icarus will have controller support in the future, but for now it’s a mouse-and-keyboard affair. The standard WASD controls apply here, but there’s some extra tips that you’ll want to remember, as outlined in an official FAQ.
- W, A, S, D: Move
- F: Interact
- Space: Jump
- L Shift: Sprint
- L Ctrl: Crouch
- C: Swap between 1st / 3rd person
- L Alt: Free Look
- Scroll Wheel: Select hotbar slot
- Number Keys: Select hotbar slot
- Q: Drop Item
- TAB: Toggle Menu
- I, O, P, M: Inventory, crafting, tech and map
- L Click: Primary use for equipped item
- R Click: Secondary use for equipped item
- Ctrl Click: Move items in inventory
- Shift Drag: Split stack in Inventory
- Alt Drag: Take one item from a stack
- R: Hold for building options, and click to rotate pieces
- Y: Deconstruct built item
- Numpad 9: Hide UI
- ESC: Escape to menu
It’s worth noting that you can also activate some extra options by holding down buttons: Holding F at a water source, instead of pressing F, will refill every water container in your inventory and fully hydrate your character at the same time.
What are the first things I should know when playing Icarus?
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but here are some basic primers to get you started:
- Try and unlock a sleeping bag pretty quickly. These aren’t just useful as respawn points — you can use the sleeping bag to sleep through the night cycle, which is pretty bloody dark as you can see above.
- Find a good water source early. Once you’ve gotten the stone necessary to get your axe and pickaxe together, move out and find a river or a reliable source of water. Water is the hardest thing to come by, whereas supplies of oxygen — available through a bluish rock called Oxidite that’s scattered around the map like stone — are a bit more plentiful.
- Animals pick up audio cues pretty easily, so make sure you crouch. Your basic stone arrows can take several shots to kill a basic deer, unless you’re getting perfect headshots, and even then it’ll take a couple of shots. The fact that animals run really fast also doesn’t help, especially when you’re a low level and your stamina isn’t too crash hot. So crouch around — you’ll do 2.5x extra damage when in stealth, too.
- Build a really strong foundation for your shelter/house. Storms and wind can, and will, knock over structures that aren’t sturdy enough. Similarly, if the foundations aren’t robust your entire structure can collapse when you try to expand it. So be sensible: use beams, add plenty of supports, and for God’s sake, put a roof on it.
What can you do with the Icarus space station?
The space station acts as your hub in between missions, but you can also craft items to take with you down to the planet. There’s a limit on how much you can carry, obviously. But the resources found on your expeditions can be used to make vehicles, parts, or even upgrades and improvements for your dropship. You can also build more advanced tools than what you can craft on the surface of Icarus, which will help your missions get off to a much faster start.
What are Icarus Outposts?
Outposts is basically a separate game mode in Icarus designed to be a more casual affair that lets players explore, craft and build what they want without the stress of a mission timer.
“Outposts are a 1km x 1km plot of land where you can do just about everything you normally would in our original game mode but without the threat of storms and enemy AI,” Rocketwerkz said in an announcement post. “You can zen out, test your architecture and crafting skills, and invite your friends to come and play with you.”
Outposts isn’t currently available in the beta weekends, but more info is due to be announced before release.
When is Icarus releasing?
Icarus is scheduled for a full release on November 21, 2021, however everyone who has pre-ordered will be able to take part in several beta weekends between now and release. Crucially, Rocketwerkz has also pledged to allow users to play through the beta weekends and still receive a full refund, provided it’s submitted before the game’s November launch.
For those who preorder either version, the beta weekends are scheduled as follows:
- 28-29 August
- 11-13 September
- 25-26 September
- 9-10th October
- 23-24 October
- 6-7 November
As with many other games, it’s likely that the beta weekends may be extended — although when announcing the current extension Rocketwerkz said “hotfixes and extensions are not planned” for “future weekends”.
Each beta phase will add more content from the previous. The September 25-26 window, for instance, will open access to an arctic biome. Deserts are scheduled to follow after that, while more missions will be included in the beta weekend after that.
How much does Icarus cost in Australia?
Icarus is currently only available through Steam for $38.65 for the standard edition or $125.95 for the deluxe edition. Along with some cosmetics, there’s also two Outpost maps that are available immediately with the Deluxe Edition. The Deluxe Edition also unlocks access to the first two paid expansions, New Frontiers and Dangerous Horizons, when released.