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Icarus-X: Tides of Fire (PC) artwork

Icarus-X: Tides of Fire (PC) review

"Scrolling, Shooting and Grinding."

Icarus-X: Tides of Fate isn't the worst or most abhorrent iOS-to-PC port I've ever played, but it does carry over some aspects that betray its foundations. Itís just that, in this case, I donít mind them - like the always-firing gun that makes a trigger prompt completely obsolete. Itís not like anyone ever decides to stop firing anyway. This leaves you free to instead concentrate on staying alive, weaving in and out of the path of bright red bullets that are only sometimes obscured by overly busy backgrounds. Stage One is the worst offender with its constantly-looping green towers, which, I guess itís an unfortunate way to start the game but at least the biggest distraction is out of the way early and via the easiest level. That is until you finish the short five-stage campaign and they start looping with significant challenge hikes. Or if you feel like dropping back in for a bit of an experience points run and to try and pick up some extra loot.

You can do this because Icarus-X has seen it fit to introduce that most traditional of gaming mechanics - The Grind. Even in scrolling shooters, a branching skills tree could perhaps be labelled uncommon if hardly new, but I've not seen many looting system within the genre. Games like Borderlands and Diablo are liberally name-dropped as comparison models, and not completely unfairly. Either by defeating enemies and picking up drops or purchasing from the in-game store, you can deck out up to four equipment slots including primary and secondary fire, as well as a core chip and a shield.

It all works pretty well; though physically thereís not a huge amount of variation. For example, the primary fire is purely distinguished by the rate of spread, the more focused the collection of bullets, the more powerful they usually are. Secondary fire has a little more choice to it, offering homing missiles or a collection of lasers with a small variety of tricks ranging from vanilla constant beams to a circling weapon that rotates constantly around your craft. Things like armour rating, shield power, tech drop rates, critical hit percentage and power consumption are also tracked through your equipment making any alteration you go for more of a balance trade off rather than a straight swap. That new laser might be more powerful, but it does chip away and your shield regeneration rate and make your hitbox slightly bigger.

Shields, too, are rather cleverly implemented. Rather than slap a Euro-shooter-esque health bar on and call it quits, it instead takes noticeable damage. At full strength, the shield envelops the entirety of your craft offering you complete protection. The only problem with this is itís a lot harder to dodge bullets when youíre such a bloated target. As it soaks up damage, it shrinks back to solely protect your clearly visible hitbox, offering less of a damage buffer but making dodging a lot simpler. Do well enough at avoiding damage for a while, and it slowly repowers itself, growing back to its original size.

It all works rather well, and I will admit that this mindset has seen me go back and re-tackle areas with souped-up artillery just to see if it becomes significantly easier (it does) and to undertake a slice of grind. The biggest obstacle to this is this is the relative lack of variety -- there are only five stages after all, and even though they have extra challenge slapped atop them each time you complete a tier, they never really change. No matter how full of robo-steroids are pumped in, Stage One is still fought over a blur of hexagonal towers that sometimes hide the incoming projectiles, and still always has the same standard mid-boss and the same screen-filling end of stage fight against a floating weapons platform sporting five destructible Vulcan guns on each wing. Just, sometimes, they can hit harder and soak up more damage.

In the Campaign mode, anyway, this is true. You chose one of three base fighters then go out to wage war while you slowly build up your attack ship to god-like tiers. Thereís an Arcade mode also that does away with all that grinding shenanigans and plays it up old-school. No shield mechanics, no XP drops, just one ship versus an entire army spurred up by power-ups, point rushes and tradition. There, the five stages aren't on cycle and getting to the end just means boring, boring victory.

As an iOS-founded scrolling arcade shooter, Icarus-X: Tides of Fate is pretty unremarkable, especially when compared to some of its better competitors like Danmaku Unlimited. So itís at its best during a campaign when taking a shot at originality, where the limitations of its brevity becomes a prominent negative. Still, not long ago I looted a secondary weapon that sourced my ship with four roaming lasers that actively sought out enemy craft before they even came on the screen. Itís made early tier missions so easy I donít even have to dodge anymore. Thereís something satisfyingly lazy about that.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 04, 2015)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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