In survival game Icarus, corrupted terraforming leads to an 'interstellar gold rush'

Thirty trillion miles from Earth, the planet Icarus underwent a terraforming effort meant to create a habitable new paradise for human life. It didn't work out. The terraforming system failed due to the reaction of exotic resources hidden on the planet, resulting in an environment that's extremely toxic to humans. Whoops.

But among disaster, there's profit, and the failed terraforming of Icarus has created a space-age gold rush. While the exotic minerals make the planet uninhabitable, those same resources are extremely valuable back on Earth. And since humans can't safely live on Icarus, the goal now is to launch missions from the orbiting space station down to the planet's surface, harvest as much of the exotic material as possible, and then get the hell out of there.

Icarus, the co-op survival game being developed by studio RocketWerkz and Dean Hall, creator of DayZ, spells all this out in the new lore trailer you can watch above. And hey, guess what? We got to play a bit of Icarus with Dean Hall and members of the RocketWerkz team last week. You can read our early impressions of Icarus here, including a moment when Hall caught on fire and I tried to extinguish the flames by whacking him with a broom.

The new "No Rescue" trailer above is a combination of live actors and CGI, and gives us the backstory of the survival game, as well as a bit of mystery. Some of the people who survived prospecting missions on Icarus, for example, think the terraforming failure was no accident after all.

"Doesn't it feel like a coincidence that they declared the planet uninhabitable just when they discovered the most valuable material in the universe?" asks a grizzled former prospector in the trailer. 

The trailer also lays out the gameplay loop of the session-based survival game, which has missions that can last anywhere from hours to weeks and can support up to eight co-op players (it can also be played solo). "It was all about the exotics," says another former prospector in the trailer. "You find them, you sell them back at the station, you get more gear. You go back down, find more. Drop, survive, and repeat."

(Image credit: RocketWerkz)

There's also the mystery of Mo Chau, a scientist who disappeared during a mission. Some prospectors assume she was lost in a storm or killed by a bear (transplanted from Earth to Icarus along with plants and other wildlife during the terraforming process), while others think she simply chose to stay behind, despite the extreme dangers of the alien planet. In the trailer, though, Chau certainly didn't look too happy to be left behind. As Dean Hall told us when he revealed the game at the PC Gaming Show last year, if the mission timer runs out and you miss your dropship back into orbit, you lose everything: your character, their progress, and all the gear they've got with them.

"RocketWerkz has a multi-year plan for Icarus," reads the press release sent to PC Gamer, "adding chapters with additional playable content and lore. The first chapter, The First Cohort, begins in Icarus’ most Earth-like biomes before the game expands to more alien and threatening zones."

We don't yet have a release date for Icarus, though it's planned to launch on Steam sometime in 2021. If you're interested in seeing more, RocketWerkz will be streaming some gameplay from Icarus live on its Twitch channel on Thursday, April 8, at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.