First announced at the PC Gaming Show in 2020, Icarus is an upcoming co-op survival game from Dean Hall (of DayZ fame) and developer Rocketwerkz. In Icarus, players descend to a hostile alien world from an orbiting space station to gather valuable exotic resources, build tools and structures, hunt (and be hunted by) wildlife, and try to make it back to their space station alive.
We got to play Icarus before it launched, as you can see in the short video above, so we've got plenty of first-hand details to give you, too.
Here's everything we know about Icarus.
What is Icarus' release date?
We don't have an exact date yet, but Icarus will be released sometime in 2021. And that's just the first planned step for the survival game, which will be revealed in chapters.
"RocketWerkz has a multi-year plan for Icarus," reads a 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."
Icarus is free to play (we think)
Hall initially announced that Icarus will be a free-to-play game and its page on Steam says the same. We don't yet know how the survival game will be monetized, however, or if there will be season passes, microtransactions, or other paid-for content. When I asked during my play session, I was told RocketWerkz was not announcing anything about pricing at the moment, so we're not 100% sure what the plans are.
How does Icarus work?
Players begin in a space station orbiting an alien planet. It's a co-op survival game, so you can invite your friends to visit your space station (kind of like visiting a friend's apartment or penthouse in GTA Online), and then negotiate a contract—a mission to a biome on the planet below, and a list of the resources you'll need to bring back within a set period of time. These surface missions can be short or long, and last for hours, days, or weeks.
Icarus, unlike survival games such as DayZ or Rust, is session-based. You don't live full-time on the planet's surface, you travel down from orbit, complete your mission, and return back into space before the timer runs out. Think of it a bit like Escape From Tarkov, where you need to get in to a dangerous area, do your job, and get back out, only some of these missions can last much longer than the ones in Tarkov.
Tell me about that planet I'm on
Icarus is being developed in the Unreal Engine and the planet's terrain, according to Hall, is all hand-crafted—Icarus is not relying on procedural generation. There will, however, be procedural elements in play that mean things on the planet will change, such as caves being open or closed, weather events, and resources appearing in different places on different missions.
The planet underwent a terraforming effort, but it failed due to the reaction of hidden exotic resources on the planet's surface. This made the planet uninhabitable (except for wildlife transplanted from Earth, which has adapted) so now there's a rush to collect those exotics, which are extremely valuable.
While on the planet, players can craft tools, build roads, bridges, and other planetary infrastructure, which may be necessary to transport the materials they've mined back to their dropship. Players will need to stay hydrated and fed and maintain their oxygen supply, and there's plenty of wildlife to hunt for food or defend against.
Otherwise, the planet doesn't look all that different from Earth. There are trees and other plants, and biomes with deserts, mountains, and snow. The first part of the game takes place in the forest biome, but players will eventually have to brave tougher areas.
And the space station? What's the deal there?
The space station forms the other half of your experience in Icarus. While you can build primitive tools on the planet, you can build advanced ones on your station. Using the resources you bring back to orbit, you can upgrade your station, build vehicles and vehicle parts, improve your spacesuit, and unlock other new technologies. You can even alter and improve your dropship.
That doesn't mean you can bring every single thing you've built on your space station with you on your missions. Hall referred to the dropship system as a "chokepoint" since it limits what you can bring down to the planet with you, which he says creates a balance between the "uber-technology" of the space station and the primitive world of the planet. Unforunately we didn't get to check out the space station during our demo.
How many players can co-op support?
You can have up to eight players in a session together. There's good news if you would rather play alone, though: Hall says the game will be tougher, but it'll still be possible to play solo.
What happens if I die? Do I lose my stuff?
Well, that depends. If you run out of oxygen on the planet, someone else can revive you. If you're hurt by an alien creature, another player can heal you. The real danger is if you miss your ride back up into space.
Every contract has a ticking clock based on your dropship's orbital launch window. When that clock expires, your dropship is taking off, with or without you.
If you don't make it back to your ship in time for launch, and you're left behind on the planet, it's over. The character you've been playing is dead, the progress you've made with that player is gone, and everything piece of equipment deployed with that player is lost.
Hall called getting left behind "the one failure state" in Icarus. So keep an eye on the clock and don't miss your launch—or you'll lose everything.