When you hear the words “Ace Combat with procedural rougelike elements” you immediately wonder “Why it hasn’t been done before?” and “How did that get in my library? Did I just buy that?” Sky Rogue is a “fwooshy, ‘feel good’ arcade flight simulator”. This is one of the few times that I’d agree with the advertising talk. Even if fwooshy isn’t a real word.
After a brief tutorial you’re dumped right into the action. Sky Rogue has no story and so far is very much an arcade experience. The player is tasked with destroying a certain enemy, be it a command centre, an aircraft carrier etc, and then landing back on your own carrier. Every kill you make earns you scrap and tech points. Tech points unlock upgrades, while scrap lets you buy them. You loose scrap when you die, but upgrades are unlocked permanently.
There is a nice selection of aircraft to choose from, each with their own ‘payload’ and ‘avionics’ stats. These limit the selection of weapons your aircraft can take. Bombers have a higher payload value and can take bombs and multiple pods of heavy rockets, were as interceptors high avionics allow them to take long-range infrared missiles to swat those pesky drones out of the sky.
The controls are tight and responsive which is essential for the genre. I never felt any crashes where anyone’s fault but my own. The controls are workable on a keyboard but I felt much more comfortable using a gamepad. You’ll always get a grin of satisfaction when you expertly dodge incoming missiles and counter with a volley of your own. It also features local split-screen co-op which is such a plus that I’d almost recommend it on that alone. Sky Rogue makes an excellent party game to be played with friends and Danger Zone on loop and would fit in perfectly with the likes of Gang Beasts and Mount Your Friends.
Sky Rogue’s graphics won’t make you glad you splashed out on that fancy new graphics card, but I enjoy the minimalist style and the explosions are very satisfying. The soundtrack, or rather the one song, is reminiscent of a SNES game and you can easily go from hating it, to loving it, to hating it all over again in the space of one level. And it loops forever. For. Ever. I still hear it at night sometimes.
I have high hopes for Sky Rogue. The basic mechanics are solid and fun and provide Fractal Phase an excellent foundation to expand upon. I personally look forward to the idea of seeing huge air battles with NPC allies and the large air carriers duking it out with heavy weaponry. Also more music. Please for the love of god more music.
The only criticisms I have of Sky Rogue all stem from the fact that it’s an early access game. You’ll see all the content on offer in a couple of hours –although with mod support included its lifespan is extended somewhat — and the difficulty balance is all over the place. The first level will be a cake walk while the fourth will see you assaulted by a firestorm of missiles as soon as you launch.
Sky Rogue is a fun game. But the lack of content means that if you buy in now, it would be more as a show of support to Fractal Phase and helping sculpt the games future. Considering how solid the fundamental mechanics are currently, I’d say its a worthwhile investment. If a lack of content doesn’t matter too much to you, put an extra two stars on that score.
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