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Sky Rogue

By WskOsc04-08-2015
Sky Rogue

The Defence

Fractal Phase
Fractal Phase
Action, Simulator
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
1 GB
100 MB

Sky Rogue is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve; Ace Combat games and roguelikes. We have the upbeat audio and arcade flight mechanics of the former mixed with the difficulty and procedural generation of the latter. It's an intriguing proposition that fans of arcade flight games should perk up their ears at.

Sky Rogue's simple visuals hide a certain amount of complexity behind the flat textured hexagonal hills and planes reminiscent of Star Fox. These perhaps less obvious influences haven't been lost on the creators, paint schemes for your planes are plentiful and reference everything from Star Fox to Luftrausers and plenty more that can bring a little smile if recognised. Not only is your plane painted when you choose one of these but your whole Halicarrier-esque base is rebranded. The changes are just visual however and won't grant you the ability to do a barrel roll.

Similarly to the visuals, audio will immediately feel welcoming to fans of older Ace Combat games, it's not strictly '80s training montage quality but it does a passable impression of those bombastic tracks to such a degree that you won't reach for Highway To The Dangerzone for at least an hour or two. It's a magical blend of okay and bland that make it challenging to talk about. That said, the music blends with the action and visuals and never commands your attention but does influence your perception of the proceedings.

Highway to the dangerzone!

Highway to the dangerzone!

Anyone familiar with how the planes of Ace Combat games behave will be instantly at home with Sky Rogue despite the default control scheme doing its best to sabotage that feeling. The planes feel just a little too stiff in quick manoeuvres; missiles will barely miss you and a burst of machine gun fire from the too-accurate drones will almost always take at least a small chunk of your all-too-limited health bar. Combined with the stiff feeling of the flight model these drones will often get several passes at you and it's very easy to lose half your health bar against a couple of basic enemies.

Eventually you'll get into the rhythm of things and doors will begin to open; an XP and money system provide unlocks and the ability to buy back destroyed equipment after a failed mission. More weapons increase your engagement options, with every weapon type seemingly splitting into at least two variants that increase the main stats of ammo, range and damage. Other factors affect your loadout like flight speed for missiles or their lock-on type restricting them to airborne or ground targets.

The unlock system also presents you with new planes with larger and more advanced models not only providing better speed and health but better loadout options via two values that limit the amount of weapons you can carry in a single loadout. For example, even with a light bomber it's possible to fill all four weapon slots with anything from machine guns to swarm missiles and cluster bombs but with a light fighter you might only get a basic missile and a gun but have increased speed an manoeuvrability.



While Sky Rogue presents a compulsive loop that'll easily steal an afternoon from you it suffers because the enemies are a little too tough. Missions are short, usually asking you to destroy only one or two targets but even the basic enemies are too accurate or your weapons so easily matched that a head-on pass against two drones will often result in your destruction even if you're carrying countermeasures. Weapons also feel a little too piddly against larger targets, with enemy carriers and buildings soaking dozens of rockets before exploding all the while more drones chip away at your precious health.

Landing on your own carrier lets you rearm, repair and even change plane completely but landing while badly damaged is a tricky proposition; chances are you'll need to set down when flying on a sliver of health and drones have launched that you can't handle but the relatively small distance between enemy spawns and your carrier often means you'll take a barrage of missiles or machine gun fire while lining up the landing strip and decelerating. The problem is that this feels unavoidable and a solution doesn't easily present itself through observation and experience.

It is worth noting that it's early days for Sky Rogue, there's a lot of features in place already but it feels like it needs plenty more balancing passes and more varied lanscapes and encounters. The addition of a campaign, even just a clear-cut objective beyond the immediate mission goal would help the game not feel so easily overbearing. Even the most adherent roguelikes have an end goal; “kill Dredmor” or “survive 72 hours” and without that objective it feels like you're just dicking about. That's not necessarily a bad thing, there's lots of fun to be had in just messing around but it does hurt longevity.

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