I wonder if a big can of bug spray will work on this game's swarm?
|Black Skylands (2021)|
|Developer(s)||Hungry Couch Games||Publisher||tinyBuild|
|Platform Availability||PC (Steam, GOG, Epic Games), Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One||Genre||Action, Adventure, RPG|
Since at least the 60s, people have created media of people living above the clouds. In 1962, it was in the form of The Jetsons. They lived in a futurist time when there were robots, flying cars, and other tropes of sci-fi. However, what if you used this concept but with a slightly more modern~fantasy setting? You get something like what the team at tinyBuild has created with their game, Black Skylands.
The people of this world live above the clouds on small settlements and airships. Early in the game, there was a fair bit of harmony among the people of this world, but due to events early in the game, there became a major rift between the Falcons and Earners factions. However, there is an even greater threat hiding in large portion of the world where the "Swarm" live. Who is the real villain of this game? Honestly, it is hard to tell.
There is just one playable character in this game named Eva. Those who played the Black Skylands Origins (an early demo of the game) will notice the character has changed. Initially, the character's name was Walter, but as they developed the story further, Eva became a better main character concept.
You'll play as Eva, a proud, brave young woman, who wants revenge on the cold-blooded Falcons who destroyed everything she held dear. Become the captain of an airship and explore the world in the skies, gather resources to build powerful weapons and airships, uncover ancient secrets, and liberate various islands from the enemy's control.
Eva is joined by her moth companion, Luma. Luma will provide some useful features such as picking up items and storing them on the ship and flying the player back to the ship when they fall or upon the player's request.
Black Skylands is an overhead shooter game mixed with world exploration, crafting, and puzzle solving.
You move around with your left thumb stick and aim your gun with the right thumb stick. This occurs both while running around on foot as well as flying an airship.
What makes the game really fun to me is the grappling hook; as with most games that includes a similar mechanics, it allows for some interesting movement options. I find myself often running into a group of enemies, luring them to the edge of an area, and grappling around a gap so I can basically just snipe at them. Beyond that, there are a lot of things you are able to do in the game.
You will have access over the course of the game to over 2 dozen weapons of different types.
There is also a large crafting mechanic in the game. As you explore the world, destroy asteroids, mine mineral veins, kill enemies, and help people out, you will collect a variety of resources. These resources can be converted into various items such as weapons, armor, airships, airship parts, and mods for the weapons. You will need to initially build the crafting stations in your village and even upgrade them overtime to get stronger gear.
There are also special crystals that can be found by completing various puzzles across the world; the crystals can be converted into interesting abilities/sub-items that provide powerful abilities. This was something I didn't realize I could do until about 10~ hours into the game. I found the NPC that provided the service, but I somehow missed interacting with his computer to create the items. After making them, the game has become very easy to take down the strong enemies.
There are over a dozen islands in the game, and after a certain point in the story, you will be able to travel to those islands and liberate them from Falcon control. Essentially, you will hunt down each of the enemies and eliminate them. Once the last enemy is defeating, people return to the island and provide you population that will enable use of "Upgrades." These upgrades will increase damage and other numbers in the game. However, liberated islands still need your help. Some villagers will send you on side quests and the Falcons may even try reclaiming the island. You have to keep an eye on the islands on your map to ensure the island stays in your control.
Fishing and Other Minigames
Oh...another mechanic I didn't realize I could do until 15 hours into the game. Fishing a small minigame where you can essentially play a button pressing pattern game like Guitar Hero. When you find a fishing spot, you can stop the ship and walk near the edge of the boat and initiate the minigame; the items found could be fish, ship weapons, repair kit, etc.
There are also "X" spots you can dig up for gold; the gold can be traded in for various weapons and mods with a specific NPC in Turtletown. There are also various other minigames and unlockable spread out across the world.
This game screams retro! I know there has been an overuse of retro-styled graphics over the last 5 years, but it is much easier for smaller teams to get their vision for games out without being bogged down 3D graphics and all the work and issues that come along with it. For a $20 game with a small team of developers, I think the visuals are great and tell the story extremely well.
The audio is mostly in the form of sound effects and ambient music. The ambient music did a great job not being distracting and providing a nice atmosphere for the game. I can't say the music is exactly memorable though; after 15 hours of gameplay, I haven't found myself humming the music like I do with a lot of other games. The sounds effects are really good and provide each weapon and enemy (who talk) a fair bit of distinction. Normally, I like to say more about the sounds of game as I find it to be very important and great impacted my memories of many other wonderful games in my past, but there really isn't much to say in this games case. It does a good job complementing the fun and engaging gameplay experience.
There is a versus mode option when loading the game; to be entirely honest, this isn't really the type of game I personally find myself wanting to play a versus mode of. I am sure it works very well, and I can imagine a few ways it would work...I simply never gave it a try. I am sure you can find some other media that can provide some insight on how that part of the game plays.
Note: The full story has not been released. As of the time of completing this article, I had played all of the content available. I will add to this review as additional story is released; also because sure to check out of Black Skylands playlist on Youtube.
I truly had a blast playing this game. It provided a fairly engaging story, some fun characters, and plenty of fun combat. It also didn't leave me guessing what I needed to do like some other open world games. Yes, I know people don't love having their hands held with quest markers, but as an adult with a full-time job and tons of hobbies, I welcome the quest markers and the clear direction. When I play a game, I just want to enjoy the game, take in the story, and have some challenges via puzzles, combat, and actual mechanics...not getting lost in a large open world.
The game is not without its faults though. I did encounter a few minor bugs and a potential sequence break at one point (very minor). The biggest annoyance I would love to see addressed is when you die while flying the ship, when you respawn, often the ship will fly away with the same momentum it was using when you died. This is easily addressed by fast traveling somewhere and back again...however, when you have to do that 10-20 times...it gets old. It is only like a 10 second delay in continuing the game so it really isn't a problem. However, I can see this being fixed by simply setting whatever variable that is used for tracking speed/momentum to 0 before spawning you at the last waypoint. I won't get into the other minor things as they were one offs and didn't impact my enjoyment...just moments I went, "Really?" then killed the enemies and then continued my journey. I never encountered a bug that caused me more than minor annoyances so that is wonderful.
Overall, I can highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys this style game. It is fun, engaging, and provides a lot of enjoyment for 15-20 hours of gameplay. With the most recent update, they have added in even more to do. Definitely check out Black Skylands on your platform of choice; I am sure it will be on many Steam sales and certainly worth even the full price.
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