Wanted to be a fighter pilot as a child? To brave the skies and risk life and limb for your mission? How about knocking some stunts out along the way? Well in Sky Knights from Hampus Bankler, you can certainly take a swing at it. This top down multiplayer title may not be the flight simulator I first thought it would be, but it holds up as a decent action dogfighter, and definitely, brings out the salt. Assemble your crew of between two and four players, and take to the skies in your choice of three aircraft, battling it out with an enemy team made up of other players or AI. The objective though is not to destroy them, but to take out the opposing bases whilst dutifully protecting your own, and this can be done with machine guns, bombs, and heat-seeking missiles, to name the most utilized weapons.
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Move on my mark!
How does it play though? Having gone a few rounds using the mouse and keyboard set up I was struggling to control my jet, as the sensitivity is very high, and WASD felt a little too unnatural. But switching over to the controller was absolutely the way to go. The triggers work as your accelerator and break, whilst a trusty analog stick was far more precise for lining up that perfect landing. Weapon switching and shooting was a little awkward, and the menu was oddly a little unresponsive when trying to select items to boost your stats, but aside from this the set up is easy enough to understand. Mastering everything though is the real challenge. The learning curve is most certainly steep, and a bit frustrating at first, although there is a nice weight to the plane itself which does make for a pleasing feel when in flight.
At the moment there is only one map and mission variant, in that players must wipe out three enemy land bases from the glorious air first, which are placed in a neat line for a straight fly over. Of course, it's not that easy, as the thrill of the dogfight will draw most of the gameplay since this is your time to shine and clear the map for fellow team mates to cruise in unperturbed. But there are also a number of air artillery units to get in the way, and they pack one hell of a punch.
Roger that, over and out!
Targeting is relatively kind, and the hitbox does seem quite broad when shooting, however, this is a double edged sword as it means retreat or shaking off that guy on your six is really tricky. And once the inevitable does happen leaving you with low health and no ammo, returning to base and acing a perfect landing is the only way to recover, unless you just want to crash and burn of course and reset that way. Be careful though, this game does punish players for repeated deaths, in that each time spawning back in will take a lot longer. Not good for your team. I'm not sure I agree with this mechanic, as although it obviously gives an incentive not to die, it can give the other team a very hefty advantage early on and is not very easy to bounce back from.
There is a leveling system in Sky Knights, with points gained from winning but also generally playing well in a match. As you gain levels, new boosts will be unlocked that can be equipped in your player profile and give a nice little edge in your next encounter, alongside the standard upgrades that can be collected during a battle itself. This allows a little customizing, the only other real choices being whether to play as a bomber or a gunner.
The visuals are very polished, with some nice graphics used for different pilot portraits, and although the plane models do appear quite basic, the texturing is fantastic and really sets off the designs. As this is a top down venture, everything is very tiny within the playable map, but still looks nice and smooth with minimal lag. Explosions are satisfying, be it bases or enemy jets plummeting into the cliffs, and the pallet is vibrant and distinctive. It would be nice to have a variance in settings though, perhaps some more themed areas to fly in like grasslands or a river, to shake up the backdrop a little, maybe even a bit of a storm? Similarly, with the soundtrack, there is one piece on a loop in each battle, and while I do like it for keeping the atmosphere going, it does get a bit repetitive the more you play.
You've got one on your tail!
Starting out I was terrible at this game, and I definitely felt the pain of my failings in waiting to spawn only to be shot down within seconds. It was aggravating, but I did tough it out and jumped into a few online match ups to keep practicing. Plus I strongly recommend the training option, it's short and sweet and gives you a head start into the gameplay. Eventually, I got into the swing of it and did start enjoying myself a lot more from then. It is a good little game with some character, and once you find your groove and rise up a few levels to begin nabbing perks, everything will click into place. There is already a decent community springing up, and from my own play-through I was not insulted or shouted at for being an obvious failure, which is immensely encouraging.
Clear the runway for take off and blast into Sky Knights!
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