Developer: Fractal Phase
Publisher: Fractal Phase
Reviewed on: PC
Sky Rogue feels out of time, a colorful blast from the past all neatly wrapped up in something that fits right in with today while still tasting wonderfully like childhood. In fact, I almost expected to see SEGA flash across the screen after I booted the game. The game harkens back to some of Sega’s arcade titles, with a gorgeous low-poly aesthetic that quickly made me fall in love with Sky Rogue. If you’ve ever played Wing War, you’ll certainly find kinship here.
Fractal Phase describes Sky Rogue as a ‘wooshy rogue-lite action flight simulator’, and I can tell you early that the game certainly lives up to that promise. I’ve always been a fan of arcade flight games. From Ace Combat to Crimson Skies, there’s something about soaring across clear blue skies that’s always managed to draw me in. Well, that, and aerial dogfights. There’s a thrill in swirling around an enemy, hearing that lock-on sound as you launch your missiles, and blowing them out of the sky! Then it’s on to your next target, unless someone’s already got you in their sights.
Sky Rogue’s single player campaign is most likely where you’ll spend most of your time. Set over a period of 12 days, you’re tasked with completing a mission a day. Like the game’s procedurally generated islands, each mission is random. Sorties can have you targeting lone AWACs or bombing enemy control towers. There’s a considerable variety in missions, split over aerial, land, and even naval targets. While your first days are made up of easy targets and open skies, the difficulty ramps up considerably each day. Empty skies become abuzz with enemy pilots, and anti-aircraft guns try to shoot you out of the sky while you dodge volley after volley of missiles. Trying to bomb enemy hangars while SAMs and enemy aces rained hell had me at the edge of my seat. You’ve got to be careful though, because if you’re shot out of the sky it’s all over. When you’re dead, you’re dead.
Of course Sky Rogue doesn’t leave you helpless and at the mercy of your enemies. Taking out targets earns you credits to spend at the Aerolab. It’s a good thing that missions don’t end once you take out the primary targets. You’re free to fly around afterwards, destroying other enemies to earn more of those sweet, sweet credits. . The Aerolab lets you upgrade your existing aeros and weaponry, but only for as long as you’re alive. Dying not only throws you back to Day 1, but also resets any Aerolab upgrades you’ve purchased.
Dying, however, isn’t exactly a bad thing. Sure you’d want to keep your career as an ace going as long as you can, I sure did, at least till I discovered the joy in losing all my progress. As you complete missions, you’ll earn Tech Points, which increase your overall Tech Level. When you die, rather inevitably I might add, Tech points let you expand your arsenal. If your Tech levels up, you get to pick a new weapon or airplane. Normally, you’ll get to pick just one, but if you’ve done particularly well, Sky Rogue lets you pick much more. The first time I died, I ended getting to pick three times, adding some pretty nifty things to my hangar.
Variety is Sky Rogue’s spice of life. While you start of with just the titular Rogue and a rather basic arsenal, each death lets you become a little stronger. There’s all manner of airplanes you can gather. From high-speed interceptors to devastating bombers, the collection of airplanes consists of the realistic and the retro-futuristic. I preferred the Raiju, a swing-wing interceptor as my aero of choice, or fell back onto the Zulu, a heavy bomber that let me blow things sky high. This level of variety expands into the arsenal you can collect. Long range AA missiles let you drop enemies from afar, while powerful cluster bombs rain devastation below. Each airplane has four slots that you can outfit as you wish,as long as you balance the requirements, plus an additional slot for limited use items. These consist of flares to distract pesky missiles or even ally drones. I loved taking the drones into battle with me; it felt comforting having wingmen.
Of course, if you’d prefer you can take a real wingman to the skies with you, Sky Rogue lets you tackle missions in local co-op. There’s even a whole set of achievements locked into multiplayer for those of you that enjoy that stuff. Other than multiplayer, there’s two additional modes. Free Flight lets you soar through the skies without worrying about enemies. Endless is pretty much the core game, just without any real end to worry about.
Getting down to the more technical aspects, Sky Rogue plays as beautifully as it looks. Options are always good to have, and Sky Rogue boasts many. There’s an option of both arcade and more realistic simulator controls, with both being clean and rather crisp. Airplanes respond well, feeling easily maneuverable or heavy and steadfast depending on your choice. Weapons are satisfying, each feeling exactly as powerful as it should. Explosions light up the sky with a vibrant delivery of colors and that necessary ‘oomph’. And if the tight dogfights and responsive controls don’t bring you back, the soundtrack should. Sky Rogue boasts a pumping retro soundtrack, with some good old 16-bit sounding beats to perfectly highlight the carnage across the skies. It’s a healthy mix of all the gaming joys of childhood.
There’s also a rather active Steam Workshop community for the game, adding all sorts of additional aeros, from real life replicas to iconic machines from games and anime. You can take Spike Speigel’s Swordfish II from Cowboy Bebop out for a spin, or relive Gradius with the Vic Viper. Chances are that if you want to fly it, Sky Rogue’s Steam workshop will most likely have it.
Sky Rogue is a neat little package of beautiful visuals and great gameplay. Even if you’re not really a fan of arcade fliers, there’s just something about Sky Rogue that’d I recommend checking out. With gorgeous cartoon visuals to a soundtrack that takes you back, this game’s great if you feel like a quick dogfight, or just flying across a pretty skyline. And at it’s rather affordable and justified price point, it’s definitely worth taking a look at. Either way, I hope I’ll see you in the danger zone!
Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.60GHz
GeForce GTX 960M 2GB
Sky Rogue offers an excellent arcade flying experience, with crisp controls and satisfying combat. The neat low-poly package is wrapped in an aesthetic that will take you back to simpler times. If you're looking to take to the skies this year, make sure you do so with Sky Rogue!