Thursday, April 26

Review: Sky Rogue [Nintendo Switch eShop]

It seems that after not really having any aerial combat games on the Switch to speak of we’ve suddenly hit a rash of them. Between the WWI dogfighting of Skies of Fury DX and the space exploration and combat in Manticore: Galaxy on Fire we got off to a strong start. Fortunately, we now have something a bit different coming to the system in the form of Sky Rogue, with its mission-based nature, roguelike bits of unpredictability, and a terrific colorful-but-low-poly look.

As is the case with almost all roguelikes there’s really no story to speak of, you’ll simply be given a mission, fly out from your helicarrier-esque base, and try not to get blown up while executing that said mission. Your specific objectives will vary but on a general level you’ll either be engaged in missions requiring you to destroy a base or facility on the ground, a ship in the sea, or something else in the air. In the early missions you can pretty well ignore anything that isn’t your target, simply storming in, blowing it up, and hightailing it back to the base for your reward. Within a few missions, though, anything that’s ground-based will require that you make more of a commitment and wear down the enemy ground defenses at a minimum. You can probably still deliver your payload and destroy your target, buy by the fourth or fifth mission trying to get back home after you’ve done that without first weakening defenses will generally result in your being a smoking crater in the ground.

Since failures are an inevitability, especially in a roguelike, a great feature is that you’ll accumulate experience points with every mission you complete and when you die you then have a chance to level up. When you do you’ll then be presented with a number of weapons and even new aircraft options that you’ll need to carefully consider. While it can be tough to know what weapons or craft may suit you in general newer aircraft tend to have benefits like more capacity or speed, and given the ground-based missions can be so consistently challenging and target-laden you’ll probably want to invest a bit in equipment for bombing runs. You’ll be able to manage your loadouts before every mission, choosing your craft, filling up your available slots with weapons (taking into consideration their relative costs in payload and avionics), and can even reskin you craft (there are some cool nods, including a very nice Nintendo one, here). You accumulate points you spend between missions as well for temporary upgrades that will serve to supplement as well as an added touch.

While there are a lot of things that make the game both beautiful and fun repetition does set in pretty quickly. Granted, this is generally true of all roguelikes, but while your specific targets may vary, and a few are pretty notably challenging (like the substantial and well-defended Dreadnaught) you’ll really need to be invested in what you’re doing to keep it interesting. New craft do help for a while, as becoming accustomed to their added capabilities can be fun, but ultimately how much you enjoy the game will be about being committed to the general mission structure and what it represents. Unlike the other games I’d mentioned in the opening while there is an element of dogfighting in the game that’s usually not much of a focus. More often you’re trying to focus on single larger targets, and some of them can be a challenge to destroy, but the pacing of the action is very different with you typically lining up an approach from a distance and then trying to swoop over and unleash as much damage as you can rather than stay locked in twists and turns while trying to outmaneuver each other. In terms of variety it is welcome but I think it’s worth noting so you make sure your expectations are properly set.

As a whole package Sky Rogue is very attractive in a very retro-esque kind of way and manages to set itself apart from the other aerial combat titles already on the system. With its focus generally concerning larger and tougher targets, rather than skirmishes with other smaller and quicker aircraft, it’s more of a planning and execution title than a “seat of your pants” one. You can certainly be reckless and try to make an aggressive run while ignoring everything but your target but that strategy only works for so long before you’ll get lit up badly. If you’re looking for a wide variety of aerial combat that’s a little lower on thrills per minute but can be satisfying in its more methodical nature Sky Rogue is a solid option.

As a warning, though I personally didn't have issues with the game crashing some of my fellow reviewers did. There is apparently a patch going through the process at Nintendo to help address this, but it is possible until that gets in place there could be instability issues. Though, again, I didn't really have any consistent issues.

Score: 7.5

  • A fabulous low-poly look that is retro but wonderfully colorful as well
  • Rather than being very dogfight-focused it tends towards larger targets requiring more of a commitment as you progress
  • As you play and die you’ll accumulate experience that will unlock new weapons and aircraft you can choose from

  • On a general level the nature of the missions can quickly get repetitive
  • Not as consistently thrilling as some of the other similar titles on the system