Black Skylands – PC (P)review

Black Skylands – PC (P)review
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Genre: Open-world action-adventure sandbox
Developer: Hungry Couch Games
Publisher: tinyBuild
Release Date: July 9th, 2021
Edited by AlexKnight2005

The world crumbled piece by piece, but these pieces floated into the skies. With a limited land structure, the people created a new world to live in. Peace was made, but over time, factions were made as darkness loomed over the floating islands. Protection was needed to fight whatever was coming, but power and greed fell upon those who had the weapons over time, creating a hostile environment between factions. As the situation continues, the beasts of the swarm ravage and get stronger. It’s time to take a stand and attack both fronts.

Black Skylands is a top-down pixel arcade action game. With a sprinkle of base building, RPG, and skypunk. Skypunk is like steampunk but in the sky! Acting mainly as a top-down shooter and soft bullet hell mechanics, you will adventure out as Eva to save people and the land against hostile factions and monsters. There is a linear story to follow with customization to your base, ship, and weapons.

Something that this game mixes a lot of is combat with exploring. With your trusty skyship, you will be doing quests that will take you through the skies to get to other islands, which can have raw materials you need to gather to rebuild your bases and other equipment like armor and weapons. In the beginning, everything is hostile and needs to be cleared on an island for your people to expand. But as time passes, these islands can be attacked by a faction in which you have to defend against or risk losing upgrades. Since many islands are just floating rocks, a grappling hook is one of the main ways to get around when the ship cannot enter. Since most of the mechanics of the game are like a bullet hell, dodging and fast pace shooting happens for the most part. Other situations occur when you’re on your ship and come under attack. You have to mount your cannons in fixed directions to fight back while also making repairs so the ship won’t go down. As you get farther out from your main base, the enemies get more challenging, requiring a bit of a grind to get better equipment to fight the more brutal enemies. This can be done by building certain things for your base, such as a farm for raw materials for armor or refineries to smelt metal ore to make weapons. Maybe even passive upgrades that require a certain amount of a population from islands to research. Islands will have different enemies and defenses you fight against or figure out how to get by. It will also include various kinds of puzzles and resources to succeed.

The combat is excellent and fast-paced but can get stale if you decide not to try out the different weapons. Weapons are usually the only thing that can give a different feel to the game, along with the upgrades or changes to the ship. It’s normal to dodge a hail of bullets while shooting back with a roll and melee. The puzzles are simple action ones you’d expect, and you wouldn’t want something too complex to slow down the gameplay or take the spotlight. Usually, take this and put it there or remember this, put it in there. Base building is an excellent addition to this genre, as it adds a sense of community you get the construct, and each has a use depending on your needs. While it’s not super extensive, it is a memorable experience. While the customization is also pretty good to add variety, it seems to be locked behind RNG depending on what you acquire from islands. This kind of forces you to use weapons that have the best add-ons because the weapons have levels; since you don’t get a choice, you may use certain guns that aren’t great in other situations. Each box acquired randomly gives you a component for a random weapon. The higher the level, the more damage and better the weapon is. Other things like passive upgrades and ship upgrades can all be chosen depending on what you want to spend and what you want to upgrade, which also require raw materials. Leading to the exploring part; while adventuring in the ship is fun, it leads to a grind for resources. It’s fantastic at first, but you need to make the trek back to a base to deposit or waste money for quick travel both make for an unfulfilling journey. There isn’t any reward to exploring or adventuring or figuring out what’s on an island besides the simple materials you need to advance the story for upgrades. All this open world to traverse with little to offer.

The style is a nice pixel detail art with a skypunk theme. Think of it like Bioshock Infinite in context but without the 1920s feel. There currently is very little to no voice acting, which is odd because the voice acting is in the weirdest places. Like one-liners from shops, but all dialog has that bleeps and bloop sounds for noise when someone is talking. The soundtrack is short in some areas but gives a good feel for the setting, such as battle music or sailing the winds.

I enjoyed what it had to offer, but it feels like one of those games where it has many good ideas on paper but doesn’t come across together well currently. Every mechanic falls just a bit short of satisfying. It could become a better experience with time, but it’s still a decent one nonetheless.

Pros:

  • Great top-down shooter.
  • Exciting combination of mechanics.
  • Procedural islands.

Cons:

  • Systems of mechanics fall short gameplay-wise.
  • The story is uninteresting.
  • Open world with little reason to explore.

It seems they are pushing updates frequently and adding additional content in the game’s current state. It can become better with time if they decide to stick with it and make for a decent experience to spend time on even though it’s lacking in a few areas. You can pick up Black Skylands on Steam for $19.99.