For those that don’t know, Amelia Aarhart is a famous female pilot who went missing whilst attempting to fly around the planet. Despite an exhaustive search, her plane nor remains were never found and as such the her story is blanketed with lots of conspiracy and speculation. There are plenty of theories, ranging from the reasoned to the absurd. Heck, Star Trek Voyager even had her turn up frozen in the Delta Quadrant in one episode. But the truth is, nobody really knows.
So anyway, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about a pilot from the 1930’s when I’m supposed to be talking about a game. Well, the reason is that Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings draws inspiration from her legacy as well as somewhat sharing a name albeit with a different spelling. Airheart is a twin-sticks roguelike set in a world of floating islands, flying fish and pirates. It sounds a little strange, but the result is a surprising pleasant experience.
Adam took an early look at Airheart whist it was in early access, and what he covered in his video really does hold true now that the game is ready for launch. The game has a really gentle start, allowing you to just sit back and relax meandering around the the floating atolls catching fish and shooting down the odd pirate. Feel like you’ve caught enough, then set yourself into a nosedive and return to base to claim your loot which you can use to craft or purchase new weapons and plane parts. It’s all rather serene, and as you get to grips with the games controls and mechanics you’re eased into the game through a series of sparsely populated levels that afford you the time and freedom to explore and enjoy flying about and catching fish.
As you begin to progress to the upper levels however, the cat soon shows her claws! Levels quickly become swamped with pirates and the difficulty dramatically increases. The peaceful calm pushed aside for a more frantic battle to survive, and each step up the escalator throws more and more at you. Your goal is to make it up to level 15 where you catch the legendary Sky Whale, the most sort after fish in the skies. And getting there is a no easy feat at all, requiring skill and patience in droves as you grind your way to the top, and trust me when I say this game is very grindy.
If it’s that sense of pride and accomplishment that you’re after however, then this game will certainly appeal to you. For most of us however I feel that the game asks a little too much. You see, the combat in the game is OK. The various weapons you can acquire through out the game can spice it up a little, but overall it airs a bit on the dodge and spray side. The harpoon can be rather fun, for example spearing a sky turtle and then using them as a makeshift flail. But I preferred my time in the calmer earlier stages, taking it easy catching fish and more playfully teasing the police or smashing pirates into walls.
Putting aside the above for a minute, there is room to improve the game further. The initial tutorial explains the gameplay well, but there are other components in the game that the player just needs to figure out, for example crafting. I also still have no idea what the stars at the end of each level mean. I think they’re rewarded for finding hidden things, but nowhere does the game tell you what you need to do to get them. More specific to the PC, the game seemed a little over-demanding on hardware, forcing me to rein in the graphics settings on my decently specced PC to get a smooth and stable frame-rate despite the game not really looking that visually taxing. Perhaps a little more spit and polish could be applied, but there aren’t really any major issues that you need to worry about.
Overall, there are parts of the game I like and parts of the game that perhaps aren’t really for me. I think the difficulty curve and the progression system could perhaps be smoothed out a little to help the game maintain a longer term appeal. But I can also see how that detracts from the grind and challenge that a lot of other players out there enjoy so much. I think though the game is pleasant, and moving around each level just feels ‘nice’ as Adam put it.
To conclude, ‘nice’ is the perfect word for this game. I think everyone will enjoy their first couple of hours with the game, but beyond that you’ve got to make the big commitment to grind it out if you want to see it through to the end.
(Editorial Note – The PC and PS4 versions of the game are basically identical. The game looks and plays well on the PS4 Pro we tested it on. However we did have some odd technical problems when HDR was enabled, it really messed up the image making things far to dark and almost inverted the colours, hopefully a fix will be coming soon!)
Airheat was provided to us by Blindflug Studios for PC & PS4.