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Black Skylands Review

Black Skylands Review

I took to the skies to check out the futuristic, action-packed game called Black Skylands. When I began playing, the title was in Early Access for about a week before the full game was released. I expected that, like most Early Access games, not much would be changed between the two versions. I was totally wrong, there were a lot of things altered between the two, especially story-wise. I was a bit sad that my save file was obliterated, but I have to say, upon playing the full-release game, I prefer the direction they chose to go with.

BlackSkylands difficulty

Right off the bat, you are presented with a range of difficulties that will determine how hard the game will be during your playthrough:

Easy — you only care about the story and don’t want the game to be too challenging.

Normal — balanced difficulty.

Hard — you have played similar games in the past and you want a challenge.

Marshal of Aspya — this is for those who want a seriously challenging experience!

BlackSkylands entrance

Once you have made your choice, the game opens up with Richard (the main character’s father) exploring an alien planet. He walks into a cave that looks like he has walked into a creature's mouth, inside, there are alien eggs with spikes on them. Richard decides to pick one of these eggs up and subsequently gets cut by one of the sharp spines, drawing blood. The alien egg absorbs the red fluid, which makes it glow blue. This alien species now has a taste for human blood, which can not bode well for the human race…

BlackSkylands AlienEgg

Richard leaves the alien planet, and a shield surrounds it as he flies away.

BlackSkylands shield

Back on the planet of Aspya, we see 12-year-old Eva telling her friend Elsie how she needs to complete the obstacle course to prove to her dad that she is an adult and is ready to go on expeditions with him. She is determined to get through the Trial, especially since it’s her birthday, and there is no other thing she wants to accomplish as much as this. Marshal Eldon caves and agrees to let her take the Trial if she is able to use the training pistol to hit the target five times. Eva is more than ready for this task, she has even dressed up like her favourite character (complete with an eyepatch), Captain Brandt. She is from a book series called “Journey to the Edge of the Sky” that her father read to her. 

BlackSkylands target2

You now get to play, taking control of Eva, aiming the gun at the wooden target, and firing using the A button. Once you hit the target five times, Marshal agrees to let you challenge the Trial and lets you keep the training pistol that you were using. He says that you have a better chance of completing the course than your younger brother Aaron, who is known to be a clown.

BlackSkylands pistol2

To get through the trial, you will learn to use your grappling hook with the RB to shoot it, which allows you to move from platform to platform easily so that you don’t fall to your death. You will also need to use that handy pistol that is now in your possession to “shoot” down the enemy fighters that stand in your way. Eva has med kits that she can use to recover health by holding down the right direction button on the D-pad, some plants will also give you these health kits if you are running low. Sometimes, shooting isn’t the easiest way to take down the enemy, Eva also has a melee attack called a backslash that can be used when you are up close to them, this is also a great move to use as a sneak attack. If the enemy has their back turned, you can surprise them, and they won’t have any idea what hit them. While going through the course, you find your brother stuck inside a box. Why he decided to try to complete it in a box, I have no clue, but you need to get him back to the Fathership for one of the engineers to free him.

BlackSkylands shoothook2

Once you successfully complete the Trial, your grandfather Oswald tells Marshal Eldon that he shouldn’t have let you take part in the Trial because you could have broken your neck since you are a girl, after all… stupid old guy! Though he does give you a good birthday present, it’s a moth named Luma. Luma is not your typical insect; she is super helpful and can move items like crates and supplies to the ship’s cargo hold for you and help you fight the enemy when you take to the skies. 

BlackSkylands Luma2

The controls for the airship have changed from what they were in Early Access. Now, to accelerate, you hit the A button, B lets you decelerate (aka slow down) or reverse, and the left thumbstick lets you move the ship but keeps an eye on the ship’s energy gauge. To shoot at enemy aircraft, you will use the gun at the bow of the ship by holding the Right Trigger, you also have an Impulse Shield that you can engage by using LB. This shield will protect the ship, as well as repel enemy attacks. You may be thinking, "I can drive a car, how hard can it be to drive a ship?" Well, this ship is quite large, so it’s hard to make sharp turns! To turn it usually involves rotating the full ship to get it angled in the direction that you want. After you play for a while, you will get accustomed to piloting the airship, it will just take some practice and understanding that a vehicle this large — like parallel parking a large car — is challenging and handles a lot differently than you expect.

BlackSkylands flying2

Your father has come back from his expedition, but he seems incredibly annoyed that his daughter is excited and “nattering” away at him. He doesn’t seem to care that Eva has passed the Trial, he claims that she is still too young to come along with him. You deliver a box to him called the Desert Box. Inside this crate, there is the skeleton of some weird creature — if you played the game in Early Access, you know that this is an alien from the swarm. He suddenly changes his mind and declares that she will come with him to Blackfall and they must leave Aspya right now. There is no time to let anyone know that you are leaving, you will just have to write them when you get to your new destination. The screen goes black, and we skip forward eight years.

BlackSkylands skeleton

Eva is now 20 years old, and a Messenger Moth has come to tell her that her mission is to investigate the lack of correspondence from Marshal Eldon, they are expecting a detailed report once she figures out what is going on. You head back to Aspya to touch base with the Marshal to find out why there has been no communication from them. You arrive to find that Kain and his Falcon Soldiers have been attacking the Marshal, his forces, and the residents of Fatherland. During your visit, events occur that lead you to become the new Marshal of Aspya, and it is up to you to keep it safe from the pirates that are trying to take it over, destroying whatever gets in their way. 

BlackSkylands shoot

The game now plays like a twin-stick shooter as you try to take down the Kain’s Falcon forces that are attacking different islands in the skies surrounding the imminent area. There are new weapons to pick up, like an assault rifle, and crates marked with a green + that provide med packs and additional ammo. Eva can have three weapons equipped at the same time, but by using the tablet, it is easy to swap between all the firearms in your inventory. 

BlackSkylands upgradegun

While exploring these lands for enemy forces, you will find resources like stones, wood, and red and blue ore, these will be used to fix the destroyed buildings on Fatherland. Once you restore the Armoury, you will get the ability to use red ore to upgrade your weapons to make them stronger and more lethal in battle. Whether you are flying or walking around, there is a compass that will point you in the direction of enemies that you still need to take out or the locations that you need to visit. There are numbers showing how far away you are from your target, and they will count down so it’s easy to tell if you are getting closer to them. 

BlackSkylands search2

The music has been updated from its Early Access version, so instead of folk-sounding fiddle music all the time, it has now added futuristic-sounding battle music with an upbeat tempo that fits when you are fighting against enemy forces. The visuals are made up of pixel-inspired sprites that have a ton of detail that really pop off the screen: the explosions that occur during battles, the aftermath of previous fights showing destroyed buildings, fires burning, and pixelated blood that has been spilt all over the ground. It doesn’t need to be in 3D or high-definition to see the destruction that has been done.

BlackSkylands Marshall2

Black Skylands does a great job mixing a twin-stick shooter with a flying game that adds a ton of variety to the game. The story was compelling, and was fun to see the futuristic tale unfold, especially with a strong female lead that doesn’t let the guys in her life control what she does. Even if you tried out Black Skylands in Early Access, the full release is a totally different game than the one you may have played before, so it is definitely worth checking out again now that it has fully released. 

BlackSkylands enemyairship

8.50/10 8½

Black Skylands (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

 Black Skylands has a compelling story and is a great mix of a twin-stick shooter with a flying game that switches between the two often enough that you won’t get bored. Piloting a large airship can be frustrating at times, but it gets easier as you practise.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Alana Dunitz

Alana Dunitz

Staff Writer

Lover of all games, old and new!

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