To put it plainly, Sky Rogue is totally awesome. If you’re looking for a rogue-like or flight combat simulator, this experience is up there with the heavy hitters on both fronts. It is an excellent flight game in its own right and a well designed thoughtful rogue-like as well. It’s all put together in a clean and tight package – there are immense amounts of fun to be had and endless hours of loadout building and configuring to play around with.
The first thing many players will notice right off the bat is how gorgeous and striking the retro art style is. It’s all set up in this voxel based world filled with bright primary colors, as you fly through clouds into these simple but eye-catching islands. While it’s not any triple-A quality, with the lighting and coloring, some scenes in this game can be completely arresting. When you’re flying low, right above the water, and you blow up an enemy base, it can truly look like you’re watching some sort of retro anime. It’s stunning to look at. It’s stunning to hear too, with these bubbly and catchy background tunes that somehow never get old and fit with the bright visual aesthetic.
That’s good too because you will be blowing up a lot of stuff in your time with Sky Rogue. As you begin, you are given one ship with a certain set of weapons and are set off into the air. You’re tasked with eliminating a certain target in a series of randomly generated islands, and these can be buildings or other planes. As you are trying to do this however, the island is also surrounded by enemies; both on the ground and in the sky. You could head straight to the target, take it out, and head back to base – or you can eliminate some other enemies or buildings to grind currency and tech points.
The currency can be spent on upgrades for your equipment during a run, while tech points allow you to unlock new weapons, tech and planes once your run ends. There is a sizeable amount of diverse stuff to unlock and all of the items feel distinct and useful. The planes in particular impressed me with how different they handled and acted; these are not re-skins, they all genuinely feel like unique machines. For instance, a heavy bomber can take a lot more hits but turns and dives incredibly slowly, while a fighter jet can zip up and down, turn on a dime, but dies in a couple of serious hits.
The weapons that you unlock are also fantastic and so distinctive, from a little drone that you can release to be your wingman to giant nuke-like missiles that you can slowly drop from the sky. Thankfully there is way more variety here than just a regular machine gun and homing missile combo. When you die, you keep everything you’ve unlocked but all upgrades you’ve put on them get taken away.
You’ll want to keep grinding too because the combat is truly top notch, high octane, screw-tight dogfighting. Fighting from the air, you will feel like you’re an ace pilot pulling off all these epic and intense manoeuvres around your enemies. There are two options of controls too – either via an arcade system which is simple and easy to pick up, or a flight sim mode which is a lot more to handle but has a more realistic feel. Both work great, but the game really shines when you finally nail the flight sim mode, which gives even more depth to the movement in the air.
The eventual goal of a run is to reach the final boss, which is incredibly hard. There are 13 stages before you reach him however, and these need to all be passed. This brings me to my biggest problem with Sky Rogue, which is the difficulty. See, whilst the final boss is incredibly difficult I wish the rest of the game was to that standard; many of the regular enemies are pretty easy to take out and none of the stages ever feel like a serious challenge. This might be different for others, but I wish there was some sort of difficulty for people to adjust as needed.
As far as I could tell there is practically no story to speak of either, but that’s okay because frankly it does not need one at all. I’m glad that they didn’t try to shoehorn in some plot that would feel out of place, and due to the lack of any exposition or cutscenes the game certainly has a nice pick up and play arcade-y feel.
That’s really how I see Sky Rogue on Xbox One – it’s almost like this cult classic hidden flight sim arcade game that would be perfect with a big flight stick in hand. It’s just an insane amount of fun, and despite the occasionally low difficulty, the combat and art design soars so high that it’s hard to not absolutely fall in love. If you have any interest in either a flight sim, or a rogue-like experience, for the reasonable price that it’s at, you should buy Sky Rogue immediately. Trust me, you’ll be feeling like a top gun in no time.