Let’s Go Red Wings! Go Wings Go! Born and Raised in South Detroit! Ah, wrong Red Wings and not a rink in sight. Oh well, let’s see what this is then, seeing as it isn’t about my favourite Ice Hockey team. Red Wings: Aces of the Sky as far away from the ground as possible.
What actually piqued my interest in this was it reminded me of two game. Crimson Skies and Snoopy: Flying Ace. Both were joys to play and left quite the impression on me. I loved these games in ways I just couldn’t with other dogfighting titles.
The main thing that works for Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is that instant accessibility and simple learning curve. Yet it rewards you for learning all the little nuances to combat and is one of those true ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ types of games.
This on a base level is brilliant, as missions are well paced and always feel challenging. Never once did I feel like I was going through the motions and just gunning down simple enemies without any regard to how I was playing. Something I have felt in many other games that throw enemies at you.
It is good that the combat itself is so satisfying, as the main campaign, whilst nicely presented in a comic-book styled format feels a bit bland. This in turn leads into a campaign that also feel a tad repetitive and a bit by the numbers. Don’t get me wrong, the Red Baron tale is a fascinating one, I just don’t think it is done justice here. I also don’t ever feel the missions themselves really fit that either. I would honestly have been ok with this being a completely made up story and character if it is just for padding.
I get that in a game based around dog-fighting there is very little in terms of variety to be had. But I look at other games in the genre that have managed this and felt Red Wings: Aces of the Sky just lacked here. Especially when you add in a top down bombing section that just feel so out of place, like it could have come from a different game entirely. There are also missions in campaign that have you flying through loops to keep your fuel gauge up and trying to beat a time. I get why this is there, but within the story it is set in, it feels off.
This is all a shame as I love the actual mechanics of the game. Each and every combat mission had me feeling like I was in a constant battle and never once felt overpowered of comfortable. I was forced to use the clouds as cover and really think about the sky as a battlefield. The enemy AI seems to be very intelligent and constantly had me switching between attacking and then flying defensively.
One of the things that matter in battle often comes as a mission objective too. That is shooting down blimps. Some will spawn more enemies once shot down, whilst others will keep spawning them until shot down. It adds a very interesting strategic element. Which you can’t just avoid, as missions could be timed, or score based. Beating these targets will get you stars which are then used on skill and upgrade trees for your plane of choice.
Upgrades become vital, as missions do become extremely tough as you progress. Being under-powered will see you shot down rather quickly. You feel so very exposed all the time and staying in the battle is a must. Especially in a score based round, where combos matter. The combo timing is fairly generous, but play too timidly and you’ll just never get those scores up.
To offset the story mode, there is also a survival mode and in all honesty, I would have rather the game be based around this more than anything. The survival mode is a wave based mode where you must do as it says on the tin . Survive, whilst downing wave after wave of enemies. The better you do, the better score you get. It is seen as a secondary mode, but personally if the story mode was scrapped and replaced by various challenge score chasing mode instead. Will I’d be very much ok with that.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is a very odd game. There is a lot to like about it. From the way it looks right through to the way it plays. There is plenty to keep you occupied. However it just lacks that little spark that would keep it in my permanent rotation. I will pop back in every now and again to the survival mode, but it may just as easily be forgotten about with so much other stuff to play.
By no means is Red Wings: Ace of the Sky a bad game, it is very good. I feel like I am dumping on it from a great height (if that is possible for a game that takes place in the sky) and that isn’t my intention. It is worth playing for sure it just doesn’t have the longevity that it could so easily have had. It certainly isn’t the next Crimson Skies of Snoopy: Flying Ace that I was so hoping it was shaping up to be.