You’ve heard of the Steampunk genre before. Combining steampunk and sky battles comes the open-world Black Skylands Early Access title. Fight pirates and loot the wreckage they leave behind. But be aware that monsters roam the skies as well. Captain your own vessel and own the world above the ground. If the sky’s the limit, there’s nothing you can’t do.
Black Skylands Story
Even as an Early Access title Black Skylands has a fantastic story. While it is a skypunk/steampunk title at its heart, there are a few Sci-Fi elements. In the Eternal Storm exists a large ecosystem. And it houses many creatures. What I thought would be innocent research on a creature spelled the end for a handful of citizens. It was quite a shock to see one of the main characters become severely injured at the beginning. It’s not always the start of a story. But I appreciated the ‘quick’ call to action for Eva in Black Skylands.
As a war between former allies begins, it’s a wonder if anyone will survive. And something has triggered the swarm of monsters in the Eternal Storm. The apocalyptic feel of the swarm is great. I love the idea that creatures who’ve always existed pose an imminent threat.
The movement was strikingly similar to Grand Theft Auto II. Aside from the grapple and the ability to dodge, there wasn’t much difference. Black Skylands takes place in the clouds. And it’s easy to fall to your death. That being said, I was extremely thankful to know there was a grapple device, which was activated with a right mouse click. Falling off the edge was easy. But there were times it was necessary to step into the clouds to grapple to other places. ‘Ground’ fighting was fairly simple, which is nice when the focus is the story. But oftentimes, the ranged weapons felt unnecessary. It proved much easier to take down some enemies with simple melee attacks. And a boss battle was short when I cornered the enemy. It really took the intensity out of the fight.
Sky battles were something else entirely. While Black Skylands has a focus on ship battles, it’s far from easy. Shooting cannons move the ship left or right. And sometimes, that can affect how well the cannon fire hits an enemy, which can prove frustrating if one has to repair the ship. My biggest issue with flying was the fast travel. Fast traveling to the Fathership put me in the middle of the sky at one point, and I ended up dying. I thanked the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods that there was an auto-save feature.
Sailing the Skies
Graphically, Black Skylands is extremely simple. The highest resolution available is 1920×1080. But it can be adjusted to various degrees. And lowered even more, which is great for individuals who don’t want to wear down their computers. While the graphics are simple, I was genuinely surprised by the lag of the highest resolution. Aside from that, graphically, I loved the game. It reminded me so much of classic arcade titles like the Metal Slug series. And for having pixel graphics, the characters and environments were surprisingly detailed. Though, there were times where the ‘fuzziness’ of the pixels tricked my eyes. Some spaces appeared more open when they weren’t and vice versa.
The audio was pretty solid. The graphics threw me off a little when I heard the noise. But the gunfire and cannon fire were surprisingly ‘realistic.’ At least, in a sense, there weren’t midi files used to make the noises. I was glad to see that most of the ‘sound effect’ noises were mostly real sounds. My biggest critique with the Black Skylands audio would be the voices. Seeing the trailer, I was expecting to hear voice clips during dialogue sections. So, I was a little disappointed that the most I heard in-game were grunts and ‘hi’ when Eva was greeted.
Altogether, Black Skylands was a decent title. There was a fully fleshed-out story. Characters were stereotypical of a world with pirates as a central theme. But as the main character, it was good to see Eva as a strong and resilient female lead. Ground fighting at times could be considered clunky. And there were some boss fights where simple cornering turned things around, which some might find disappointing if they’re looking for a challenge. As great as fast travel would be, an occasional glitch can kill one’s character. While there were a handful of issues, it still played pretty solid. So I look forward to seeing Black Skylands when it exits Early Access. Feel free to take it for a spin yourself, but be aware that it is not a fully released title.