Transcendental grind. Early Black Skylands Review

Black Skylands is a mixture of many genres. There is a top-down shooter, control of your own aircraft, base development with the help of various buildings. Russian studio Hungry Couch Games tried to combine the incompatible. But Black Skylands’ problems lie deeper.

The plot begins with the birthday of the main character Eva. Her father, a cloud explorer from the Clan of Miners, returned home with a great revelation. He gives her a toy gun, asks her to find her brother and look around on the huge ship “Fathership”, where many people from their community live.

We’ll have to shoot and fly in an aircraft. The training turned out to be comprehensive, but not extended. We are slowly brought up to date, told the story of the world through well-written dialogues, and then an “unexpected twist” happens. When Eve and her brother return to the Fathership, her father presents a hitherto unknown creature to the heads of all clans. It was not aggressive, but it was provoked by Eve’s younger brother, for which he almost paid with his own life. The creature is immediately killed, the head of the Falcons society is wounded, and time is rewound for a number of years forward.

The clans are fighting among themselves, Eva and her brother have grown up, and their new task is to keep an eye on the Fathership and help her father fight the creatures from the Swarm, one of which he brought on that fateful night. The head of the Falcon clan, who lost his hand, decided to take control of everything and rule all the other factions  like Best grenade spots dust 2 by force. Therefore, the Falcons fired at Eve’s ship, and the girl wanted revenge.

And from that moment on, the plot seems to disappear. It is decanted to us drop by drop once every few hours, and the events taking place with Eve look like “fly to that island, kill everyone there, vacuumed all corners, return home”. Nothing interesting happens. Even boss battles are disheartening here, and they are needed in order to open another city and a place where you can buy or where you can bring resources for sale.

The shooter part doesn’t shine either. The weapon has a spread, and such that 50% of the bullets from the store fly anywhere, but not at the enemy. Why is this necessary at all? Opponents have many lives, and in response they hit hard. More or less accurately and far only the sniper can hit – but there are catastrophically few cartridges for it. The shotgun makes you act aggressively but rarely allows you to kill an enemy with one hit. 

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The move is nice and doesn’t cause any problems. Eve knows how to use a grappling hook to gravitate towards floating islands, a ship, or pull something towards her. This can be used both in combat and while exploring the world. But sometimes the hook may not catch or reach the right place, and then the heroine will fall into the abyss. In some moments it infuriates, but you quickly learn to use it, and the device ceases to cause negative emotions.

There are problems with flying on aircraft. Naughty cornering is not a bad thing. The boat shakes from side to side like a balloon. It infuriates when, when fired from a cannon, it begins to unfold by inertia. In every battle, you have to put up with this feature and additionally steer with every volley. 

The main problems begin when, after training and several introductory missions, we are told that now Eve needs to free all the islands from the oppression of the Falcon clan. The map is huge, and flights between some territories can take up to five minutes. And all would be fine, but the captured area can be divided into several small islands – and there are enemies on all of them. This is not indicated anywhere, and therefore the player must rush on his ship from place to place, kill two or three people and fly to another fragment of the island.

Moreover, some zones are designed in such a way that it is necessary to fly up to them in a certain place, turn off the lock on the gate with a switch, fly further and repeat several times. This is terribly boring, the inconvenient control of the ship in a narrow space is simply infuriating, let alone the monotonous cleaning of small islands from enemies.

When the island is liberated and the enemy forces on it are destroyed, people from the Falcon clan can try to capture it again. What does it mean? Eve will have to fly back to the island she has already repulsed and destroy the enemy there. If she does not have time for a certain time, the territory will go to the enemy and she will need to be liberated again. 

Anew!

I, however, managed to catch a bug – none of the islands fought back. Having killed all the Falcons on the territory of the island, I boarded my ship, retreated further, and then, returning, observed all the same enemy forces at the old points. 

And then Eve is forced to build up the destroyed “Fathership” with farms, weapons, shipyards and other infrastructure like in HuniePop 2. If the player did not drag resources from each corner of the map already visited, like Plyushkin, then he will have to forcibly extract them for each of the buildings. How? Returning to the already visited islands, and running them through the tenth circle, collecting each box by hand. A little later, it will be possible to drag them to the ship with the help of your pet-moth, but this will happen only after 5-6 hours of the game.

And you can’t miss this monotonous grind. The main goal of the player in Black Skylands is to seize the islands and vacuum the resources in order to collect them for the next “important” construction or improvement of their own ship. And you will not be allowed to go further in the story until this or that infrastructure is built, and a story item is created in it – of course, also for additional resources.

It becomes even more painful to play when no one tells you where to get, for example, asteroid coal needed for smelting. The player must figure out for himself that the stones soaring in the sky are he. Brilliant! 

Diagnosis

It seems that Hungry Coach Games was aiming at the mobile segment, but something went wrong during development, and they had to go to PC. Nice picture and interesting plotline are drowned in boring gameplay and forced grind. You can’t miss it, and there is nothing else to do in Shadow Blade 5 Even every time you exit the game, you are greeted with a sign asking you to leave your feedback in the developers’ Discord server – just like in mobile games.

Pro

  • Beautiful pixel art
  • Interesting plot plot

Contra

  • Inconvenient ship control
  • Shooter mechanics
  • The plot is hidden behind the grind
  • Cleaning up the islands
  • Bugs

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