Call off the search, I know what happened to Amelia Airheart: she took to the skies to become a fisherwoman. Or at least that seems to be the case in Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings – the new twin-stick adventure from the team at Blindflug Studios that blends together fishing, shooting and crafting with a rogue-like twist.
Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings puts you in the shoes of Amelia, a pilot and fisherwoman who dreams of capturing the legendary Sky Whale that lurks at the highest reaches of the skies. Yep, you read that right – the fishing in this game doesn’t take place on the sea, but rather in the air. It’s neat.
All of this plays out as a twin-stick shooter, with the player able to fully explore a multi-layered world that’s full of fish to catch, enemies to vanquish and loot to collect. You need to capture the fish to sell in order to upgrade your plane to become powerful enough to tackle the deadlier reaches of the sky. When you’ve fully explored one layer of the map and caught all of its fish (or think you’re ready to move on) you simply find a route up and repeat the formula.
To catch fish you’ve just got to fly into them, though this isn’t always all that simple. Some will try… um… ‘air-swimming’ away from you, so sometimes you’ll find yourself in a bit of a chase as you try to hunt them down. It doesn’t stop it being pretty relaxing though, with the whole fishing aspect of the game actually proving to be a surprising amount of fun despite the simplicity of it all. However, there’re plenty of enemies out there in the skies who want to take you down, so you can never stay relaxed for too long. Thankfully, you’re well-equipped to take down your foes, with shoot outs utilising the tried and tested twin-stick shooting formula. Admittedly, it’s isn’t the most intense of action you’ll see in the genre, but it works well in-game.
The aim of the game is to move higher up into the skies to find the Sky Whale, though the further you move up the more difficult the game becomes. There’s an emphasis on constantly upgrading your plane and ensuring you’re ready for whatever challenges the next layer of the sky brings, so provided you’ve properly prepared you shouldn’t face too many problems.
That being said, Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings features permadeath, so if you do head up ill-prepared the consequences can be brutal – there’s nothing worse than seeing your prized plane blown to smithereens. Thankfully, the game has a neat little system where if you do crash out, you can freefall down the layers of the sky as a means to survive. If you manage to crash land near your base and avoid hitting obstacles on the way down, you can salvage some of your gear and have a small advantage during your next run. It’s simple, but something I appreciated – especially since you can find yourself constantly under siege by Sky Pirates in the tougher areas of the world.
As mentioned, upgrading your plane is vital to success, so you’ll want to invest your loot and cash effectively if you’re going to catch the Sky Whale. You can improve things such as your weapon strength and health, and you’ll definitely feel your plane become more powerful as you start disposing of foes with absolute ease. Admittedly, upgrading could be awkward at times since it could be hard to tell how much of an improvement each upgrade actually offered, but it still felt good to see your plane get better.
There’s also a crafting system in place that’s actually a surprising amount of fun to play with. You never know what exactly you’re crafting, so you have to experiment by mixing up your items and seeing what you concoct. The game does give you an indicator if you’re putting together a complete dud so it’s never aimless, but it is satisfying to come up with something incredibly useful after potching around willy-nilly for a while. Be warned though: the game doesn’t keep track of items you’ve actually put together, so if you want to make something again you better make sure you remember the recipe you used.
Between shifting across the sky’s layers, upgrading your plane, and playing around with the crafting system, there’s a fair bit to Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings. Unfortunately, I did find myself getting a little bored the more I played, with the game not really doing much to signify your progress outside of you simply managing to get a layer or two further through the skies on subsequent playthroughs.
There’s potential for a neat little tale to be told in the game and the world itself is certainly charming, but rather than embracing it as you move forward it instead felt like I was going around in the same old circles as I slowly tiptoed my way to the Sky Whale. It’s never outright bad and there’s no denying that there’s fun to be had, but it lacks that *something* to really hook you in.
At least the world is always pretty to look at though, even if some aspects felt a little dated. The environments are colourful and creative and constantly change as you move up through the layers, so it’s easy to find yourself in awe of Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings’ world. However, there were a few areas of the visual design which underwhelmed – fish simply disappear when you catch them for example, whilst shootouts with enemies lacked an exciting kick. There’s certainly more good on show than bad, but it was a shame that the pretty visuals weren’t always consistent.
Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings has quite a few neat ideas on show with its twin-stick shooting adventure, but there’s no denying that it never quite reaches its full potential. Sure, it starts off fun catching loads of fish, blasting away at enemies, and upgrading your plane, but when you realise that the entirety of the game is spent doing the same old things it can start to get a little boring.
Still, it’s not a bad game and there’s certainly fun to be had on your journey to try and find the Sky Whale – just expect plenty of turbulence during the game’s repetitive gameplay formula.
Developer: Blindflug Studios
Publisher: Blindflug Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC