Many roguelike twin-stick shooters feel very similar but here's a game that definitely breaks the mold. Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings is an almost Zen-like flight game yet it's challenging enough to satisfy genre fans. Let's take to the skies and check it out!
Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings stars Amelia who aspires to be a renowned pilot in a world where chunks of land float in the sky and fish swim in the air. Although our hero is clearly named after the real-life Amelia Earhart, the game world is quite fantastical. Its colourful environments are lovely and the soundtrack is top-notch. Hearing the music change whenever you reach certain heights is just awesome and observing the details of each stage is a treat, especially considering the fact that everything is rendered in 3D although the gameplay remains 2D. Plus, you can pause the gameplay at any time to enter Photo Mode so you can freely move the camera and snap all the pictures you want. It truly is a delightful game to take in and the short story cinematics that you unlock whenever you reach certain parts in the campaign are the icing on the cake.
I know what you're wondering; so, how is Airheart played? Basically, it's a twin-stick roguelike but it's not as action-heavy as you would expect. For starters, there are two ways to control your plane: you can either push left and right to steer it (Relative) or point to where you want your plane to go (Absolute). I had to choose Relative controls because the other option was an Absolute disaster. Anyway, you use the right stick to aim then either shoot your weapon or fire a harpoon that allows you to pull apart certain shields, etc. The goal of each stage is to collect as many resources as you can then ascend to the next stage. This can be accomplished peacefully but there are sky pirates who want to claim everything for themselves so thankfully, you can shoot them down. However, don't shoot anyone else because the police will soon be hot on your tail. All of this may be rather unconventional but it's very satisfying.
Airheart's gameplay loop goes something like this: you spend time upgrading your plane then you take off, collect as many resources as you can, and head back home whenever you're satisfied or about to run out of health. If your plane takes enough damage, it will fall and you have to steer it to land at your headquarters in Granaria. If you don't make it, your plane can be destroyed and a ton of progress may be lost. Even if you manage to make it home after being shot down, some of your equipment will probably be destroyed. Therefore, it's best to play it safe. Anyway, the stuff you find in the skies consists of fish, oil, and scrap. The former two are traded for cash that you can use to buy weapons and parts and the latter is used to craft materials that you can eventually form into airplane equipment. The crafting system inspires creativity and plays like a puzzle. Overall, I found this gameplay loop to be impressively addictive.
Finally, I should discuss the less desirable aspects of Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings. As I already mentioned, your hard-earned equipment can break. Keep in mind; it can take a long time to afford or craft just one weapon or part so the consequence of failure is often downright devastating. The need to constantly grind in order to make your ship capable can get tedious on its own but when you factor in the fact that everything is breakable, it takes it to a much higher level of tedium and potential frustration.
Another issue is that Airheart only consists of one mode. I imagine that a multiplayer component would have been very suitable to its core gameplay. Thinking about flying around cooperatively with a friend or the ability to have one player control the plane and another aim and shoot would have been awesome. The lack of a competitive mode is also a missed opportunity. There could have been a whole party component where you can try to catch the most amount of fish or shoot each other down. Again, none of this kind of content is included which is disappointing, especially if you're like me and enjoy playing games with friends.
Simply put, the core experience of Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings is unconventional and addictive. That being said, the fact that it only contains the one single-player mode and that grinding is a necessity make it feel like less of a game than it could have been.
- + Addictive gameplay loop with a clever crafting system between runs
- + Superb music and delightful visuals
- + Unconventional yet satisfying controls
- - Relies on a lot of grinding, especially because equipment can break
- - Failure has overly harsh consequences
- - Could use a multiplayer component