The sky pirate aesthetic became popular in the video game world when Final Fantasy XII was released in 2006. It is an attractive idea that has been explored in books and other media with steampunk settings, but it is not one that we see often in the video game. Independent development studio Hungry Couch wants to change that with their new game, Black skylands, and this ambitious project looks very promising so far.
Black Skylands takes place in a world where the lands have been divided into tons of different floating islands in the sky. You play as Eva, a young woman who lives on one of those islands referred to as the Paternal Father. After a scientific discovery goes awry, the human race is caught in a deadly conflict with an alien species known as the Swarm. The game then tasks you with navigating the skies, liberating islands from the Swarm and other opposing factions, and strengthening the Paternal Father at the same time.
It’s a pretty straightforward premise, and while the story beats may seem a bit rushed and contrived at first, this is still an early access game, and its pacing issues can be solved later. It’s the gameplay that shines here, and the fact that Black Skylands can follow cues from various other popular games and genres and execute them well.
As for the gameplay, it is a top-down shooter game. Press a button to fire a weapon and use the right stick to refine your aim. You can also make a dodge roll with LB to avoid enemy shots, and the combat quickly turns into a segment of bullet hell where you constantly move and dodge shoot to avoid damage while countering with your own shots and melee attacks. to body if you get close enough. . It is very reminiscent of Enter the Gungeon; even the reload and pistol sound effects are familiar.
Because this is a game about being a sky pirate, you can also pilot your own aircraft and navigate the skies to explore what the vast world has to offer. And for an early access game, there are already quite a few islands to check out and loot. Steering your ship might seem a bit clunky, but it’s enjoyable for the most part, and you can also fire cannons to fight enemies and smash rocks for resources while in the air.
The upgrade paths in Black Skylands also seem quite extensive, with the ship customization to think about, as well as her own weapons for Eva. There are several different upgrade components and parts that you can put on your boat, which means that there is the possibility of creating an aircraft that feels unique to you.
When you are not in combat, you can return to the Homeland to make good use of all your extracted resources. Resources can be used for farming and growing crops, and building armories and other facilities to upgrade your equipment. The game loop turns into a fun cycle of going out in your airship to explore islands, upgrade your ship along the way, and return home to further strengthen Father Father.
After a few hours with the game, it became clear that Black Skylands has a lot of potential, and we haven’t talked about how pretty this game looks. With a cool pixel art aesthetic, Black Skylands features beautiful character portraits and an extremely vibrant and colorful world. The animations are crisp and clean, and the environments are wonderfully eye-catching and unique in appearance.
Of course, there are some bugs here and there, although that is to be expected from a game that is still in early access. There is the strange typo that you will come across when talking to NPCs, and there were times when options were not loading properly when exiting a menu. I also wish some of the UI elements looked a bit more elegant. I don’t need a big white circle on my face every time I reload my weapon, for example, but these are just minor inconveniences that don’t get in the way of the overall experience.
I still have a lot to see and do in Black Skylands, but for now, it’s safe to say that anyone who has ever wanted to live out their dreams of being a video game sky pirate should definitely keep this one on their radar.