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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

At Skies' Edge: Stealth Dropped Flight Game

Updated: May 30, 2023

A Silent Release From a Long Forgotten Project

Is a game developed by someone feeling the hype of Top Gun: Maverick technically a Top Gun game? Jokes aside, I was passed a link to a game by another Skyward staff member on May 1st, 2023 that I had never heard of. In fact, the demo for the game had come out just hours before I was made aware of it. At first glance, the most engaging part of the product page was the rather stylish illustrated poster by Monty. But after just a few minutes of gameplay, I can say there are some interesting details that should not be overlooked here.


Screenshot of At Skies' Edge combat.
Rushing into the furball.

At Skies' Edge is an indie arcade flight action game led by Mackerel Sky. The developer themselves has expressed interest in further working on the project, but states that they need time to learn 3D modeling while balancing work and other commitments. As it is now, this is somewhat of a passion project / proof of concept utilizing premade 3D assets for aircraft and weapons with a customized version of the Operation Maverick/Operation Zero base arcade flight model created by Lunetis. Development of this project from something like a tech demo to a full game is not guaranteed. I'm not stating all of this to talk down to this game, but to be clear about its current status.


Unexpected Roots

This title was first mentioned as a project in June 2017. At one time it was known as "Project Sandwall" with its primary draw being a proprietary game engine being created using OpenGL 4, OpenAL, LuaBind, GLFW and Asio in C++. Its now defunct website mentions future goals for a co-op/multiplayer focused experience. Over time staff left the project, and it fell into obscurity from an already relatively unknown state. Mackerel Sky was a member of the original team as its Creative Director, and seems to have pursued the project on their own in silence after some time. That being said, a public game randomly appearing after 6 years is surprising. With no attempt to advertise it ahead of release, this is an actual bolt from the blue.


Screenshots from the previous project (2017-2018).


The May 2023 demo should not be held to expectations from the old project. There are non-working features and errors in the game demo that Mackerel Sky openly addresses on the Itchi.io page. Though, there are two things that caught my eye while playing.


Weapon Loadout Decision

Any fan of this genre knows the struggle of secondary weapons - optional high performance weapons that augment the onboard cannon and missiles. It is a fine balance between providing too many options and not making them impactful enough to break gameplay. At Skies' Edge chooses a more realistic option while still maintaining an arcade appropriate volume of missiles. For example, the M/D-15C (F-15C Eagle) has 10 weapon stations.


At Skies' Edge screenshot of weapon loadout screen.
Weapon loadout screen.

Depending on their position, certain missiles are not compatible with the station. Stations 7 through 10 can only hold medium ranged multi lock missiles (based on the AIM-120 AMRAAM), which are the positions real world F-15s normally store such missiles. But on stations 1 through 6 a mixture of short-range infrared missiles or more multi-lock missiles can be carried. The more weapons that are added to stations, the more of them that can be fired at once. Wanting to become a SPAMRAAM bus? They've got you.


At Skies' Edge (2023) example of twelve medium range missiles loadout.
M/D-15C with twelve medium-range missiles.

As of the time of this writing, there are only three weapon options, but the potential flexibility created just by sticking to realism a bit is quite nice.


Air Speed and Turn Rates

These days, when I think of maneuverability in arcade flight games, my mind thinks of reasonable brief periods of super maneuverability like in Nova Squadron or Frontiers Reach depending on starting air speed. More extreme examples like Ace Combat and Project Wingman also come to mind. Holding two buttons at the right speeds can allow players particularly adept at manipulating the controls to perform unbelievable feats. Outside of that, the standard turning battles in air combat are dependent on the base stats of an aircraft and augmentations provided by in-game parts. But generally, altering between maximum and minimum engine output is the optimum way to find the best turn radius.


What I enjoy about At Skies' Edge is that while it does have a super maneuverability mode, air speed management without using this mode feels great gameplay wise. Throttle setting remains where players set it at. This reduces the need to constantly adjust throttle setting, especially when coupled with the nifty minor addition to the Heads Up Display. The HUD speed indicator comes with text that lets the player know if their speed is optimal for Cruise (high speed) or Air Combat Maneuvering (dogfighting).



The aircraft handles much better at its ACM speed, encouraging and rewarding players that fly the aircraft properly rather than rely on brute force thrust and liberal use of the air brake to solve all problems. Against more maneuverable enemies that appear later in the game, getting into close range turn rate battles adds positively to the experience. The use of rudder at just the right moment to snap the nose of the aircraft onto the harder to defeat enemies is often the best way to acquire a missile lock. With the missiles in this game not instantaneously achieving lock at all times, keeping the target in front of the aircraft for long enough to achieve a lock makes control over the aircraft all that more important.


I don't have high hopes that At Skies' Edge will become the next break-out arcade flight game of 2023, but that's not to say that I am not interested in seeing it succeed. Its sudden reappearance makes me wonder where it will go from here.


 

About the Writer

The avatar of Skyward Flight Media co-founder, Ribbon-Blue

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers.

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