First impression: Red Wings: Aces of the Sky Steam Port Demo
Updated: Mar 29
During the Autumn Steam Game Festival 2020, a couple of flight games released public demos for everyone to try. One of these was Red Wings: Aces of the Sky; an arcade flight game set in during World War I. Initially released for the Nintendo Switch earlier this year to mixed reviews, this game is now getting a release on Steam so I gave the demo a go.
I will divide these short first impressions in categories so you can go to the ones that are more crucial to you as a reader, that way you can judge it on your own:
Graphics and Art-style
Gameplay and Aircraft Variety
PC Port Oddities
GRAPHICS AND ART STYLE
Instead of going for photo-realism, this game has a cel-shaded cartoon-ish art style which is very unique for a flight game. The menus and interfaces all look really sleek and well designed. This style also applies to the environments which most of the time do look like paintings done in oil. The opening cinematic has more of a comic-ish art style which is really well done for what it is supposed to accomplish.
The UI and HUD elements also have this cartoon look to them, making each element pop when it is on screen. The animations of the UI elements are also very well done, no critiques to give there. Overall, this has got to be the strongest appeal of this title
Here are a couple of screenshots of both the main menu, the in-game HUD and a frame of the opening cinematic:
GAMEPLAY AND AIRCRAFT VARIETY
Gameplay-wise it is a pretty straight-forward game as it is to be expected from an arcade flight game. Simple flight dynamics alongside simplified bullet mechanics make this game one that is pretty easy to play and even easier to master. You do not have to lead your targets as there does not seem to be any kind of bullet travel time, making distant shots more of a matter of effective weapon range rather than skill.
The flight mechanics are even a bit too limited to the point where they feel restrictive. You lack full control of both the X and Y axis, and the Z axis is basically none existent. While this is partially solved by the use of your abilities, specifically the barrel roll and the U turn, the fact that these abilities have a cool-down makes them a bit harder to use in a pinch. One of these abilities recharges as you get kills, let's call this one a "take-down". It allows you to finish off an already badly damaged opponent with your handgun. While flashy-looking, this feature feels unnecessary as you already have the enemy in your sights when you use it.
Very anime-esk, which I really like.
To summarize: the best way I have to describe the feel of flight in the game is an even more limited "Novice" mode from Ace Combat. At least in that flight mode you get full pitch authority, unlike here. And it is not something that can just be just patched in as the game seems to have been built around this flight model due to the fact that you can used "canned" maneuvers just like in games such as Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces or Ace Combat: 3D Cross Rumble. I suspect this was a decision taken to make this game as accessible as possible.
This game does have pilot skills which you can upgrade called "Ace Perks" which improve the issues mentioned previously. These go from minor upgrades to your abilities to major improvements but sadly, the latter were not possible to unlock in the demo. You upgrade these abilities with the stars you gain after completing a mission, gaining one upgrade point minimum and three maximum. It is uncertain as how impactful some of these upgrades will be in the long run due to the limitations that the demo has as you can only obtain a maximum of 12 stars in the demo during its 4 available missions.
The demo allows you to fly three aircraft, all of which are real and relatively famous designs from the Triple Alliance's air corps/air forces during WW1. These are the following:
The only aircraft that feels different is the Fokker, with it being a bit more maneuverable that the other two. Both the Albatros and the Taube feel almost the same, both having a bit more speed than the Fokker. There are five aircraft in total for the Austro-Hungarian side, but the other two are unavailable to fly on the demo version.
This is the part which gives me the most worries. The demo shows you two types of missions: Dogfight oriented missions (with three variations) and a race-like mission. The dogfight missions can have different focuses such as obtaining the maximum score to time trials in which you have to shoot every plane down in the shortest time possible. Missions are really short, with them only having a short "story" paragraph to justify the combat scenario. Story does not seem to be the focus of this game, rather, it seems to be an excuse to put the player in different scenarios.
This works perfectly for a demo but, in a full game which promises to be 50 missions long, I sincerely fear that mission design will become rather repetitive. Remember, these are my first impressions, the full game might prove me wrong here but all I can say is that I hope that I am wrong about the feeling I got from the demo missions.
PC PORT ODDITIES
I will keep this section short and sweet. There are no performance issues what so ever, the game runs smooth as butter even in my three year old computer; but that does not mean that there are no problems with the game when it comes to the port.
The graphical options are pretty limited, with only three presets available to set the graphical parameters (LOW, MEDIUM and HIGH). It lacks any kind of graphical customization aside from brightness and the other typical options such as window mode.
The main issue I have with the port is that it is still designed around a controller, therefore, there is no mouse cursor to be found. Not even in the menus, there is no way of using the mouse in this game. This frustrated me a bit and I really hope that the devs add it, even if it only pops up to use the menus.
Overall, this was a very solid demo that showed the good and the bad that the game has to offer. It gives you just enough to judge if the game is for your or not. If what you read sounds like this is something you could like, give the demo a go, although it might not be available as of the time of publication. Here is a link to the Steam page for the game so you can check it out for yourself. This is not an affiliate link, therefore, we stand to gain nothing from you clicking it. But we encourage you to at least give this game a go if you enjoy arcade flight games at all.
About the author
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034