Over the years I’ve run into a number of game franchises that were difficult to get into because of precisely how much they had going on. I wasn’t on the initial train for Baldur’s Gate, for instance, and now there’s a solid two hundred hours or so of classic RPG adventuring to get through; I’ve played some of those games, sure, but they’re certainly a little intimidating. Likewise, there’s been an absolute buttload of Ace Combat games, so while I was happy to check out Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, I’ll be the first to admit I might not have the background that others possess. Still, who doesn’t love the deep blue sky, right?
The nation of Erusea suddenly launches a surprise attack against the rest of the continent, shattering the tenuous peace of the world of Strangereal. As numerous characters deal with the fallout from these events, the player controls rookie pilot Trigger, who is court-martialed after an incident during a mission. As part of the penal unit called the Spare Squadron and beyond, Trigger will continue to do his part in the war between Erusea and Osea.
Again, I’m not too familiar with the Ace Combat series of plane-based action games, but Skies Unknown offers a flying experience that’s easy to pick up and play regardless. You’ve got two control schemes to choose from, and while I found the Normal control scheme to be suitable as I was just getting the hang of flying, I ended up messing with the Expert scheme a bit more later on thanks to the ability to fully rotate the plane and make tighter turns. You’ve even got a PSVR mode if you’re into that kind of thing, as well as some deathmatch-focused multiplayer options – though, irritatingly, both single-player and multiplayer plane progression are tied together.
Once you’ve decided how you’ll handle your jet, you’ll go on various missions that tend to revolve around missile locking the hell out of enemies. Lock onto bad guys by trailing them, hit the missile button, expect that they’ll die. You’ve got guns and bombs as well, and you’ll need to use everything in your arsenal to succeed; it turns out planes aren’t exactly the most resilient machines around, so it only takes a few missiles to end your piloting career. This isn’t an easy game.
On the other hand, it’s a very nice-looking game. In particular, Skies Unknown’s cutscenes are tightly designed and captivating, offering an artistic take on what might have been a lackluster story. Naturally, ingame scenes look fantastic as well, though a lot of your enjoyment is going to depend on how much you can handle looking at the sky and sky-adjacent objects like clouds. I was particularly fond of how flying through a cloud leaves some condensation on the camera. There’s plenty of planes to check out and use as well, though given I’m not an aviation aficionado myself, I mostly just chose whatever looked the coolest at the time. Very discerning, I know.
While I can’t speak to the improvements that Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown offers over previous entries in the series, as a standalone arcade flight simulator it’s a pretty decent choice with a lot to offer. Plane buffs and series aficionados are certain to get the most out of this one, but it’s a decent choice for pretty much anyone who’s thought about flying the unfriendly skies. Don’t let the pedigree fool you; even newcomers can find something to love in the endless blue.