World War I aviation is rarely a subject for video games. It’s too bad, because World War I had some crazy stories—dogfights that ended with a pistol shot, and life expectancies that ranged in the weeks. Each nation seemed to have their darling flying aces who invoked the imagination for a new type of combat. To get a World War I flying game, even one with arcade sensibilities, would be grand. Unfortunately, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky just isn’t that game.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is a third person aerial combat arcade game. It’s not a flight simulator by any stretch, but that’s okay. Arcade flying games can be extremely fun, but Red Wings just never quite gets there. It starts off with a great first impression but never really goes anywhere.
Each mission you’re put into a World War I era plane. You have machine guns with unlimited ammo, but with heat you have to manage. You also have four abilities: barrel roll, squad attack, a quick turn, and an aerial coup de grace that you perform with your pistol. All of these abilities are on a timer, save for the pistol execution, which is only available after a certain number of kills. Unfortunately, for as “cool” as the coup de grace looks, it’s not very handy since you have to have your enemy mostly dead before you can even use it.
Most mission types will have you flying around attacking waves of enemies until you defeated them all. Sometimes you’ll destroy enemy fuel balloons, or defend your own fuel balloons. While in these mission types, health and fuel are a consideration. If you run low on either, there are floating balloons that you can collect that will replenish them. Occasionally, you’ll fly a bomber and drop bombs, or play a mission that consists of only flying through the hoops of the fuel/health balloons. But there isn’t too much variety, unfortunately.
There are technically two campaigns—one as the Alliance, the other as the Entente. As far as I can tell, the two campaigns are extremely similar, though I spent more time with the Triple Alliance. While there is a story, especially at the beginning, it sort of tapers off, and ends up being sortie after sortie until completion.
The flight model is fun, at first, but it quickly shows how limited it is. There is a skill tree that you can put points into, but as far as a progression system, it’s pretty simple. There are some powerful abilities towards the end of the tree, but they require you to save up your skill points. You get more skill points the better you do on missions. But the skill tree is shared between the two campaigns, so getting into the opposing faction’s campaign is easy.
At first, Red Wings seemed like a pretty game. Its art style is almost comic-like, and at first, I thought it was going to be a pretty game. And it is. But there’s not much scenery to see, as you’ll be flying over the same countryside pretty often.
In addition to the two campaigns, there’s a survival mode. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you have to defend against thirteen waves of planes–or for as long as you can hold out. In addition to survival mode, there are other planes to unlock—most of which unlock after completing certain missions. But some will unlock if you complete specific challenges in each level.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is a simple game that has a very limited amount of fun to be had. If you want a quick arcade flying fix, it might be what you’re looking for. But there’s such limited content, and what charm it does have wears off so quickly, that I just can’t recommend it.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is available today on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, and Xbox One
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