On the floating island of Granaria, life for Amelia promises to be much different to the harsh surface world she’s left behind. A beautiful city set amidst the clouds, Granaria’s main industry is skyfishing. But with skies teeming with pirates, life in the heavens may not be as simple as Amelia anticipated.
Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings is a twin-stick shooter developed by Blindflug which incorporates a simplistic piloting system, endless crafting opportunities, and a visually beautiful world to explore.
The open skies are the main attraction of this top-down shooter and they’re bursting with colour, life, and danger. Amelia’s task is to collect skyfish, which are peppered around each level. Skyfish are the game’s currency and the majority of Amelia’s journey will involve multiple trips into the lush skies to hunt them. However, lacklustre payment and pirate-filled skies leave Amelia wanting more. Fisherman’s tales tell of the mysterious Sky Whale, a legendary fish which resides in the highest level of the sky. Naturally, Amelia decides to track it down.
As a twin-stick shooter the game is simplistic yet frustrating. A brief introduction lays out both the controls and the weaponry on Amelia’s plane. The left analogue stick can be used to move the gun turret in a compete circle around the plane, allowing you to attack from any angle by releasing rapid gunfire with R2. While this sounds like a winning formula, it’s tricky to aim with the left analogue stick whist steering the plane with the right. A harpoon can be deployed by holding L2 but for a large proportion of the game it is completely unnecessary.
The first sky layer is mere miles above Granaria, and the impressive floating city can be seen in all its grandeur beneath the clouds below. While relatively calm, the initial layer of the sky allows you to get to grips with flying mechanics outside of the tutorial, round up the skyfish there, and collect oil drums which can be used for upgrades in Granaria’s workshop. Your plane is something of a beast in the air and can soak a hearty amount of damage before evasive action is required to save both your plane and cargo from crashing into the fiery deserts far below.
Airheart requires careful attention to be paid to the status of your plane as your play style flits between aggressive and evasive. Taking down enemy aircraft results in rewarding loot drops which can be utilised for your own aircraft or dismantled and repurposed in other ways, but you must keep a tentative eye on your own health as you engage in dog fights. Crafting fills a large component of the game and is essential for survival in the upper levels of the sky where unprepared players will quickly be gunned down. As Amelia’s plane takes damage, prompts appear on the screen advising you to return to base, harvest the supplies you have and set off once more with fresh provisions.
Permadeath is present in Airheart and creates a tense atmosphere which impacts gameplay. A cautious approach of returning to Granaria frequently greatly diminishes the chances of crashing and restarting the game from scratch, but it is the more tedious and repetitive gameplay style. On the other hand, you can risk your progress, add-ons, and savings by flying straight to the higher levels and hoping that if you do get shot down, you can aim to crash on your home base, not the deserts below.
One of the main negatives of this shooter is the lack of constant narrative. Aside from aiming to reach the Sky Whale, nothing powers the game forward. Airheart feels repetitive and the rinse and repeat system may churn out powerful weapons but there is no juicy story for you to sink your teeth into. Due to this a majority of those who take to the skies may never see the infamous Sky Whale, because the pull of this indie tapers off not long after the initial take off.
Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings has potential but without a solid story powering it forward and lots of tedious grinding, you’ll struggle to see it through to the end. While the game is visually stunning and at least exciting in principle, Airheart never quite takes flight.