Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown – Easy Allies Review

From a newcomer’s perspective, the trailers for Bandai Namco’s long-running Ace Combat series seemed to construct an image of sweeping.

From a newcomer’s perspective, the trailers
for Bandai Namco’s long-running Ace Combat series seemed to construct an image of sweeping drama
in the skies set against a massive military campaign that overindulges in high-tech battles. Ultimately, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
delivers something less fantastical and far more rooted in reality than expected. What it actually offers includes
some seriously intense air combat scenarios, beautiful visuals that really sell the look of the aircraft
and the world, and one really bizarre story that feels out of place. Ace Combat 7 is set in the same established universe
as Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies, Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War,
and Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War. So veterans will hear and see familiar names, but the storyline itself, set after all of these previous events, is a self-contained plot that doesn’t require
any understanding of the older entries to appreciate. Unfortunately, the delivery and structure
of the Skies Unknown story is flawed. There’s a heavy focus on characters who receive
entire scenes worth of development that have no bearing on the central plot
until much later on. Though these sequences eventually serve a purpose, the payoff isn’t worth how distracting these scenes are
during a good portion of the game. The premise is sound enough,
but the narrative comes off dull and boring. It’s very procedural, and even when there’s
something eventful transpiring on-screen, it’s never backed by believable emotion. It’s hard to get invested in the cast as most of their
development happens via banter during missions, when it can be difficult
to juggle the action going on around you and still maintain focus on the dialogue. It also feels like the best narrative developments
are withheld until the last few missions of the game. While they’re exhilarating sequences,
it’s simply too little too late. Though the narrative is certainly a let down, Skies Unknown excels
in just about every other department. The campaign is broken up into 20 missions
that put you through the paces as you tackle increasingly more elaborate
and intense battles. There are times when the best way to tackle objectives
isn’t always clear, but the game provides ample clues during various
exchanges over the comm channels in each mission. Although as with the story, one of the biggest issues is that it can be hard to focus
on dialogue to listen for these clues in the heat of battle, especially as a newcomer. There are difficulty settings and other options that make the game a bit more accessible for rookies,
but the real problem is the game’s sometimes limited checkpoint system. When a single objective can take
up to 20 minutes to complete, it can be infuriating to nearly accomplish your task only to be sent back to the start each time you fail. Some of the mission objectives are pretty awesome,
whether it’s intense dogfighting, painting the earth at a breakneck speed
as you engage surface targets, or navigating through a narrow canyon
while avoiding being detected. It can be overwhelming at times, but these missions
always deliver breathtaking action and mesmerizing vistas. What brings it all together
is the phenomenal handling of each aircraft. No matter which control setting you select, flying around in these magnificent vehicles
is something really special. The cockpit views are astounding, and just looking around at all the panels and gadgets
really sells the immersion. At the same time, the view from the exterior
is just as awesome, and seeing these aircraft fly through the gorgeous environments never gets dull. The weather effects are also a sight to behold as wind, rain, and dust storms will impact your visibility
and performance. In particular, the effect of being struck by lightning
is flabbergasting, creating a sensory overload followed by glitching HUD elements
and a general sense of unease. The struggle against the elements adds a unique layer
to the experience and an interesting sense of realism. As for the selection of planes, you have to unlock new vehicles and upgrades
through an aircraft tree system. There are several paths you can take,
but each plane is based on a real life aircraft and comes with unique handling
and special focuses like being better at taking on ground-based targets
as opposed to air-based opponents. Selecting the right plane for the mission at hand,
as well as the right loadout, will greatly impact your chances of success. In addition to the single player campaign,
there’s also an online multiplayer component. Players can create or join lobbies of up to 8 players to engage in a battle royale
or in team-based deathmatches consisting of squads of 2, 3, or 4 players
going head-to-head. There are options to customize the rules
to favor different skill levels and handicaps, as well as the types of planes and upgrades allowed. The only drawback to this system
is that it only includes lobbies, with no random matchmaking system present, so you can expect to wait a bit longer
to get into a match. When matched with more skilled opponents
and no handicaps, it can be rough, but when you’re in a group of similarly skilled players, the multiplayer sessions offer
some of the most intense flying in the game. One match had us weaving between sea stacks
at dangerous speeds without a moment’s respite as we were continuously pursued
by three opposing team members the entire time. Despite not firing off a single shot
and merely flying for dear life, the evasive maneuvering
never failed to deliver on the thrills. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
is a solid return for the long-running series. Sure, the story has its weak points, but it honestly plays second fiddle
to the impressive aerial combat. The unique handling of each aircraft, and the excellent mission scenarios
deliver on the goods, and it’s further enhanced by stunning visuals, effects,
and masterful sound design. There’s still room to improve,
but Skies Unknown definitely hits its mark. Easy Allies Reviews are made possible
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