I’ll be honest. I love games about aerial combat and dogfights when they’re simple pick up and play affairs. Toss me a super complex sim like Falcon 4.0 and I will probably crash and burn in record time. Thankfully, the Arcade Flightsim subgenre exists because of games like Ace Combat And Sky Rogue is very much influenced by that particular title and the subgenre as a whole. So, what’re you waiting for? Get into the cockpit, strap in, and let’s shoot down some bandits.
GET IT HERE: https://store.steampowered.com/app/381020/Sky_Rogue/
Also available on Nintendo Switch digitally
Sky Rogue gets its name from the fact it does use a simple Roguelite formula for its gameplay loop. I say emphasis on simple because you won’t be finding a lot of random items or things that define a build: The roguelite element comes from the fact you start out with Lv1 planes and equipment each run, and choose what to upgrade with the limited credits you earn each mission, reverting to Lv1 on your next run, be that from victory or death. But more on that later.
Being an “arcade” style combat flight simulator, Sky Rogue is a game that does just enough “realism” for its flight system while still being approachable without having to read a 500 page Aircraft operations manual. You can hop into a plane, do some free flight to get a feel for the controls, and then get to the good stuff: Shooting things out of the sky.
So, if you haven’t ever done one of these, how do you fly? It’s relatively simple: You have a control stick that controls your plane’s pitch (Vertical orientation) and rolls left and right. How does one turn? Simple, roll in the direction you want to turn, then nose up in that direction. Although if this is too complicated, a more “arcadey” type setup where your flight controls are semi-automatic, and pressing your stick left or right will take the steps to make you turn automatically…I do not recommend this method because it severely limits just what you can do behind the stick. Learn how to do roll and pitch based turning, and you’ll thank me later. The other key components of flight are your yaw: Which lets you change your horizontal orientation for fine tuning or light turns, and your throttle which controls your speed: Fly slower to turn sharper, fly faster when you need to get somewhere or catch up to a target, don’t fly TOO slow or you’ll stall and fall out of the sky: That’s bad.
The premise of Sky Rogue is a fairly simple one: You’re on an operation to destroy an enemy superweapon. Along the way, you’ll need to hit several enemy islands and take out key targets on each: These are procedurally generated each time, so your objective can range from destroying a formation of enemy bombers, to taking out key ground targets, to taking out a flying enemy battleship. The only non random target is your final one: The enemy superweapon on the final stage of a run.
That’s not to say the mission targets are the only thing to worry about though: Every stage will have an assortment of aerial and ground targets: Some armed, some not. Every enemy structure, aircraft, or other property of the enemy you take down earns you precious Credits which can be spent between missions to upgrade your aircraft and weapons. Some targets also earn you research points, which unlock new planes and weapons to play with as you hit certain milestones: These research points are thankfully preserved between runs, so you’ll always have something to look forward to even if you crash and burn as long as you’ve been killing things.
Sky Rogue definitely is at its best once you unlock a small assortment of new planes (Or Aeros as the game calls them) and weapons to use on them, as that’s when you start having some customization to work with: Do you use a fragile but fast fighter, a heavy bomber that can lay waste to multiple ground targets, or an interceptor that specializes in bringing down aerial targets? It’s all a delicate balancing act, as you can’t just stick any weapon onto any Aero. Every weapon has both a Payload and Avionics Cost, with Payload and Avionics having varying limits of how much of each you can equip based on the aircraft. So if you want to use a specific weapon loadout, you need to find an Aero that can handle the costs involved, with lighter aircraft typically having less capacity and heavier aircraft having more.
At the end of the day, this is what makes Sky Rogue so fun: The sheer variety of Aeros and weapons you get to play with. You’ve got your various forms of missiles, unguided rockets, bombs, and guns to destroy everything in your path. And as if that’s not enough: You don’t have to worry about running out of ammo. All weapons gradually refill their ammo over time when not fired, meaning your weapons are more about cooldown management than ensuring you have enough ammo for every target. This setup lends itself well to the arcadey nature of Sky Rogue, and means you don’t have to worry about excessive downtime.
That said, Sky Rogue isn’t without some tough decisions you may have to make. Credits are everything, as they’re what strengthen your weapons to make later missions approachable: But for every enemy target you bring down, you run the risk of them calling in reinforcements. The more stuff you blow up, the higher the risk becomes of you having a bunch of additional enemy Aeros appearing with one goal in mind: Turning you into a smoking crater. So the question becomes: Do you minimize your risk by going straight for the objective and then getting the hell out once it’s destroyed? Or do you risk the additional enemy threat and potential extra money?
Thankfully you are given some defensive options on top of your arsenal to deal with these. A quick tap of your dodge button while rolling left or right will cause you to completely violate the laws of physics and rapidly barrel roll left or right while quickly strafing in that direction for a moment, allowing you to dodge oncoming attacks. You can also equip one defensive item such as a Booster to quickly outrun your foes, or Flares to distract their missiles that might otherwise hit you. The only bad news is Flares are limited in use, so you have to consider when to use them.
So, at the end of the day, we got what’s a very fun and functional combat flight sim, but honestly there’s one more thing about Sky Rogue that makes it such a winner in my book that I’d be a fool not to bring it up: Steam Workshop Support. The sheer number of custom Aeros from other sources such as Ace Combat, various animes, and 2D shooters is staggering. Some are unbalanced, but still fun as heck to play with. Chances are if you look through the workshop, you’ll see at least one custom aircraft that makes you go “Hell yes, I want to fly that.”
At the end of the day, Sky Rogue is a game I love because it lets you enjoy the power fantasy of being a badass combat pilot without having to learn all the complex ins and outs of a flight sim. You jump in a cockpit, you learn a few basics, and you get to shooting. It’s this pick up and play nature that makes me love Sky Rogue, and why it’s something I always come back to. All the fun custom content available via the workshop is just a delicious extra layer of icing on an already very tasty cake.
It doesn’t quite have the sheer variety other roguelites have, admittedly: You’ll be seeing a lot of same things as far as enemies and objectives go, and sadly only the one final boss exists. But it’s the variety of ways you have to approach all this that gives Sky Rogue it’s staying power, on top of just having a very fun and satisfying feel to its aerial combat, be it a dogfight or strafing a ground target.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to hop into a jet and live out a Top Gun esque fantasy? Sky Rogue is definitely worth your time. Won’t lie though, I would love to see a sequel that just expands on everything, adding more bosses and more enemy types. One can only hope.