Captain, there be whales here! Ha-ha, can’t beat Star Trek (the whale reference will become clear soon).

Now on with the review!

AirHeart: Tales of Broken Wings is a quirky diesel-punk inspired (not steam) top down, action adventure set within 30,000ft in the skies. Players will take on the role of our charming leading lady Amelia, who dreams of making a name for herself by earning fame, fortune and seeing the edge of the known world. Set primarily in the skies we discover a beautifully crafted world inhabited with flying cities, magical creatures known as skyfish and piloting fishermen looking to get rich. But the skies home more mysteries and legends for egger pilots and many dare to venture out and find the elusive Sky Whale (see, reference makes sense now).

Amelia is stationed at Granaria, a renowned flying city where all pilots begin their journey. Our story begins with Amelia obtaining her piloting licence and setting sail for the skies in order to earn money. She soon realises that the pay is lousy, sky pirates are pretty horrible foes and that sky-fish aren’t brining in enough funds for her retirement plan.

So once she learns of the Sky Whale, she aims big and sets off to become the best pilot of the seven skies. AirHeart does well to present a noble quest with a hero who’s likeable but fails to present anything meaningful. Little character development takes place and there’s a lack of any dynamic events occurring which could’ve made the plot more engaging. There’s a strong basis for a captivating story but not much depth or substance to it. Still, it's easy to follow and understand character motivation and feel something towards Amelia's struggles.

In terms of aesthetics, AirHeart is a pretty looking game, with some nice sound design to accompany the visuals. The backdrops, planes and sky-life are nicely detailed and creative but there’s lacking in variation, with many of the samey looking assets repeating over too much. What was kind of impressive were the dynamic changes in the environment with new species of skyfish entering the skies as the eco-system changed with a continuous play-throughs.

Now, AirHeart is a top-down, twin stick shooter, where players navigate various patches of sky in order to capture Sky-Fish and complete other objectives. There are various layers to the skies with each layer presenting new challenges, rewards and dangers. So you have to take on jobs, earn money, upgrade your plane and go further up into the skies. There's been plenty of thought put behind the level design, as it's easy to navigate each sector of the sky but also challenging to master each and ever new threat you'll encounter.

There’s also a form of perm-a death system in place which takes away items collected during a venture through skies. So if you take too much damage and crash, all resources you’ve collected and the plane you’ve been using will be lost. This is a neat idea as it adds plenty of tension and a compelling risk/reward aspect to the player experience. However I will say that newbies will find this game a little too tough and punishment for learning the basics without much guidance is pretty steep.

It doesn’t help that many unlock-able items are pretty expensive and losing a plane you’ve worked hours to unlock is a real bummer. There’s no means to salvage anything you’ve lost and earning a bare minimum pay check can be a tedious grind at times. At least a game like Dead Cells may start you over from the beginning but allows you to use any gear you’ve unlocked. However you are given a chance to survive if you take too much damage as your plane can land safely back onto the base. This again take s a little time to get used too but can be the saving grace and avoids any rage quitting.

The big problem I had was simply controlling my plane, as it feels more like driving a tank in the sky. The controls for using a harpoon and shooting are just awkward as you need to control the plane at the same time. The plane is not fluent or graceful in movement and engaging in dog fights or fleeing feel restrictive in what you can do. These control issues don’t help when manoeuvring in dog fights and fighting multiple enemies at once is a pain. Again this is down to learning through trial and error which I understand some people may not have the patience for.

Overall AirHeart is a nice game with some neat ideas and a cool sounding concept. But the controls, lack of a compelling story and the out of place Perma-death feature just hinder on the overall experience. Worth checking out but not the greatest Rogue-lite titles out there.

+ Interesting concept
+ Pretty Visuals
- Tank like controls
- Perma death system needed further tweaks

A PS4 copy of Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review