Review: Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings

Airheart: Tales of broken Wings is a deceivingly casual (at first) and addictive dieselpunk airplane action roguelike game where balancing cautiousness and excitement is key. Better grab less and avoid a plane crash, or else… An obvious connection to Amelia Earhart, customizable planes and battles - sounded like something I just had to try.

Review: Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings

A game about planes and an obvious inspiration from Amelia Earhart – those two things caught my attention in a retweet about the game of Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings. Once it was out, I got it for PS4 and first played on a stream. Because anything is better with friends, isn’t it?

Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings is a deceivingly casual (at first) and addictive dieselpunk airplane action roguelike game where balancing cautiousness and excitement is key. Better grab less and avoid a plane crash, or else…

Long story short: the deceivingly casual game turned out more addictive than I initially thought. And way more challenging!

Title: Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings
Developer: Blindflug Studios
Publisher: Blindflug Studios AG
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox
Game Version: Finale
Review Copy: Personal Purchase
Interface: Controller, Keyboard
Available on Steam.

Airheart is a dieselpunk airplane action rogue like game, where every colorful level is built on top of the previous one, all the way up to the stratosphere. Welcome to Granaria, a flying city in the clouds. Meet Amelia – a young pilot and fisherwoman wishing to reach the abundant worlds edge.

The game starts with an “I am Amelia” cinematic with an insightful explanation of the character’s background… boring? Nope! Not on stream at least. This turned out to be a perfect way to start a stream and keep things active before everyone joins, but without them missing actual gameplay. Also, my usual “why am I here and what am I supposed to do?” wasn’t the case with Airheart, partly thanks to the intro. (Is it just me who always gets confused in the beginning of a new game?)

Controls deserve a special mention here: they feel different than in all games I’ve played before. The familiar DualShock felt more like… getting used to the transmitter to control a TinyWhoop quad. Whether this is real, or just my lack of experience with flying games is a mystery. (Flying sim experts – what do you think?)

This learning curve was a good excuse for screwing up in the tutorial, that is neatly woven into the gameplay: the tutorial is actual training you need to take in order to get a license to do sky fishing – a common an hard way to make a living on Granaria. Pirates are out there, so you need to perfect your flying and fighting skills – prepare NOT to pass the instructor’s tests (a.k.a completing some objectives) from the first attempt. I can’t be the only one that tried to mess with the instructor’s plane too…

Using the harpoon turned out to be the hardest thing to learn, but that pays off in the game – see the gif below for a very visual example.

BlindFlug Studios have done a great job with introducing the tutorial, and post-release follow-up steps too: having noticed people still get lost in the game universe, and about what they can and need to do, they put together a manual with the info on anything that might confuse you in the game. In addition to that, they often post tips and tricks, as well as hints on what you’ll encounter higher up, on their social media.

While the “exam” and “documentation” give you a basic understanding what can be done and how to use stuff – the interesting part is to figure out what else is possible. Can I use a harpoon to pull a turret off a plane? What happens if I try this with a rock? (The answer is – you just get stuck.)

Finally, license acquired! Now what?

The Hangar is where your plane, the infamous Canary, rests and you can upgrade it, but you’ll need money first. Let’s go fishing!

It’s more on the casual side” – said one of my stream viewers as we explored Sky Layer 1 catching fish by simply flying at it, and sometimes attempting to grab ones in the distance with the harpoon. Do not eat the yellow snow – but DO fly through the yellow trees: there’s a health pack in there. I’d also strongly recommend flying through the red trees, just in case. Also, the trees with a goodie are actually gold.

A perfect chill gaming experience after a busy work day, I thought, chatting on stream and going after every single fish while practicing the new skill of flying between rocks. Why would I even need those shooting skills?
And then someone suggested flying higher…

When bored in a Layer, ascended. This applies to every level, and you learn this quickly as you play. The game’s music changed as I flew a layer up… and you know what a music change in a game usually means, right?

There’s way more action and tension up there – but also more fish. As we already know, those bring money, so need to be chased…

Hey you, why shoot me?!?! Isn’t there enough fish for everyone here?!?!

Remember the pirates the instructor told Amelia about? Here they are. And this is where shooting skills come handy. You should only hurt the angry pirate planes with the red health bar up here: destroying those will give you crafting materials that you can pick up. Should you shoot someone other than a pirate, the police will be after you!

It’s easy to get lost in fishing and shooting the pirates, but I strongly recommend keeping track of your own health and heading back to Granaria, your homebase, even before the game tells you to. Why? Because if you crash elsewhere, the game is over and you lose all you’ve collected, and have to start over! This can get annoying, especially that in the beginning it requires some “grinding”.

Once you have some money, you can go to the Shop and upgrade your plane. Then flying out there becomes more productive and a bit safer. My preferred strategy here is to work and be cautious for a bit, save up, upgrade weapons, and only then fly out for combat and some fishing.

There is crafting in Airheart, but gathering all required materials for that takes some practice and grinding. While this isn’t too big of a problem, I would love to be able to get a taste of crafting from the beginning – I think this would be decent motivation to keep playing, as well as a good topic for conversation on stream.

There is way more to Airheart than it seemed initially: the casual-style low entry barrier is more than appealing and makes the game cool to start after a long day when in need of a distraction. There’s lots of new stuff to explore as you dare to fly into those higher sky levels,and the devs’ posts have made me curious to check out the things and places they showcase. The ability to vary the difficulty by either “just flying and fishing”, or getting an upgrade and flying high to try to sneak something fancy out by using that hard to learn harpoon skill is a great way for you to tailor your flight to your fancy!

Airheart surely deserves way more hours of play time than those typically allocated for a review. A weekend of binge flying, fishing and fighting? Sounds like a good idea to me!

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