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SkyE is a hybrid bullet-hell shooter slash RPG that hits most of the right notes.

SkyE is a hybrid bullet-hell shooter slash RPG that hits most of the right notes.

The first thing that bears mentioning is that SkyE is a serious independent game that does not feel like it is a game made from an RPG template. Its gameplay and interaction systems are all built from scratch and all of its assets are original. In a community like ours, it is always nice to see artists lend their talents to designers so that they can create a polished product like this one.

The player will spend most of their time in SkyE shooting and flying. The shooting scenarios are reminiscent of classics such as Defender or Fantasy Zone, where instead of progressing linearly through a long stage the player has to clear a looping zone of enemies. This approach has drawbacks - for example, every stage is essentially a blank area filled with enemies and therefore plays exactly the same - but the enemies are interesting enough to keep the player engaged. The focus is on shooting enemies and dodging bullets rather than negotiating obstacles and memorizing stage layouts.

SkyE has just the right amount of number-crunching RPG trappings to breathe life into the shooting scenarios. Between shooting stages, the player is entitled to do a limited (but appropriate) amount of character customization, choose their favorite weapons, equip gear, and tweak statistics. There is always a steady stream of new features, so every new shooting stage is flavored with a new giant laser special attack or three-way shot or speed upgrade.

This is not a game without problems. The art style, for example, is extremely inconsistent. During dialog sequences between stages, well-painted anime portraits act out a scene the way they do in many Japanese games. Once into a stage, however, the game emulates the side of some metal dude's conversion van. The enemies include: airbrushed fire-breathing snakes, disembodied eyeballs, and ethereal grim reapers. Also, the story is not very interesting and the dialog between stages is very dry and very drawn out. The music soundtrack is original (I think?), but is, in my opinion, very bad. The music is not poorly made (it is very competent actually), but it is unabashed J-Pop and is certainly not my genre of choice.

SkyE froze frequently when I played it. I had to complete one stage three times: I played through twice and froze at the same spot; after changing the difficulty to Easy for my third try, the game continued. This was not the only time the game froze. I am confident the problem has been or will be fixed with a patch, because I think the only issue is that the stage bosses wouldn’t load in.

An average player can blow through SkyE in an hour or two on the easiest difficulty. The harder difficulties are extremely challenging, and stage retries can double that time. There are several different branching paths for the story to play out, but the stages are the same and the dialog is still dry. That is not to say you will not want to play through it again: there are tons of different gear configurations and different things to invest points into, as well as four different difficulty settings. The hardest setting is uncompromisingly brutal. That said, you will want to come back, but it will not be because you want to see another side of the story.

SkyE is an excellent game with modest problems. The issues are insigificant, though, analogous to a blemish on a cover girl's cheek. While I noticed things I didn't like, I didn't focus on them for very long - I was too busy having fun!


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