Infinite State Games’ high flying arcade roguelike is a great pick up and play game in short bursts, but its repetitive structure holds it back somewhat.
Rogue Aces Deluxe is the enhanced PC release of Rogue Aces, developed by Infinite State Games, a 2 man UK based studio, and ported by Projector Studios.
The game itself is an arcade shooter with some hints of a roguelike. You play as either a pilot, controlling your plane and using it to destroy enemy troops, be they on land, sea or in the air. The game has multiple game modes, most of which are unlockable. You start with the Normal Campaign, a series of 100 randomised missions, which range from simple dogfights with basic enemy planes, tougher planes named Barons, destroying buildings in a bombing run or taking over an enemy base. Soon you’ll unlock extra modes, like the Frontline Campaign, which sees you trying to seize control of a series of increasingly more difficult islands while you’re hunted by a Baron and subject to a time limit.
There’s also a veteran mode, which disables auto-landing and takeoff and adds more enemies for a tougher challenge. There’s also a collection of simpler arcade modes, with fun ways to unlock each. They’re a lot simpler but are a fun little side distraction to the mission-based main campaigns, although the missions themselves are lacking in variety. It’s more the moment to moment gameplay that will keep you playing.
And the gameplay itself does have a decent amount of depth to it. There’s a training section that will walk you through the basic mechanics of the game, flight, landings/take-offs, combat, ejecting and how to take over bases. However, one of the main mechanics is not explained to you, and that is the Aerial Steal. This manoeuvre is essential to getting through later stages, to the point where the devs themselves put out the above image to instruct players how to perform it. If the player ejects themself from their plane before they open their parachute, they can steal an enemy plane. This replenishes your rockets/bombs and fuel, as well as gives you bonuses for XP and score. It’s was very strange that this mechanic isn’t taught to the player, given how useful it is as the game gets tougher and they even talk about it on the games Steam page.
The game itself has some roguelike elements. In the campaign modes, you have a levelling system that carries across all the modes. By levelling, you can unlock random upgrades to begin your campaign with, unlocking more slots and upgrades to choose from the higher your level. You can also gain random upgrades for your plane by shooting down enemies, which is essential to surviving as the game progresses. The upgrades are per run only, however, so you’ll have to get them each time you start the game up.
The game’s difficulty definitely ramps up as missions progress, especially in the Frontline and Veteran Campaign modes, so you’ll have to quickly learn how to pull of the more complex manoeuvres to take as little damage as possible, and because of this dogfights can get pretty hectic. Sometimes, however, it does feel a little bit difficult to evade enemy fire, the Barons in particular. They give you quite a chase and deal a lot of damage, so if they get behind you and unload, your plane will be destroyed pretty quickly. In the Normal Campaign, you are given 3 planes that act as lives, but you only have one pilot. If your plane is destroyed, you can eject and pop open your parachute. If you land safely behind a building, the ocean or an area with no enemies, your pilot will be rescued and you will get in any of your remaining planes. If however, you have no planes remaining, fail to open your parachute or land in an enemy populated area, you will get a game over and your run will end.
The game’s controls are simple but work well. There are multiple control presets, as well as a custom preset that lets you alter the controls to your liking. It also has full controller support, which I found to be the best way to play. Visually the game has larger sprites that are reminiscent of Metal Slug. There are some nice effects that I didn’t expect, like when you fly your plane over the sun, it’s cast in shadow, just little touches that give it some extra polish. The music in the game is somewhat generic, but it gets the job done, although I did find it a little unfitting of the setting and it’s pretty repetitive. There is also some voice acting from your commander, it’s just a few fun quips whenever you start a mission or are killed. There’s no story of interesting dialogue. It’s all to serve the quick pick up and play nature of the game.
The game also features up to 4 player deathmatch modes. It’s local only, however, but you can play with bots. There are 3 modes, Standard Deathmatch, Deluxe Deathmatch which adds powerups, and Wing Commander which gives each player 2 AI-controlled partners. The Wing Commander mode can definitely get a little busy on screen, and playing with only bots isn’t as fun as the Campaign and Arcade modes, although it could be a fun side thing with a couple of friends.
The game’s got a decent amount of replayability, especially because of the random nature of its campaign modes and the unlockable game modes. However, there’s a lack of variety in the missions and the arcade modes are fun for a little while but are more of an aside. It’s a fun time in short bursts and can become quite addictive if you’re in the midst of a good run especially in a bigger dogfight once you’ve mastered the tougher manoeuvres. It’s worth a look if you’re a fan of faster-paced arcade games with some depth to the gameplay.
Rogue Aces Deluxe is available now on Steam.
Tom Woods is a Games Journalist for ICUGamer.com. Follow Tom via Twitter @T_Woods93
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