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Skykeepers Review

Being the leader of a native tribe has never been an easy task and this is quickly apparent in Sword Twin Studios' latest 2D adventure game. You play as Tangi, the tribal chief, who has to rebuild his village after years of decay. He'll also needs to protect his people from savage beasts and overcome the demons that haunt him after the death of his son. Can you be the leader your people need you to be?

Skykeepers Review

introduction

Sword Twin Studios has taken a classical approach to action and adventure with Skykeepers but added their own unique flair. Travel through perilous jungles and forests as you battle nasties in all shapes and sizes and collect valuable items to strengthen your character for the trials that lay ahead.

To add a somewhat unique spin to the traditional gameplay, Skykeepers introduces an ability called spirit walking which is essentially teleportation. This is used in various ways to turn even the most basic levels into fantastic puzzles and also to add another level to the action when facing off against your enemies.

For more information on Skykeepers have a look on Steam

Storyline

You start the game as Pelagi, the son of the tribal chief Tangi. As a young teen, you are eager to step into manhood and take your rightful place among your people. Before this can happen, a magical ritual needs to be performed. As part of the tutorial, Pelagi goes into the woods on his very first quest in search of the items needed for his ceremony. He finds both but one seems to be tainted by some evil force. As teenagers are, he's out of patience and instead of looking for another he presents it to the village elders and lies about the tainting. 
In a rather dark twist of events, something goes wrong during the ritual and Pelagi does not survive. This left his father so torn apart with grief that he actually turns to stone. Tangi's wife is now burdened with the loss of her son and husband. Additionally, the tribe now looks to her for leadership. She buries her son and visit's her husband's stone figure daily but her leadership abilities are not on par with her husband and soon the village falls into disrepair.

A year later, Tangi breaks free of his stone prison. He finds his village in tatters and menaced by evil beasts. For him, the last year was merely a moment, and he's still haunted by the death of his son. Mourning will have to wait, he has to take up his axe and fight off this mysterious evil, all while desperately clinging to his sanity as anger and grief still attempt to consume him.

Skykeepers Review. They grow up so fast

As far as storylines go, Skykeepers isn't remarkably uniqueIt feels like they've taken bits and pieces of other stories from through the years and pasted them into a single script. The story might not be anything revolutionary, it does have some mystery to it that makes it rather intriguing. After the death of Pelagi, the game turns a bit dark. Tangi's temperament flairs up regularly when dealing with the other villagers and especially his wife. This could spell trouble for him and does a good job of keeping you interested.

Unfortunately, the story is badly let down by horrendous dialog. It actually makes me wonder who exactly Sword Twin Studios intended market is. This is because the storyline is rather dark and includes various grown-up elements but the dialog seems like something from a children's book. Even worse is that the narrative seems to be forcefully steered by the agenda of the storyteller. A conversation will make dramatic turns that make little sense in order to arrive at the point the storyteller wishes to make.

Gameplay

The gameplay offers very much what you'd expect from a game like this. You have all the usual actions available like jump, attack, block and dodge. Attacks are split into regular attacks and special attacks which can be chained together into combos. You also have 4 special attacks slots and as the game progresses you unlock several options that can be swapped around.

Skykeepers Review. Creepy little buggers, aren't they?

The standout feature to mention here is the teleportation, also called spirit walking. Many levels have these points you can teleport to which are strategically placed in order to create an obstacle course that can only be overcome by using this ability. It also makes the combat system more interesting, especially when you're surrounded by numerous enemies.

However, even with the mixture of special attacks and spirit walking, most of the game feels like an endless button mashing session. Most of the enemies you face are incredibly simple to beat and thus you'll frequently be surrounded by several opponents to add some level of difficulty.

Also, the various special attacks are just like regular attacks that do more damage but take a moment to charge before they can be performed. Even the blocking system is flawed since you need to block at the exact moment the enemy strikes which is incredibly difficult when you're surrounded. As a result, you end up ignoring the block option and pressing the dodge button continuously until you see an opportunity to land a few blows.

Skykeepers Review. Try to avoid the red pointy things, as well as the green goop. Good luck.

Additionally, the movement controls seemed way too edgy. You often have to jump onto small platforms or avoid hazardous objects but even the slightest movement of the directional stick could alter your movement drastically. This often had my poor character drowning in acid, as if his life wasn't complicated enough.

There are some additional elements that give the game some depth. When going back to the village you'll have three places visit, the items store, the council and the craft store. The council lets you choose your different special attacks, the item store sells you items to use in-game such as potions of throwing knives and the craft store allows you to craft wearable items that improve your character. These items can increase your damage, make your special attacks uninterruptable by enemies and much more. Unfortunately, I didn't notice any major difference in gameplay after equipping any of the items.

When on a mission you'll often stumble across some trapped villagers and will have to cross a maze to get to them. Do that and you'll be rewarded with points which you can spend to upgrade the various buildings in your village. This, in turn, unlocks more options and items at said buildings so it's definitely worth the effort.

Design

The character and level design reemphasize the point I made earlier, in that the game feels like it was created for a 10-year-old. The characters look good and the various settings have some nice details but it all feels a little too linear and reminds me of my days playing Super Mario Bros.

Another problem with the levels is that the same areas are reused quite often and even in the early game you'll often experience deja vu. Add to this the fact that the story will have you replaying the certain areas over and over, and things feel repetitive way too quickly.

You will find waypoints throughout the levels where you'll respawn when you die. This happens a lot, either because you couldn't jump through that small gap or because you were overwhelmed by your foes yet again. When you respawn you won't have to fight any of the creatures you already killed but you will have to travel all the way back to where you were which becomes a tedious task. Since the enemies don't respawn I see no reason why you shouldn't just respawn in the area you died in.

When starting the game you are advised to use a controller. It is possible to play with a keyboard but a controller is much more at home with a game like this. Despite this, when opening the menu, it's only possible to remap the keyboard input but not the gamepad. The button layout felt a little out of place for me (just personal preference) but because of this limitation I wasn't able to rearrange the buttons in a way that better suited me.

Skykeepers Review. Level up your council and you'll unlock more special attacks.

conclusion

Thus far I've painted a rather grim picture, but truthfully it's not all bad. The game may be riddled with issues but it still had some elements that I found highly enjoyable.

However, I keep coming back to the same point, I feel the developers have missed their audience. If this game was aimed at a younger crowd with an appropriate story, I think it would have been a raging success. However, too many elements try to feel grown up in an attempt to appeal to more mature players and that's where I feel things went wrong. As such, I have trouble recommending Skykeepers. It might be fun in short bursts but nothing more than that.

PROSCONS
  • Innovative teleportation ability
  • Simplistic designs look rather good
  • The story has outgrown the dialog
  • Repetitive levels
  • Way too much mindless button mashing
  • Unable to remap gamepad input
4.5
Poor

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