PAX Online 2020 Highlight – Black Skylands

Posted on September 19, 2020

One of the best demos I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing during PAX Online this year was a title by the name of Black Skylands. It’s a game being developed by a team from Moscow who go by the name Hungry Couch Games and published by prolific indie games publisher, tinyBuild.

As of time of writing, PAX Online is starting to come to an end. I’ve experienced a good handful of game demos now but I can pretty safely say that Black Skylands is one of my favourites. The game has a planned release date of Q4 2020 and you can really feel that this title is almost ready for release.

Black Skylands takes place amongst the clouds, in a world full of thousands of floating islands. You play as Walter, a young man who finds himself defending and rebuilding his home ship and going on a journey to take down the bandits and mercenaries that destroyed his home and left his people in fear.

The game demo starts on the fathership, a colony ship full of farming, trading and the basic needs of the people who live there. You find yourself constantly threatened by mercenary gangs who take your produce and eventually leave your fathership in rubble. It’s here that you realise that Black Skylands is a bit of a mixture between a few different genres of game. You’ll find yourself repairing and rebuilding the fathership, using plots of land to build farms and attempt to get the fathership’s agricultural output back in action. There’s a good amount of life sim / farming sim elements apparent within the opening moments of the game’s demo.

Once you take off in a combat ship and start exploring the skylands around you, you start to find all of the other elements that the game has to offer. Questing and RPG elements, open world exploration and resource gathering, as well as top-down shooting with a good selection of different and interesting weaponry.

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What made the Black Skylands demo so exciting for me was just how successfully the game managed to handle all of the different elements it introduced. The world around you is super interesting and fun to explore. It’s also downright beautiful, with the pixel art showing off the gorgeous vistas and interesting scenery of the Skylands. Combat felt punchy and intuitive, with a weapon and ammunition system that encourages the player to try out a good range of different guns, swap weapons mid battle, and conserve ammunition wherever possible. Dodging, melee attacks and even a grapple hook make for good tools within battle, with a sneaky grapple to the back of an unexpecting foe making for a really satisfying instant takedown.

The game’s demo was quite generous too, with the player able to spend a good amount of time in the world. For anybody even mildly interested in this title, I would encourage you to check it out. There’s a lot of potential here and I personally can’t wait to see more when the game releases later this year for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.