Review by: Matthew Dujnic
Published: May 8, 2002
Savage Skies is built upon a terrifically simple idea. For those who love epic fantasy, nothing has greater appeal than the imaginary beasts that populate those pseudo-medieval worlds. And from Tolkien to D&D, no creature holds greater sway over our collective imagination than the dragon. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of magical powers. Savage Skies takes our love for dragons, mixes it with dozens of other mythical flying monsters, and delivers us a chance to pilot them through the lands of a faraway realm, battling the opposition like otherworldly WWII fighter jets. The concept is a genre lover’s dream come true, but does the implementation deliver?
Long ago, in a standard-issue fantasy world, everyone lived in peace and prosperity under the leadership of a great king. However, for every prosperous kingdom, there’s always a big bad dude who has too much time on his hands. In this case, it’s a dark soul known as Mortalvis. One day he decides to do what every demonic villain must: he sends his wraiths to kill the king and lay waste to the land; so they do and the world is decimated. Humanity is split into three factions, the Virtwyn (the good guys), the Chrysalis (a medieval Borg race), and the Pariah (the bad guys). Though the King is dead, his soul has been split into three pieces and reincarnated as three individuals. Conveniently, one of these individuals belongs to each tribe; even more conveniently, you play as these individuals.
Savage Skies provides three campaigns, each with its own story. Virtwyn is the easiest quest, and is best for beginners. Chrysalis is a middling challenge, and Pariah is the most difficult path. Each campaign contains a variety of missions. Your tasks will range from guarding a convoy of ships to search-and-destroy raids. Landscapes consist of the usual elemental buffet: grassy hills, snowy mountains, murky swamps, and fiery caverns. You’ll be diving under bridges and soaring over castle towers on any one of 24 winged creatures. Some are proud specimens: roc, giant owl, wyvern, pegasus; others are hideous mutations: flying eyes, mutated mantas, winged boars and skeletal dragons. The creature designs show a great deal of visual variety, but they all control similarly.
The game plays like an arcade flight simulator; the analog stick handles pitch and turning, while the buttons cover throttle, item selection, and weapons. Each creature has two attacks: the primary is usually a long-range energy blast of some sort; for example, the Roc has a “sonic screech” that deafens enemies to death, while Rohn the ice dragon projects a volley of snowy shards. The range and power of these attacks varies from creature to creature, but their secondary weapons are even more unique: shields, smart bombs, lightning, and healing power are some examples. Using these powers can sap your steed’s stamina, as can flying them too hard. If your mount tires, slowing them down to a hover, or even landing, will aid recovery. Floating powerup icons can also help you by refilling health, augmenting armor, or providing energy boosts.