HighFleet mixes together aerial combat between enormous war machines with strategic planning via a skeuomorphic interface covered in switches, knobs, and other physical tools. It’s as aesthetically exciting to me as any other game in development, but now I have a better sense of how it’s going to play due to a new 30 minute trailer.
A lot of the game takes place in menus, but god, they’re nice looking menus. I have no particular interest in military machinery, and yet I love tiny switches with red flaps on them. I love knobs and I want to twist them.
The video begins with the player scouting for a city on a map drawn in spare lines on an old computer screen. They intercept an enemy signal, and must tune into it by twirling a knob like tuning an old radio, and they eventually reveal an enemy location. Then they need to plot a course to intercept said enemy, at which point the game switches into battle mode.
For fights, you choose which of your ships to send and how to kit them out with weapons and ammo. The action itself is in real-time, and I found it exceedingly tense just to watch. The player controls one ship at a time and there’s a lurching momentum to it as you thrust around a 2D sky. There’s a lot to think about, too, between balancing fuel consumption with the need to keep fighting, and weapon use with the expense of different ammo types. Plus, these thoughts are happening while the sky is filled with machinegun fire, fighter jets, and missiles from the multiple heavy duty hulks that are trying to shoot you down.
Again, these look gorgeous. The clouds in the background flicker as they’re lit up by explosions, your flying frigates catch fire and spew smoke that wafts perfectly as you lunge through the air, and the whole thing is viewed as if through a video screen at a distance. It’s a side-on war game and yet it’s sensorally rich. I want to bathe in its clouds. And its flaps and knobs.
At around 18 minutes in, the fleet lands at the city they’ve been hunting for, and the player has to control the descent to avoid blowing up on the landing pad. This, too, is viewed through a screen, with a stark yellow UI and raindrops making it difficult to see. The reward for a successful landing is a conversation with people from the city. You have to win these people to your side by choosing conversational topics they’ll agree with, and in exchange you get some gold and some information.
HighFlight is aiming for release in spring of this year, via Steam and Humble. The video above is absolutely worth skipping through just to look at it. To look at its knobs, and flaps.