Black Skylands First Impressions [Based on my Personal Taste]

What The STRUCK is Black Skylands?

(a top-down action RPG that combines aerial & ground combat with amazing pixel art & a simple yet effective loot system)

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Black Skylands is a fresh 2D pixel art action RPG that combines two types of combat – ground and aerial with a top down camera that gives it that retro feel some might remember from the good old days of the SEGA consoles. It follows the story of a female protagonist as she fights sky pirates and zerg-like monstrosities to take back control of the Skylands for the good of their inhabitants and to free them from a tyrannical rule. The combat is fast paced, the loot system is simple but deep enough, there’s crafting, upgrades, and a lots of other good stuff to keep us busy.

Video Version:

The Story:

Without spoiling or revealing too much, I’d say that the game puts us in the shoes of a young protagonist who (during the prologue) is celebrating a birthday and has to meet with some of her family members. It’s kind of like coming of age preparations that take us through a tutorial of how to shoot a gun, fly a ship, etc. Eventually, shit hits the fan and then there’s a time skip to 7 years after the prologue.

After the prologue, you’ll notice that there are two threats to deal with: the Swarm, who are zerg-like alien type of creatures and the Falcons, who are kind of like the sky pirates of this world. We would be facing enemies and bosses of both factions throughout our quest and we will have to take control of and defend various islands. Once we take over an islands from the Falcons, we might find ourselves facing an attempt to recapture that same island by the Falcons as well as a timer (that is thankfully generous) to race against and eliminate all enemies that have infiltrated that island.


Fight in the skies and on land: combine aerial and ground combat, having dozens of weapons in your arsenal.

The game’s very unique in this department as it combines aerial combat with ground combat. Very much in the style of the Strike series (Desert Strike, Jungle Strike, Urban Strike, etc.) from the good old SEGA times.

The game’s website promises “dozens” of weapons and those are separated under 7 weapon types: pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, rifle (not sure how this one differs to AR or a Sniper), SMG, and one more that I have not learned the name of yet. Adding to that a dodge rolling mechanic and a hook that can pull enemies closer to us + a top-down camera the result is nice fast paced ground combat.

On the other hand we have the aerial combat where (so far) each ship seems to have two cannons on both sides of the ship that can be rotated to a few fixed angles that vary based on the ship itself (for example the base ship does 135, 90 and 45 degree angles, while the second ship type can also shoot straight forward). When you only shoot one side’s weapon, it will move the ship towards the opposite side as a result of the cannon’s “KICK” force. However, if you fire both at the same time it evens out and the ship remains as it was. Combine that with having to maneuver and dodge enemy projectiles while aiming the cannons and you have an exciting second type of combat mechanic to engage with.

Equipment & Weapon Mods:

you can see the ammo of the 7 weapon types on the left

As I mentioned above, the game’s website promises “dozens of weapons” and those are separated under 7 weapon types: pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, rifle (not sure how this one differs to AR or a Sniper), SMG, and one more that I have not learned the name of yet. Each one of those weapons (except the pistols) can be modded with 4 separate mod slots: Barrel, Sight, Magazine and Stock. Equipping Mods will grant various buffs such as damage, stability, range, reload speed, etc. By mixing and matching your favorite mods with the weapon bases that you prefer the game offers a decent amount of diversity of playstyles. And the best part here is that unequipping a mod does not destroy it so you can freely experiment with any combo you like without fear of loosing a component in the process.

crafting weapons at the armory

The are also 3 types of Equipment that you wear: Armor (Chest), Boots, and a Beltbag. Those can not be modded but each of them comes with a few bonuses such as: max HP, damage reduction to a certain enemy type (Falcons or Swarm), movement speed, sprint speed, maximum medkits and ammo you can carry, etc.

The Equipment and Weapons can be crafted from the Armory and to get access to better ones the player will have to upgrade their armory. I’m unable to confirm whether there are weapons & equipment that are obtained from drops at this point as I don’t think I’ve spent enough time in the game to be 100% sure about this. Players will also be able to unlock permanent passive bonuses to their land combat from the Armory.

unlocking permanent combat boosts

Ships & Components:

In terms of customizing our Ship(s) there are two things to keep in mind: there are multiple ship types/bases and each ship can be modified via mixing and matching various components. There are 7 types of components: an Engine, Sails, a Propeller, a Fuel Tank, a Cannon, a Hull, and a Hold.

Changing components will boost various stats like the acceleration and deceleration speed, the ship’ durability, the fuel capacity and fuel consumption, rotation speed, maximum speed, cargo slots, etc. Each component has its own weight and each ship base has a different weight limit. Experiment with various combos of component within that weight limit to achieve your preferred balance between speed, dmg, survivability and storage.

Crafting ship components & buying new ship bases can be done from the Ship Workshop. Upgrading the Ship Workshop will grant players access to more ship bases and ship components. On top of that players will also be able to unlock permanent passive upgrades for their ships.

crafting/buying ship components
permanent ship upgrades


After the prologue, players will be able to construct various buildings that each offer a different functionality. At the beginning players will have access to 5 buildings but as they progress the story more will become available for construction. Some of the things that those buildings allow you to do are: crafting weapons, equipment and mods, growing crops and animals, buying ships and ship components, convert raw materials (iron, copper, etc.) into processed such (iron or copper ingots, etc.), acquire artifacts and artifact upgrades, etc.

the first 5 buildings we can construct
the next 3 buildings that eventually get unlocked (maybe there’s more)
using the factory to process materials
using the garden to grow crops

The Open World & Map:

The world of Black Skylands consists of various floating islands + our HQ – the Fathership. Players will find themselves wiping out enemy forces on an island in order to capture it which will then reward the players with more citizens/manpower to use for unlocking various upgrades. Players will also need to defend those islands every now and then when they get invaded by enemies. Each island controlled by enemy forces has a recommended equipment power and ship power rating that should not be ignored. Taking on enemies with a suggested power rating that is 2-3 times higher than your current one would result in bullet sponge fights and probably also 1-shots 🙂 so make sure you’re ready before approaching a certain island.

the world is vast and there are plenty of islands to explore (fully zoomed out we see around 40% of the full map)
various islands with different enemy power ratings

The Setting Menus:

The game’s setting menus are a bit lacking but they have the essentials and there’s a lot of keybindings that can be changed. Due to the game’s nature it’s not demanding and even old and weak machines can run it a the maximum settings so advanced video settings are not needed. However, It really needs one thing – a toggle to restrict the mouse cursor to the game’s window. I know this may not be noticed by people who play fullscreen but there are many people who play with multiple screens and use windowed mode or people who play windowed on a single monitor. It can be very frustrating when you’re in the middle of a boss-fight and suddenly you cursor accidentally goes outside of the game’s window when you click it which switches to another windows (thankfully also pausing the game) and ruins your momentum.



  • beautiful 2D pixel art
  • fast paced land & aerial combat
  • 7 weapon types + a mod system
  • 7 ship components types to mix & match + various ship bases
  • a “defend your islands” system makes it feel like a living, breathing world


  • the first two bosses felt very overpowered and I had to cheese them by using the environment
  • the random save times are not amazing and you can’t manually save when you want to
  • lack of a “restrain cursor to the game window” toggle option can be annoying to some
  • so far very small enemy diversity

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This concludes my First Impressions of Black Skylands. If you’re interested in the game below are links to the various platforms where one can buy it (you can just click the links to open a new tab):

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