Boasting visuals powered by Unreal Engine 4, the developers behind Angels In The Sky are obviously banking on a graphical backbone to power their on-rails shooter. While visuals can certainly pick up any game, there’s not much it can do for a game that suffers from fundamental gameplay issues. Unfortunately, with its relatively bland shooter mechanics combined with an IAP focused upgrade system, Angels In The Sky ($0.99) suffers from this issue, making it simply another pretty face.
Firing up Angels In The Sky for the first time, I was expecting to be blown away by the visuals. Unfortunately, what i saw didn’t leave me impressed. Sure, some of the weapon effects, ship models, and visual explosions looked cool, but everything else (particularly the backdrops) were a bit drab. I know my iPhone is working hard as this Angels is probably the fastest battery drainer that I’ve ever played, but I honestly don’t see much of an improvement. Even more unfortunate, random slow-downs (even on my iPhone 5S) seem to be the norm, interrupting what should be a smooth gameplay experience. Having Unreal Engine 4 running on iOS is a pretty impressive feat, but I don’t think Angels is the best example of what improvements it can bring to the platform.
There’s also the fact that the gameplay is just a bit too bland for my taste. Movement and targeting are both automatically done, leaving players with solely controlling one of three weapons equipped. Various weapons can be bought, equipped and upgraded, but in general there’s a primary that relies on ammo that continually replenishes, another primary that is charge-based, and a special weapon that can be unleashed when enough enemies are killed. A special “O.R.M.” move allows you to briefly escape from the action to replenish ammo and shields, but for the most part that’s it.
There’s some minor strategy involved with shooting enemies (for example, using certain types of weapons against certain enemies in certain movement patterns could result in misses) but in practice it’s more frustrating than engaging due to a lack of feedback. Ammo management is another potential avenue for strategy, but it’s not enough to keep the overall gameplay from being a bit boring. On-rail shooters succeed only when the few controls afforded to its players are implemented flawlessly and I just don’t think Angels hits that mark.
Meanwhile, Angels’ mission-based gameplay quickly places too much of an emphasis on replaying missions to earn currency to upgrade the aforementioned weapons. Normally I wouldn’t be against the occasional need to replay levels to upgrade your weapons and ships, but Angels takes this approach to the extreme. Replaying passed missions award far too little currency, while attempts to pass the latest (and assumedly tough) levels will heavily penalize players by forcing them to repair their ship with what little money they earn in a failed mission. All these factors essentially push players towards its currency IAP, which I find rather disappointing. As it stands, Angels offers too little upfront before forcing players to either replay missions or splurge on the IAP.
Normally, I’d recommend even a visually stunning, but gameplay lacking game as a good way to “showcase” the prowess of current iOS hardware. However, I don’t think even the allure of Unreal Engine 4 is enough to truly recommend Angels In The Sky. I don’t see an exponential increase in visual impressiveness, which leaves most players with just a game that’s heavy on the IAP and lacking in interesting gameplay necessary to combat such an IAP emphasis. If you really must see how the latest Unreal Engine plays on iOS, then feel free to try it, but I really don’t think it’s worth it at this point.