Skyward Collapse Review
by Alan Bradley
As long-time fans of mythology and petty tyrants with delusions of grandeur, we’ve always enjoyed games that provided throngs of worshipful subjects to manage, awe, and dispatch at will. Skyward Collapse takes our demigod aspirations and upends them, reinforcing that old adage that with great power truly does come great responsibility, and that while it might be a lot of fun, it’s not easy being a deity.
As with recent indie gem, Reus, Skyward Collapse takes a standard (if neglected) genre, the god game, and mucks about with some of the core concepts to produce something fresh and unique. Whereas in most god games the player is tasked with leading a civilization to greatness and dominance, in Skyward Collapse the objective is a bit more complicated: stop your Greek and Norse subjects from violently murdering each other, while simultaneously ensuring that neither side is wiped out by marauding bandits.
At first glance, Skyward Collapse might remind gamers of 2011’s indie darling Bastion, with its tiles that rise to create a world that appears to be hung in a yawning void. The similarities end there, however. Skyward Collapse is a turn-based strategy game that demands careful planning and execution if the two (very aggro) civilizations under your care are going to coexist. As it progresses, the game becomes a careful balancing act where the player must ensure that both peoples are capable of defending themselves but don’t have a significant enough advantage to overpower their rivals.
Beyond the core soldiers, players construct siege engines, mythological beasts, and eventually the gods themselves to battle for the two civs, leading to some truly epic conflicts. While always monitoring the ever-changing balance of power, players must also contend with Woes, cataclysmic events that can rend apart a carefully plotted landscape or massacre dozens of units in the blink of an eye. Woes introduce a random element that ensures that players never feel fully in control of events, and are always being challenged to adapt to circumstances.
The art design in Skyward Collapse is mostly simple and elegant, though some of the units look cleaner and more carefully designed than others. The terrain features are pretty universally attractive, however, and plunking down new tiles to expand your floating continent is very satisfying. The animations, on the other hand, are mainly just static 2D sprites gliding along or colliding with each other, which looks a bit clunky but contributes to a visual aesthetic reminiscent of a tabletop miniatures or board game. It’s certainly not a graphical tour-de-force, but for the most part the art is serviceable or appealing enough not to get in the way of the gameplay.
Skyward Collapse is a flawed but fun curiosity piece that’s more than capable of distracting gamers for several hours, and has the advantage of being a different experience every time you play. For strategy fans, or fans of Arcen Game’s previous work (like the A Valley Without Wind series), it’s an easy recommend.