It was the sounds of rattling machine gun fire that first drew me in to Last Wings. Sometimes it’s little things like that which first catch my attention. The simple sound of an ancient war plane firing off its cannons burrowed its way into my ear and had me hooked. That was my introduction to the game, but after spending many, many hours with Last Wings, would there be more to it than just that one hook or would that first impression be the best I ever got?
Last Wings is a 2-D aerial dogfighting game that provides round after round of quick action. Players select from one of four different game modes, customize the loadout of their plane, and engage in combat across four separate locales. You earn points for shooting down enemy planes and completing certain objectives. These points help you to level up which unlocks more powerful planes and new weapons or features to add to your load out.
My first impressions were very positive. The controls were extremely easy to figure out. Flying is done by either turning left or right while the face buttons control the primary and secondary attacks. The shoulder buttons are used to speed up or slow down. This allowed me to do my favorite tactic which was to shut off the engines, stall, and spin in circles as I concentrated my fire on whatever poor sap decided to get too close. Of course I’d have to fire the engines back up before I slammed into the ground, but hopefully not before taking out a few of my opponents along the way.
The first mode I went into was Score Attack. This pits ten planes against each other and the first one to 20 kills wins. These battle can get pretty intense as everyone inevitably gets bunched up in one spot and bullets are flying everywhere. This mode proved to be my favorite, and the one that I would find myself going back to time and again. Maybe it’s because of my lone-wolf nature, or maybe it’s that things are a bit more exciting when every plane is the enemy.
Next up is Team Fight. Here you’re put on a team of five and battle it out against another team of five. The first team to 30 kills wins the round (and the points). A more interesting version of this is the mode called Team Fight Rounds. TF Rounds puts two teams of five against each other, but the difference is once you’re killed, you’re out for the round. If you die too early, you’re stuck watching your teammates finish the fight without you.
Lastly, there’s a mode called Base Attack. And yes, just as the name implies, you go out and attack your opponents’ base. Again, you’re put into a team of five and have to balance the strategy between attacking the other base and defending your own. This balancing act was probably my biggest problem with this mode since there is no way to coordinate with my teammates to decide who will attack and who will defend. I often found that everyone would either decide to stay back and protect the home base or else we were all off attacking as our base was getting blown to smithereens.
At its core, Last Wings is a very competent and fun arcade dogfighting game. The matches require some skill, but not so much as to be overly frustrating. The graphics are simple, colorful, and pretty. And the sound design is minimalistic, which makes the rattling of the guns and the roar of the engines even more pronounced.
The problem is, after an hour or so, the charm wears off and the flaws become more and more glaring.
One of the first annoyances that I noticed is that immediately following a match, the game automatically rolls your right into a new one. There’s no way to cancel or to say, “No thanks. I’m done for now.” Instead, I have to go through the process of selecting a plane, starting a match, and then have to abandon it.
And rolling from one match to the next also makes your realize that the amount of content really feels lacking. After that first hour, it felt like I had seen all there was to see. Those four different locales you can choose from all start to feel the exact same but with minor color changes. There are only three different planes to choose from, and that’s only after you’ve put in the time to unlock them. I had to grind a lot just so I could unlock that third plane to add a little more variety to each match.
I also encountered a number of technical issues where the game would slow down to crawl for several seconds. Eventually it would catch back up, but it was still aggravating. You’ve heard of Frames Per Second? Well, I actually encountered Seconds Per Frame.
Perhaps my biggest disappointment was with the multiplayer. I was actually really impressed the first time I started up a multiplayer game as I was put into a match right away. I was even more impressed with how well I did and ended up winning the whole thing. That rarely happens for me, and I was patting myself on the back for being a bit of a Last Wings pro. Then as I went into another match (because you can’t cancel and say “I’m done”) I noticed something odd. All the players I was up against all had names that were too… clean. It was apparently obvious that I was not playing against actual people but rather the game’s AI. My ego was quickly deflated.
Last Wings is a really fun game that is marred with a number of small problems. It’s one or two updates away from being really good, but as it stands right now, the frustration and lack of content means it wears out its welcome rather fast.