Cyber-Wing: Jet & Mech

There’s an interesting indie strategy/action title out this week called Cyber-Wing. Its an honestly simple concept of commanding a futuristic army from the cockpit of a Mech that also doubles as a jet. The game is one of base capture, assault and defense.

The units include tanks, walkers, infantry, anti-air, commando, support and even boats. You need to command at least 4 infantry/commando units to enter an empty base to capture it. Once captured you can begin to order new troops, but in order to bring them onto the battlefield you have to transform into the Jet and pick them up at your base, then fly over to where you want them deployed and drop them off. All the while managing your fuel supplies – run out of fuel and your command Mech is ruined. Even though the graphics are a bit on the basic side, the models are well realised, and their animations are good. Your Mech’s eye view is a little basic, but you have quite an informative HUD panel, with radar, unit order lists and your Mech’s health and fuel bars.

The game comes with a Campaign mode, which consists of a series of scripted missions, effecting a tutorial of sorts. Each mission introducing another layer of functionality, from basic guns, cannon fire, to base capture and unit control. There’s a skirmish mode, where you battle on a base filled map, with enemy bots. Or you can take the game online and play with others (although at this early stage in the game, there were no servers online). I believe the developer has recently put up a dedicated server for the game. Hopefully the devs Martian Arctic can nurture a Cyber-Wing gaming community on their official forums.

There are four orders you can issue, “forward”, “defend”, “retreat” and “attack the enemy HQ”. As you issue the order a voice booms out the order, and as far as I can tell, all units within listening distance will immediately act upon it. So you haven’t got a fine control over your troops, but you do have an overall command of their actions. I’m not at the point where I would hold a set of troops at one base, fly to another, and order them independently to attack the enemy from two different directions. I generally use the Jet mode to forward recon, and attempt to cannon their armour from the skies (because the enemy’s tanks don’t seem able to shoot you effectively whilst you’re in flight), before retreating back, healing and refilling on fuel, to lead the advance of your troops attack wave on foot. Picking up units from bases and dropping them off can be quite precarious, and your limit on fuel reserves is a major factor on what you can do in Jet form. I seem to burn through it really quickly, and apart from get a couple of shots off, have to high tail it out of there before I collapse into a smouldering heap. Dropping down to Mech form is an option, but by this time you’re usually also damaged to some degree so repair is often more desirable than pushing the fight. Whilst your Mech is a force to  be reckoned with against infantry and walkers, meet a tank or two and you’ll be doing a merry dance to get out of the way. Even though you’re encased in a shell of steel, you can’t a massive amount of concentrated punishment.

There’s a lot to like about this game, not least of which is the introductory price of $5 (or £3). It’s obviously an independent labor of love, and whilst a little rough around the edges, and a bit stuttered when there are a lot of units on screen and firing at the same time, it has a simple charm. The pounding of the Mech and the hail of bullets unleashed by twin mounted mini-gun turrets is a base guttural pleasure, the exquisite transformation animation to gliding Jet is very enjoyable to watch, yet all too short before fuel starts bleeding out of you at an alarming rate. You always have to be wary of where your base is so that you make a dash to it, to refuel and repair. Its a charming distraction that given a chance might become something bigger than just a small independant release. Worth a look, grab the demo from the Cyber Wing website.

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Ian Bowes / spelk