Sky Cannoneer is a fortress artillery game inspired by the arcade classic title, Rampart. Every match is played out in several short phases, each one lasting only around twenty seconds.
In the first phase you build your fortress, in the second you place your cannons and in the third, you and your foe unleash a barrage of cannon fire into each other’s forts before repairing and rebuilding in phase one again.
You build and battle on floating havens. Each campaign level usually has some kind of quirk and optional challenges. Levels can be replayed to earn more resources, and these can be spent on upgrading your haven.
You can unlock a variety of forts, bonuses, technology’s, and summons as you play. These can range from the ability to shield your island to summoning a dragon to attack the enemy.
The idea of walls is slightly misleading. The walls you build don’t actually block attacks. They form a power grid when you enclose an area using them instead. This allows you to power your forts, boosters, and cannons but more importantly, it mitigates damage to your generator.
If no forts are powered, your generator takes triple damage from attacks and you lose if it’s destroyed. The core concept of the game is to damage the enemy forts enough that they cant rebuild their power grids in time while keeping your own active. Then you bombard their generator while it’s vulnerable.
This is no simple task, each phase only lasts around twenty seconds. During the build phase, you place walls in an attempt to enclose your forts while leaving enough room to place cannons. However, every block you place is a random shape like in Tetris and you have to make the most of what blocks are handed to you, and do it quickly.
As you progress you will earn different currencies that can be spent on Haven upgrades and boosters. For example, one type of upgrade will increase the reload speed of your cannons, while another might make your walls stronger. Boosters might upgrade cannons placed near them or strengthen your superpowers. Boosters and forts must both be fully enclosed by walls in order to be powered up, allowing you to gain their upgrade or boon.
You unlock technology as you level through the campaign. The technology tree can be thought of like a loadout, you can swap between any techs of the same level between missions. Your earliest ones can alter your cannons, allowing them to launch one of three ammo types. Others might provide unique passive bonuses such as allowing you to cycle through blocks when building.
You also gain access to summons and superpowers you can switch between. Such as raising a forcefield around your island, or launching a boulder into an enemy fort.
Once you are in the battle phase you and your foe fire as many shots as possible at each other before repairing the damage after. Each round you can place a limited number of cannons and that limit increases with the number of actively powered forts in your possession. You repeat the whole process until you win or lose. It can be pretty frantic to try and patch the holes in your grid.
The only mode of play in Sky Cannoneer is the campaign mode. Each stage usually has a quirk to how the enemy fights and some objectives differ adding a decent variety of scenarios.
Boss fights break up the action and gameplay patterns as they have to be dealt with differently compared to havens. The boss fights are really neat but sadly get repeated throughout the game as you fight more powerful versions of previous ones or multiple copies of the same boss at once.
There is some strategy in how you construct the layout of your fort, what powers and passive abilities to choose and what forts and boosters to enclose and activate first. But the game is, by and large, mindless chaos.
You could in theory, specifically pick which walls to shoot in order to make your foes rebuilding efforts difficult. The reality of it is, the battle phase is so short and you have so many cannons that you simply end up clicking as fast humanly possible in as many spots as possible. Thought never really enters the equation.
There also isn’t too much variety to the core game-play. You really only have one power active at a time that you can deploy, most other game-play effects are passive and you choose them before the fighting starts. You are really just clicking as fast you can during the battle and placing blocks afterward.
The action is fun to watch, the destruction is satisfying and there ends up being an absurd amount of projectiles on screen. The combat is visually appealing, but that only carries it so far.
Sky Cannoneer has only one mode, no difficulty settings and it’s pretty short, I completed it in around 6 hours and it lacks much in the way of replay value.
Sky Cannoneer is a respectful homage to the classic that inspired it. Its core concept just feels a little less evolved than you would expect. It plays and controls smoothly, my playthrough was bug-free and the experience was enjoyable. However, while I was never bored, I constantly desired more substance and meaningful interaction.
Some of the varied objectives and boss fights did a good job of breaking up the repetition but fighting the repeated bosses was a drag. Sky Cannoneer isn’t an expensive game, but it is a short one. At the same time if it lasted any longer it would have overstayed its welcome as mindless action is only entertaining for so long.
It isn’t a bad game, I feel like it was successful in meeting its conceptual vision. That vision just needed a bit more ambition.
A copy of Sky Cannoneer was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by Element Games via indieboost.com
Enjoy artillery games? Check out my review of Worbital!
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- Faithful homage to an old classic
- Interesting artillery gameplay and puzzle-like building
- Upgrades and powers are neat
- Smooth and simple controls
- One game mode and it’s short
- No difficulty settings
- Lack of variety and depth
- The main battle phase mostly boils down to clicking really fast
- Boss fights are repeated