Title: Project Wingman
Developer: Sector D2
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Humble Games
Genre: Air Combat
The class of indie games is becoming increasingly difficult to spot nowadays as projects blur the lines by pushing the quality of even limited budget releases. Thankfully, platforms such as Kickstarter have been there in the past to assist developers, but there’s a gamble when it comes to those who choose to support these titles. Thankfully, those who supported Sector D2’s release of Project Wingman have nothing to worry about because it could win in a dog fight against many other flight combat games available.
Project Wingman is a single-player focused flight combat game with an emphasis on realism and heroics. Players jump in the cockpit as the mercenary Monarch, who fights against the Federation with a group of other pilots. The narrative doesn’t feature any real deviations or twists, making it unforgettable outside of a few significant missions where the plot advances.
Even with this basic plot of standing up against a greater power and overcoming it, there is a bit of lore tied into the story beats, which can be explored through files and key terms between missions. It’s important to note that only the first act of the campaign is available, but these terms provide a bible that the developers could build on in later acts. Unfortunately, outside of the Federation, the story lacks antagonists who the player can learn to hate throughout the story. Regardless, the missions are laid out and crafted in a way that’s reminiscent of classic media of this genre.
However, Project Wingman shines during gameplay. Each playable jet can be purchased between missions using points, and each provides a unique loadout that can be customized in a few ways. This allows you to adjust jets to your playstyle through a series of anti-air and ground weapons. However, it may take a few missions to understand how each weapon works and which one’s you like. I loved this variety and quickly found a balance of weapons to equip to the four available slots.
While in flight, each jet provides a distinct sense of speed and power. I found myself constantly finding new jets to call my favorite based on their abilities and load-outs. The list of planes available grows after missions, so my experiences changed throughout the game. If anything, I wish it was clearer to know what the upcoming mission had in store so I knew what kind of jet I should use or buy. A few times, I made a mistake, bringing an anti-aircraft jet to a mission full of mostly ground enemies.
Although the campaign lacks proper cutscenes, the gameplay makes it easy to look past any features missing due to budget. This is mainly because the most important systems are present and work insanely well. The flying provides an awesome sense of speed, and the mission structure has you do a variety of tasks that makes each mission feel like you are actually completing a real objective.
Every victory feels earned, especially on the greater difficulties, and the in-game allies are helpful as they take down enemies while you focus on more troublesome targets. Some missions just get insanely cinematic during gameplay as forests are on fire, and dozens of enemies have you in their sites. I often got caught up in the spectacle of it all as I shot down multiple enemies in some flashy way.
Controls don’t take too much getting used to as Project Wingman takes a more arcade-like approach to the genre. As an homage to retro titles, I enjoyed the inclusion of taking off and landing the jet during some missions, which could also be skipped. Controls are tight and responsive, and switching weapons is seamless as I took out ground enemies and quickly switched back to anti-air missiles to take out an approaching enemy jet.
The environments only complement the experience as they each vary enough to make missions just a bit more exciting as you adjust your tactics to weather and topography. It shows a genuine layer of love went into the gameplay systems to keep gameplay fun, even for casual fans of the genre. Still, there is a layer of customization and difficulty present for those who wish to dive in a little deeper.
Outside of the campaign is Conquest Mode, a roguelike experience that revolves around multiple playthroughs and challenging air combat. You’ll begin with only a few planes available, but as you play, you’ll gain funds to purchase new planes for later runs. The idea here is to try and get as far as possible, but the mode is more than just waves of enemies.
As you take points on the map, the next wave of enemies adjust to your actions. If you attempt to farm for funds, which can be used to hire ally mercenaries who can help you, the next area may increase in difficulty. However, if you go through the sections too quickly, you’ll be underpowered and will need to rely on your skills for the upcoming dog fights. It presents a nice balance that is mastered across multiple runs.
Project Wingman looks gorgeous, and the level of detail that has gone into the visuals and gameplay mechanics are striking. While playing, you may find it difficult to imagine that such a small team of developers could accomplish something that feels and looks this good. The soundtrack of the game is just as good. Each track creates an epic sense of heroics as you progress the campaign. There’s also a VR mode for headsets that requires a pretty powerful PC to experience the most it offers.
The only significant issue with Project Wingman is that players who come in now are waiting for future updates that promise to expand on modes, planes, and systems. Still, there’s a lot of content to dive into, and one could argue that holding back additional planes to not totally overwhelm the player is a smart choice. I would say that I felt this initial 1.0 release provided enough content to justify the experience and allow players to evolve with its future updates.
Project Wingman is an amazing air combat adventure from a team of developers who truly love the genre. Its campaign is fairly predictable, and you may wish for more planes, but the gameplay is just too damn good to overlook. There’s a noticeable layer of quality found in each mission that transcends into the Conquest Mode, which will keep you coming back for more.
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