Black Skylands

I don’t typically enjoy games that play from a pure top-down perspective. I’ll take an isometric view or the Diablo III-style fixed-camera view any day, but there’s just something about the 90-degree, ceiling-camera-pointing-straight-down-at-the-floor perspective that I find unappealing.

With Black Skylands, however, I’ll make a well-earned exception. Not only is this game gorgeous, but its breathtaking beauty is largely because of it’s top-town perspective rather in spite of it.

This is a game that takes place on a series of flying islands. You’ll traverse between them on a skyship (basically a flying pirate ship), and while you’re soaring through the air, you get a top-down view at what’s below. And it appears to be an endless yet ever-changing sky.

Layers of clouds roll in beneath you when it storms, but when it clears up, you’ll see all sorts of neat things. You’ll see floating megafauna, like giant turtles and whales. You’ll see faraway islands. You’ll even see other ships cruising around. And if you get a peek at this during sunrise or sunset, you’re treated to the glorious orange hues of the rising or setting sun.

Black Skylands

On top of that, there are groups of animals that will pass by overhead. Sometimes it’s a swarm of flying manta rays; other times it will be a V of pterodactyl-like critters. Sometimes it’s just birds, but those are cool too, I guess.

While the sky is a marvel to look at, it’s not the only part of the game that looks incredible. There’s a bit of 3D design here, with lighthouses that poke upwards at the camera, and trees that move in the wind with a surprising amount of fluidity. There’s so much detail here that it can be overwhelming to look like, sort of like a Charles Wysocki puzzle or a Where’s Waldo drawing. Pretty much everything in this game looks incredible.

Black Skylands

I’ve invested about eight hours into Black Skylands at this point, and it’s very, very clear to me that the designers put a great deal of love and hard work into this game world. If you drool over pixel art, like I do, you really owe it to yourself to check this out.

Black Skylands is currently in Early Access via Steam.

Disclaimer: I was given an early review code for Black Skylands for this article, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

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