HighFleet is an action-strategy game that’s like nothing I’ve ever played before

HighFleet kicked the absolute crap out of me. If aerial physics is involved, I seem to have an almost pathological need to crash and explode. And there’s a lot of dizzying sky brawls in HighFleet. It demands some fast fingers when you’re controlling your ships in its brisk arcade battles, but before that comes tonnes of preparation, strategy, and even a spot of diplomacy. It’s an unusual cocktail of systems and genres that collide to create something quite surprising. 

Its closest relative is probably FTL. HighFleet puts you in command of a ship on a dangerous mission, undertaken across a large map dotted with cities that can be traded with, refueled at, or contain new people that you can chat to and maybe recruit. There’s even an analogue of FTL’s invincible rebel fleet nipping at your heels, which constantly forced you to keep moving forwards; this time, though, it’s a whole bunch of roaming strike teams packing nukes, and avoiding them is even trickier.

Dig a little deeper, though, and HighFleet starts to look very different. For one, you’re not controlling a single ship. You’ve got your beefy flagship, but it also carries your arsenal of highly customisable bombers, frigrates, scouts and other craft. They’re what you’ll send into battle, though you can still bring your flagship into a scrap if you’re OK with risking obliteration. 

(Image credit: MicroProse)

Fights are real-time arcade affairs with friendly fire, physics and lots of explosions. Even with HighFleet’s strategy sensibilities, however, the fights are surprisingly straightforward, so you can just worry about getting your enemy in your sights and getting the hell out of the way of their bullets. Timing and precision are key. I have neither in abundance, lamentably. Even your lightest ship is a steel behemoth that really wants to fall to the earth, and while staying airborne isn’t difficult—unless your engines have been destroyed, which will definitely happen—it does feel like you’re always pushing against gravity, and every slick aerobatic manoeuvre takes its toll. I don’t need anyone to tell me my engines are overheating, because they’re always overheating.

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