The devs at Lunar Rooster are working on a multiplayer online FPS game.
That sounds about as bad an idea as trying to create a new MOBA nowadays, but in my time with a recent Sky Noon preview, I found a game that most definitely has a lot more potential for fun than “yet another FPS” would otherwise sound. Especially with one of the game’s modes in particular.
When I first reported on this particular game, I described it as “a Wild West multiplayer shoving match in the clouds.” That’s about the fastest description I could grant the game and it still holds generally true after my time playing. Basically, think any fast-paced FPS you’ve ever played, like Unreal Tournament or Quake, combined with the general objectives of a game like Super Smash Brothers or Brawlhalla and you’re pretty much in the right mindset for what Sky Noon has to offer.
Sky Noon doesn’t feature health bars or health in general, and all of the weapons fire puffs of air in varying degrees of strength and various ranges instead of bullets or other ballistic attacks. These two design choices combine to form the ultimate objective of gameplay: to use the various air-spitting weapons at your disposal to knock targets off of the map. Quite literally, you blow them away.
Being blasted isn’t always the end, however. Every player has a grappling hook immediately at the ready which they can fire to save themselves from sailing to their doom. You’ve also got a Lasso available with the press of the E key, which helps you either rope in items, snare a foe to either reposition them or draw them close for a point-blank blast, or perhaps grab them and take them with you before you fall off the map.
Combine all of this with abilities like mines or air-powered rocket boots, map features like jump pads, and a very fast-paced form of movement and the entire game lends itself to being a frantically good time where spatial awareness is just as key as being a steady shot. It took some time to get used to these mechanics – especially the effective range of the grappling hook – but I soon started to pull it all together into action that was at least semi-competent.
The weapons in Sky Noon all fit suitable and expected archetypes and play styles, which makes sense overall. You’ve got your close-quarters shotgun, your sniper-like six-shooter pistol, and the rocket launcher-like Jail Breaker hand cannon, to name a few. They work and they’re certainly not terrible, but I genuinely do hope more unique weapons are added to the mix at some point in the future.
Gameplay currently works in one of four modes in Sky Noon. You’ve got deathmatch modes in free-for-all or team flavors and your king of the hill mode where teams fight to control highlighted points on the map that change position randomly.
So far, so similar to everything else on the market, right? Well, that was before I played the game’s Carts mode.
Carts mode is Sky Noon’s spin on the payload escort objective that Overwatch players will be painfully familiar with; each team is responsible for getting a mine cart to a location on the game’s map in order to score points, with the highest score winning at the end of the round. The wrinkles here, though, are that the cart only moves when players shove it along with shots from their weapons and that the direction the mine cart travels can be switched by shooting railroad crossroad points dotted around the map.
These two seemingly simple things brought Carts from a typical escort mode to the most fun I’ve had playing an FPS in a long while. It was tug-of-war at high speed, with panicked “no no no” and “yes yes yes” permeating the comms as teams tried to screw over one another, either by redirecting the cart at intersections or blowing each other backwards with weapons fire. Frankly, Carts is the mode that will sell copies of the game.
It also, apparently, is the mode that’s gotten the most developer attention, with more maps available for it than in deathmatch or king-of-the-hill in the current build we played. I suspect this will change, but I do hope it happens sooner rather than later – ideally before the game’s early access release.
I also hope that more customization is applied to your avatar soon; right now, there are some pretty limited options for making your bandito or deputy stand out. I also hope customization will be included that lets players select their chosen abilities or weapons, since right now both are randomly provided by smashing the relevant crate on the game’s map. While I can appreciate the assumed intent of doing this in the interest of game balance, it might also introduce too much RNG for players’ tastes.
With that said, what Sky Noon has to offer as of right now is definitely enough to make it worth my interest. There’s enough actual game here to make it rise above the seemingly neverending mire of early access game releases and Sky Noon absolutely has the potential to also stand out in a very crowded sub-genre. Provided the devs elect to not play it safe and use the game’s mechanics to its advantage, at least.
Sky Noon is fun, high-paced, and frenetic in the very best ways possible and it stands on the edge of being something genuinely great. I’m looking forward to seeing where the devs take it from here.Related: Early Access, FPS, Multiplayer, Preview, Sky Noon