Sky Noon Preview
Sky Noon (Steam Early Access) has more to do with old shooters than it does with old westerns. Depending on your age and gaming history, you’ll be able to draw many comparisons – from the zany mutator days of early Unreal Tournament to the Railgun only modes of Quake 3 Arena, this frantic first-person shooter made by a small group of devs will get your blood pumping.
The premise is this: you are a “cowfolk” with a penchant for defying gravity in an arena way above the clouds. Your usual Western arsenal of revolvers, shotguns, and dynamite are anything but usual in their behavior this time around, though. You see, there’s no damage in Sky Noon to speak of. It took me a few rounds to realize it, but you can get hit any number of times because each weapon only shoots high concentrations of air in different outputs. The aim is to actually knock your opponents off the map with the right amount force to send them far out into oblivion. Sounds easy, but it’s definitely not because every gun-toting player has their own grappling hook.
Get Over Here
The grapple is akin to an overpowered version of Widowmaker’s grapple from Overwatch, minus the cooldown. And when I relayed that comparison to the Lunar Rooster team during a match, they confirmed this was true with wild enthusiasm. This is the kind of intensity (and some insanity) they’re striving for. You can grapple as much as you like and as often as you like. And you can grapple to just about anything, including other players. Spider-man meets McCree. It’s a mashup I never knew would work so damn well.
To add to the skill ceiling, every player’s loadout is random. Your primary gun, your special ability, and your extra motion ability all get swapped on death. Item crates you pick up are also random, so players can’t stick to one gun throughout a match. And every special power-up has an offensive twist along with their obvious defense. The teleporter is the perfect example of this. Yes, you can throw the teleporter out to quickly snap to wherever it lands, but stick it to a player and send them packing. This keeps everything fresh and exhilarating.
Matches play out fast and furiously. Players fly and boost over the map, barely touching the ground. Other players grapple aggressively, coming in close for a shotgun blast. They’ll knock you out of the ring but you still have a jetpack ready to use. You boost back into the play zone with your jetpack, grapple to a nearby rock and throw yourself headlong back into the fray. This is a loop that is polished with finely tuned physics that never cross the line into chaos.
The more you play the more you get a feel for what does which. And I didn’t even mention the fact players can lasso things in addition to grappling. This leads to skilled maneuvers of pulling an item crate toward you, grappling across a gulf, and sticking it to a foe who just landed nearby. Environmental hazards like a giant tornado add to the frenzy. Get knocked in and you might float up throw the eye the storm, only to come out with a teleporter, getting you back down on the ground.
The passion shows in spades for Sky Noon. While it’s in Early Access now, it’s very polished and there’s quite a bit in the works around player customization and a likely future brawl mode with randomized settings. There might be more maps and such but Lunar Rooster is very considered when adding to the game. They want to make sure they’re bringing something new instead of just adding something for the sake of adding it. It’s this kind of careful approach that lends to the game’s highly polished madness.
For the savvy players, you can already tweak a bunch of match settings to set up your own style of free for all or team deathmatch. I particularly enjoyed a custom match the devs threw together in a few seconds where every shot was a one-shot immediate ring out. Use those settings on a king of the hill match type and enjoy the absolute insanity (and I didn’t even go into the fun push the cart mode, which I”ll let you try for yourselves).
Sky Noon has a lot of promise. It’s being made by a small but mighty team at Lunar Rooster and it’s been cooking for a few years now. If there’s one shooter you try out this month, I definitely recommend this one. I mean, above everything else, it’s a high-octane western FPS set in the clouds. Those don’t come around too often. Now, if you need me, I’ll be out there practicing my grapple skills and petitioning for a Spider-Man cowboy skin.
*** A preview session was provided by the publisher ***