Rule the Skies – Altitude [Review]

Long Diep
Guest Writer
June 11th, 2010

I bought this game back around the Steam Christmas Sale 2009 for about 50% off.  Sadly, I let it sit for a while and it wasn’t until some of my friends bought it within the last few months that I really got to appreciate this wonderful game.

Two gaming geeks were sick of the mainstream games being no fun when some began removing features.  They also happened to be folks who love games of classic nostalgia.  Erik Measure and Karl Sabo wanted something reminiscent of the games the loved but remixed with a little bit of retro and playability of something very modern.  The resulting fusion merges the “class” system of Team Fortress 2 and a touch of Call of Duty 4’s perk system, but with a smattering of retro 2D by animating the game as a side scrolling plane shooter game (think Gradius/R-Type with a faster pace).

The game has a tutorial to orient you to how to play the game.  After that, the game is cut and dry while throwing you to explore servers and play.  Much like the Call of Duty series games, you initially start with the “weakest” plane/weapons.  As you perform well in the games, your gamer profile will level up. Leveling up is done by killing others, winning games, or providing game winning tactics. Of course with gaining levels, you gain more perks and eventually more planes.


To gain experience, you need to gain experience points (XP for short) from the different game modes. For the available modes, you have Team Deathmatch (TDM), Team Base Destruction (TBD), Plane Ball (Ball), Free For All (FFA), 1-Life Demolition (1DE), 1-Life Deathmatch (1DM), 1-Life Team Base Destruction (1BD).  TDM is your basic team deathmatch mode where the teams have to hit to the kill limit or when time is up.  TBD has two sub-maps types; shared bomb maps or team bombs maps.  Shared bomb maps have 1 just bomb and the teams have to fight for the pay load to drop the bomb on to the opposing team’s base until the base is destroyed.  Team Bombs are a race against time as both teams are given bombs and it is a competition to get the other base destroyed.

Plane Ball ends up more like a game of football, but with the ability to use your guns on your planes to kill the ball carrier.  The objective of Ball is much like football, bring the ball to the goal, hit the score limit or until the time limit has been reached.  FFA is just like any first-person shooter, an open killing field.  1DE is much akin to Counter-Strike’s detonation mode where a “terrorist” team sets up a bomb on the defender’s base and the defender’s either must diffuse the bomb or kill the opposing team.  Much like it’s Counter-Strike cousin, every player in 1DE has 1 life and players become spectators on death.  1DM is a deathmatch remix with each player having 1 life each and being a reminiscent reminder for the nostalgic Counter-Strike fan. 1BD is another Counter-Strike style remix on Base Destruction with 1 life per player.  Each player will find their niche with the game modes.  With the different planes and perk load-outs in the mix, this can make for a unique gaming experience.

Incited by the anger over Modern Warfare 2 essentially killing off community developed content and personally managed servers, Altitude takes a spin from the origins of community gaming and fosters the community.  So the folks at Nimbly Games gives the users 2 things: dedicated server software and map making tools.  Dedicated servers so you can host games on a LAN or your friends online.  Map making tools for people to make custom maps for the differing modes.  There are even tournament leagues to teams dedicated to the game.  Much like the first-person shooter crowd, a good server will always be packed full of folks.  The community is pretty friendly and they even have “newbie” servers with plenty of slots and open map rotations of each mode so that new players can get their feet wet in the game.  I will give praise to that sort of community effort to ensure that new players are welcomed to the game.

Team Deathmatch

For the price of $9.99 USD either via the Steam Store page or via other conduits, it’s a rather fair price.  However…the Steam copy is only available to Windows and Mac users.  Using other methods, the game includes Linux binaries to allow users to compile the game and play within Linux.  Also Altitude’s client provides “Community Points” that allow for extra skins for your planes and you can earn those points by: linking to Facebook, publishing game play stories to Twitter/Facebook, buying the game for friends or donating to the guys at Nimbly Games.  The Community Points are more a novelty and optional if anything.  Participation is completely optional and decorating your planes with these skins more-so just shows your support for the developers.  I personally encourage donating to the developers at Nimbly games as they could use coffee, food, or beer for their efforts.  The Facebook app is really fun as well, because you’re able to see where your friends stand as far as ranks go and even show-off if you’ve gained a brand new plane or jumped ranks over your friends.

Team Base Destruction

Plane Ball

Images sourced from the Steam store Altitude page. Some information was sourced from both the official Altitude page and the Altitude Community Wiki. Altitude trailer credits go to Nimbly Games and can be found on their YouTube site.

Nimbly Games
The retro pixel sprites mixed with the semi-3D effects of the weapons are pretty neat for the game. This gives the game a very nice neo-retro feel to it: new from the modern gaming concepts, yet retro in stylistic influences.
The sounds are pretty basic. There's no music in the matches which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just nothing remarkable, but still not a bad thing.
The guys at Nimbly Games allow you to play both with keyboard/mouse or with an xbox 360 controller allowing you to play however you feel comfortable. There is no wrong way to play this game. The only issue with using an xbox 360 controller is that any of the messages relating to controls are still based off of the keyboard and mouse controls. (i.e. You may have mapped the L/R triggers for throttle control, but the tutorial will still mention the default keys for throttle control.)
Game Play
There is a learning curve to the game which I can see frustrating some players. The mechanics are pretty bang on and fair. Planes like the Explodet being big, slow, lunky tanks able to lay down tons of gun fire. Then you have planes like the Miranda which are able teleport and warp through the battlefield, but burn tons of energy leaving you vulnerable to counter attack.
The game is rather fun especially if you get consecutive kill-streaks. The game rewards you with stripes over your nickname which increases the effectiveness of your perks. Of course, this also puts a giant set of cross-hairs on your plane from the enemy team wanting to kill you and nix your perk boost. This gives you quite the adrenaline rush if you have gold bars on you and you're leading the way.



PC | Review

Long is an classic game fanatic who has a fond love of arcade games. He is a fan of fighting games and racing simulations and loves playing them with good friends. His true love is with Japanese curtain fire, "bullet hell" shooters. He is a gamer who believes that sometimes the best gaming gear can make the difference between a better experience in a game to increased game play skills. Even though he likes his unique games, he does enjoy FPS games, RPG's, and various other games. Long has a soft spot for indie and niche developers as some of the major games out there have soured his taste-buds.

Specialty: Bullet Hell Shooters
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