Releasing a game in close succession to Red Dead Redemption 2 is a brave move indeed, that much has to be said. Though, looking over that massively looming shadow sees a game that’s every bit as engaging as it is fun. Skyhill comes to Xbox One some years after being readily available over on Steam, and although some may argue that its concept is one that’s been tried and tested before, I myself was pleasantly surprised by the game’s value and allure. If you’re on the market for a new survival game, Skyhill is worthy of your attention.
The game’s premise is based loosely around the back end of World War 3, in which the war is slowly coming to a close. The protagonist is on a work trip in a new city and decides to treat himself to a night in the luxurious Skyhill Hotel. Upon doing so, news spreads that a nuclear bomb has been launched and for safety reasons, everyone is advised to remain indoors. Watching the blast from the hotel, you quickly learn that shit has hit the proverbial fan; monsters and creatures are tearing everything apart and you’re stuck it the middle of it.
There’s only one thing left for you to do; get the hell out of your room and out of the hotel. The crux of play sees you situated on floor 100 and tasks you with moving down, floor by floor, until you’re free. The kicker? The hotel is full of all forms of nasty creatures that want nothing more than to see you pushing up daisies. There are some management systems in place, being that you need to generally keep yourself alive via item finding and crafting; food, weaponry and so forth. The further down, the stronger your weaponry needs to be.
The game’s difficulty starts to pick up as you journey deeper towards the overall exit point, throwing tougher foes your way at each and every floor. Floor 100 serves as your main hub, if you like. Here is where you can craft items and sleep to regain health if you lack medical supplies, however, doing so will deplete some of your food bar. It’s worth pointing out that every time you spawn in, the rooms, the enemy placement, and the loot will change up. This makes it almost impossible to truly map out the game, adding to the suspense within.
Each room is blacked out before you enter it, meaning that you never know what sits behind each door until it’s too late. As you begin your descent, you’ll check rooms to the left and to the right throughout each floor. Some doors will indeed be locked, pushing you to finding a key or crafting one later in. Locked rooms function in the same way that unlocked rooms do, being that they’re totally randomized. Unfortunately, my luck saw me constantly hitting locked rooms that were fairly empty once I eventually got in.
The game will inform you if there’s loot in a room via the icon of an eye, but this mostly falls to a chance-based affair. Mercifully, your backpack can carry an unlimited supply, so if you do stumble upon loot, you’re able to carry as much as you like. One of the main aspects you’ll want to be mindful of is the aforementioned food bar. Actions you make will deplete this bar in one form or another. Try to fix an elevator without the right part? Kiss goodbye to a point. When your food bar is empty, points will be taken from your health bar.
It pays off to watch these bars closely and plan carefully if you want to make it far and succeed. Much like in any game, death isn’t fun. However, when you begin making progress, you’ll eventually unlock perks and passive skills that mostly aid you throughout your next run. That said, there’s some additions here that will actually make the game harder, but overall, this system feeds well into the game and remains easy to understand and follow. That’s one thing I enjoyed especially about Skyhill, it never becomes too overbearing.
This works well in the favor of the game’s pacing. Difficult when it wants to be, indeed, but not so much so that you’ll throw your pad in detest. Nonetheless, these perks tend to follow the path we’ve seen elsewhere a million times before. There’s perks that will temporarily remove the use of points, perks that will temporarily raise your luck – as well as your critical damage output, and so forth. The latter proving a godsend against the game’s enemies. Speaking of enemies, the Skyhill is host to a range of nasty foes that fit with the theme.
There’s standard mutated enemies to contend with, crazy gun/knife-wielding people, huge ogre-like beings and, well, you get the idea. The enemy variants all attack in different ways, so it’s beneficial to identify their patterns. Combat is turn-based, and in a neat twist, you’re able to select which part of the enemy you want to focus your attacks on, Fallout-esque. My issue with the combat is that it lacks balance. Even once I had leveled up quite a bit and improved my stats as a result, my attacks failed to connect more often than they connected.
As alluded to above, you’ll level up your player as you progress deeper into the game and kill more foes. He’ll become stronger, quicker and more resilient throughout. Each bump will afford you four points to spend on strength, dexterity, speed and accuracy. You’re free to spend these points where you please, and in doing so, you’ll eventually be able to wield better weaponry. It’s a simple yet effective system to say the least. I’ve had a lot of fun with Skyhill, and although I’m done with it myself, there’s quite a bit of replay value on offer.
This comes in the form of its four difficulty settings, as well as its several passive skills and perks that you can aim for if you want to see everything that’s on offer. For its price, you’re certainly getting enough in return. In the visual and audio department, Skyhill does a good job at relaying its eerie tone. There’s a decent degree of detail within, which sits well with the game’s variation. This all goes hand in glove with the game’s decent soundtrack and audio cues. Bottom line, if you’re looking for a solid survival game, Skyhill does the trick.
Skyhill does a good job with its simplistic foundation, offering a core experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The constant uncertainty that looms overhead together with its randomly generated content, makes for some very tense moments. There’s a few issues with the game’s unbalanced systems, but with that in mind, Skyhill still manages to remain both challenging and fun throughout.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.