Shoot ’em ups were in a renaissance in the late 2010s. It seemed like indie, and small-time developers had found a niche market for old-school lovers of the shmup genre. In 2018, Handy-Games GmbH developed and published Aces of the Luftwaffe for the Xbox One. This Shmup would combine nazis, futuristic technology, and a cast of pilots. Would the combination fly high or would it be shot down before getting off the ground? Hop in that cockpit, we’re flying into this Aces of the Luftwaffe review.
Aces of the Luftwaffe Plot:
In my Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review, I was able to take control of two different squadrons each with a set of different characters. On one side are the Nazi pilots, while the other side has the Allies. There isn’t a ton of plot to this shmup, and that’s okay I wasn’t expecting one. Most Shmups are judged on the gameplay with plots being a bonus. Here’s a brief blurb on the plot for my Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review.
“Every end is a new beginning! When Europe seemed to be freed, a secret German commando called The Aces of the Luftwaffe took their chance to strike back and invade the USA! It’s your duty to restore peace and liberty by climbing aboard deadly wings of steel and fight against their fearsome war machines in bombastic air battles!”
Each squad has different character tropes with a leader commanding the way, two personality-driven characters, and then one really strange character who is silent, crazy, or stupid. I didn’t care much for the characters, not because they didn’t connect with me, but because they came off as… well not important.
Aces of the Luftwaffe Gameplay:
Aces of the Luftwaffe is a totally forgettable experience and that’s a good thing so I can erase this mess from my head. Booting up the game will take you back to 1995 PlayStation era loading times. I couldn’t believe how long it takes to load a level. At first, I made note of it, and then another 30 seconds went by so I wrote again how long it took, and then another minute goes by and I had time to write more notes on just how long it takes for missions to boot up. I have no idea why, the graphics are as plain jane as it gets and the action isn’t anything mind-blowing.
God bless the Aces of Luftwaffe marketing team for trying to hype this game up. Here’s what the marketing materials say paired with my thoughts from my Aces of the Luftwaffe review.
Action-packed Shoot ’em up with explosive special effects. (I saw zero special effects during both runs of my campaigns)
Captivating storyline with fully voiced characters. (The absolute worst voice acting I’ve heard in my gaming history. It could have been anyone that they pulled off the street and said “hey, do a cowboy accent”.
Epic co-op multiplayer for up to 4 players. (This may have been fun just to experience how bad this was together with friends but I didn’t try out multiplayer)
25 new levels and exciting missions. (More crap for you to slog through)
6 Brand New spectacular boss fights (I’ll give credit where credit is due. I enjoyed the boss fights)
Skill trees with individual abilities for each wingman (I didn’t see much difference in the improving my fighters but I’m sure it helped a little bit)
Challenging achievement system (I would win an achievement if I played the game on mute)
Creative Hapotics for gameplay and cut scenes (cut scenes? What cut scenes?)
Epic movie-like orchestral soundtrack (I don’t recall the music or soundtrack which isn’t a good thing)
So while the marketing was trying to push an epic game, that’s not what I received (and that’s okay) Here’s what I did like from my Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review.
Boss fights were really fun. For the most part, I could beat them in a try or two with a few of them ranging from medium to challenging. Bosses like The Professor, The Lokfuehrer, and the Terror Twins would more on the easier side. I liked that each boss taunted you and had a personality before taking them out. One boss who kicked my ass a ton was The Alchemist. He had a scorpion-shaped ship that spread poison everywhere. These gas clouds would fill the screen giving you only a few spaces of safe haven. Eventually, the entire screen would be filled with gas if you didn’t kill him quick enough. That fight took me 20-30 times but my issue was that I simply wasn’t powered up enough to deal credible amounts of damage before his poison spread everywhere.
There is an upgrade system where you can receive small perks and bonuses but I didn’t feel like it impacted my play style. On the big bosses there are small sections where you make a run at their ship (think Star Wars heading toward the vent hole) and these vary between difficult and almost pointless. Many times I’d make the run over and over and feel like I wasn’t doing any damage on the ship. It was frustrating to deal with all the enemies and then make a run for no payoff.
Some other frustration was the lack of control from my squadron. Whether you play as the good or bad guys, each one will have a character who goes “crazy” on some levels. They will fly off on their own and you’ll either have to stay close to their plane to protect them or avoid their gunfire. I understand the concept, it just wasn’t fun. Each level also comes with a “side mission” that are little bonus objection for you. These are simple things like collecting enough boxes or bombing a certain number of bases.
I don’t fault the creators for the lack of polish or shine on the game. There’s plenty of fun to be had in small-budget shmups, but they tried to implement their own recipe and it just didn’t work. I applaud them for trying something new but in the end, I need fun and I didn’t get that in my Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review. It felt slow, the characters incredibly stupid with terrible voice acting, and an upgrade system that didn’t see benefits. They have the bosses down, those worked great and were fun for the most part. If the levels were tweaked and received some attention this could creep into the “average” game category but it doesn’t do that.
Aces of Luftwaffe was one of the games that I picked up at CEX during my vacation to Ireland. It was such a fun time and my wife surprised me with the trip during my birthday week. We were able to explore all over Ireland and visit many CEX stores. Aces of the Luftwaffe were one of the games that I snagged on one of those visits.
Aces of the Luftwaffe Review Score:
I can understand that small dev teams don’t always have the budget to bring incredible graphics and gameplay to their creations. What I do expect is for the major pain points of a game to be addressed before being released. The voice acting is some of the worst I have heard in gaming and the load times will have you sitting for five minutes before losing interest. It’s a very average shooter at best but coupled with those complaints this is a game that should be avoided.
Aces of the Luftwaffe scores a 4.9 out of 10.
What would you write in your Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review? What game has the worst voice acting that you’ve played? What modern shmups do you enjoy? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Aces of the Luftwaffe, I’d love to read them.