Flightpath: Adventures in Venaris – PS5 Review

Flightpath: Adventures in Venaris is a vertically-scrolling shoot ’em up from Japanese devs Illogic Games and is the latest release from the ever-prolific eastasiasoft. While the shooting is front and centre, as you’d expect, Illogic have also elevated the importance of the story which is something you generally don’t see in this genre.

Set in the planetary system of Venaris, the game tells the story of three playable characters who have all vowed to take on the might of the shadowy criminal organisation known as The Syndicate. And, interestingly, there are some branching paths during the game where you can make decisions that will ultimately affect how the story goes, while modifying the rest of the level where you make your choice.

You get to play as either Kath, AJ or Max each of whom have their own reasons to take on The Syndicate. But while you’d expect them all to play fairly differently, that’s not really the case because of how the game’s upgrade system works with pilots being able to upgrade many lines of firepower on their ship from front, side and rear guns.

Flightpath feels very much like an old-school ‘Euro’ shoot ’em up, despite being a Japanese game. This is partly down to it using a widescreen aspect ratio even though it’s a vertical scroller but also because of it eschewing the usual bullet hell attack patterns for something a bit more sedate.  Not that the game is the usual eastasiasoft style pushover though.

Generally, it plays quite well. It’s not the slickest shooter we’ve played and it really misses having a way to slow your ship down, but it holds together well enough. But where it gets interesting is when you get to a shop. There you can upgrade your shields, armour and weapons and you’ve got quite a few options but you are limited by your energy capacity which means you have to really consider your configuration.

You’ve got three separate slots for forward firing weapons, two for diagonal firing side mounted weapons and even one to cover the rear. And while you might be tempted to equip guns in all those areas, that’ll soon see you running your generator down and being left helpless until it recharges. So, you’ll need to be a lot more choosy about what you equip.

Of course, you can buy a new, better generator but even when you’ve maxed that category out, you’ve still got weapon compromises to make. It’s a shame that it’s as limited as it is though as we’d have liked to been able to eventually buy a maxed out configuration. Unfortunately, even the best generator is pretty stingy with its capacity which is a shame as we’d have preferred a maxed out monster of a ship, even if the game’s difficulty was upped to compensate for it.

On the plus side though, if you do find yourself underequipped for a mission and end up dying, you are given the chance to take on a mission for the shopkeeper using a random vehicle of their choosing. Complete that and they’ll return your ship, fully repaired, and you’ll have earned a few more coins for upgrades. It’s quite a clever system that, in theory, lets you grind through any tricky spots in the game.

That said, the game only really had two of those and neither were things that you could brute force your way through. The first sticking point was a mission where you are tasked with escorting an NPC through the level. Those sort of missions are never good, we all know that, but Flightpath really fumbles it here.  The problem is that the AI controlling the ship makes no effort to defend itself. It just moves slowly, happily eating bullets. And enemy ships fire off bullets pretty soon after entering the screen so you can’t really stop them. So, all you can do is basically act as a shield for the AI ship but you’re pretty vulnerable (even with maxed out shields and armour) and so that doesn’t really work either.

We eventually got past it but we weren’t sure how. It seemed like maybe we just got lucky with the bullets mostly missing the ship we were escorting but it took a lot of goes to get there. And, oddly, despite the countdown for this mission saying we had to escort the ship for 500 metres (which went as slow as if we were trying to cover the distance on foot), the mission ended successfully with 100 metres still to go. Weird.

The other sticking point is the final boss which was the thing that made us eventually drop the difficulty down from Medium to Easy. The problem with it being that it takes up at least 75% of the screen (during its first form), so avoiding its bullet patterns was an issue for us given how little room we had to play with. And by that point we had the best generator, and defences, so there was no way to upgrade our way to success there.  And, if we’re being honest, none of the boss battles in the game were particularly memorable or enjoyable to play through.

But, for the most part, the game was actually fun and while we’re not a big fan of anime characters talking nonsense, the story was okay too. It helps that the game goes for a 2.5D look also which elevates it from the usually low-res, sparsely coloured efforts we get in this genre, even if the visuals here aren’t exactly eye candy.

While Flightpath‘s most interesting features – the upgrades and the story choices – aren’t perfectly executed, it was nice to play a shooter that tries to do something a little different and, for the most part, this was a reasonably fun and compelling game.  It’s a shame it didn’t quite stick the landing though.

And that’s the review we would have written if we were just reviewing the game’s main campaign.  Luckily, Flightpath also bundles in an ‘Endless’ mode and that’s where things improve somewhat.  This mode is essentially more of the same as the main game but instead of having you play the game’s ten set levels, you play through all the game’s backdrops over and over in a random order while being given a different set of choices compared to the game’s mission objective based ones.  In this mode, the game presents you with two sets of three modifiers or objectives.  The objectives just involve destroying things, collecting crates and more escort mission stuff but the modifiers are more interesting, and more common, and these either improve or reduce various stats such as attack, speed and defence.  You can even have ones that temporarily remove shops, make you invulnerable or affect how many credits you earn for kills.

The main benefits of this mode though are that it entirely removes boss battles (so, no real loss there) and it allows you to upgrade you generator further than in the main game which opens up the potential to arm stronger weapons.  Of course, the enemies get stronger as you go along but, even so, this feels a lot less restrictive than the main game.  It’s definitely our favourite way to play Flightpath and it would be a perfect addition if it wasn’t for one thing:  there are no leaderboards.  It’s a shame as this mode would perfectly suit having a leaderboard for a bit of online competition.  But, alas, there’s not even a score total.

Anyway, Endless Mode is enough to push Flightpath‘s score up by a point for us.  And, unlike other eastasiasoft titles, there’s a little bit of meat on the Platinum trophy with this game which, for us, gives the game a bit more value than their usual thirty minute maxes.  It’s still not the most polished or exciting shooter that we’ve ever seen though but, as an overall package, there’s a lot to like about this game.

Flightpath: Adventures in Venaris
7 Overall
+ Some good depth to the mechanics
+ The branching choice stuff works reasonably well
+ Controls are pretty decent
+ Endless Mode improves the overall experience
- The in-game graphics are a little rough
- The story lost us after a while and didn't add anything
- Escort missions are badly thought out
- Underwhelming and unbalanced boss battles
- No leaderboard
We weren't fully sold on Flightpath after we finished the story but the Endless Mode hints at the game it probably should have been all along. Either way, this is a competent and enjoyable shoot 'em up but maybe not the most exciting or polished.


About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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