Hey, my GOTY is here!
When I first finished this game, I really loved it. As I played the game even more, it grew on me exponentially, and as I realized how much this game appreciates the fans of the series, I just can't help but love it even more.
I thought all the missions were interesting and unique in comparison to each other, with a few classic Ace Combat mission scenarios (like flying through a narrow pathway in a stealth mission). Even the worst one here (mission 10 I think? The one where you have to escort a certain officer) was still so much fun, backed up by good banters and a wonderful dark-foggy atmosphere. It's really hard to pick favorites since I have like 5 missions in my mind right now.
The story, while can be hard to follow since there are multiple characters to follow in the cutscenes (not to mention trying to follow the dialogues during the missions), is still quite memorable and has that classic epic and cheesy feel that other Ace Combat game has. Most of the characters aren't actually well developed, but rather they're easily identify-able through their super standout quirks, like the one guy that keep saying he'll "tell this story to my kids", or the one officer that keeps threatening everyone to go into solitary. This is what made it so entertaining for me, even with the epic level stuff happening in the main plot, there's still a lot comedic moments to be had.
The gameplay itself is superb, with it accurately representing the stats of the plane you are using in how it controls and moves in the sky (which makes upgrading and buying new planes much more meaningful). Not to mention, the new progression system they have here is pretty great. It doesn't let you get the best stuff outright, and it makes you think about what kind of advanced planes you want to get first since you can't get all the best stuff in one go. I haven't even unlocked all of the planes, I'm still investing on multiplayer upgrades which have their own upgrade tree.
Speaking of the multiplayer, it's very barebones but also quite a fun time. You can set limits on how good the planes people can have in a match, which makes it more fair to everyone. I rarely have been good enough to actually win matches, but most of the time I'm still having a blast.
What cemented this game as my GOTY is when I played the campaign for the second time in harder difficulty. Now I have the knowledge of each mission and what to do in them, and boy oh boy it was so satisfying to completely wipe the heck out of these missions. No joke, I was like completely on zen mode or something during my second playthrough, I keep getting S Ranks and it was so unbelievable to me. I never felt this kind of satisfaction in a game before, it's just so liberating to conquer past obstacles so easily. This is not exactly unique to this game, but I never felt this effect so profoundly. I don't even care usually for harder difficulty playthroughs. It's like the enemies' fear and my comrades' awe of the main character is actually warranted, it's so cool to finally feel like you deserve all of that.
I can gush about this game for hours, but I got some stuff to do, so I'll just condense all the smaller details that I love in the following bullet list.
- The music of this game is not to be missed. If you have no interest of playing the games, at least check out the music on youtube.
- I love the mission briefings so much. The whole blue UI looks awesome, and the banter that some briefings have is pretty great. Not to mention that they're super informative and very necessary to listen to. Also, there's a little contextual change that happens to the presentation of the briefings later on that I really adore.
- I played Ace Combat 5 right after my first playthrough of this game, and I noticed that one of the main character of that game has a cameo at the end of this game. When I played AC7 for the second time and noticed it, I actually shed a tear, lol.
- The weather system is freaking awesome! The clouds look great, and the weather effects are so intense. Going to the big ass thunderstorm at the end of mission 17 is probably one of my favorite gaming moments of 2019.
- Don't forget to check out the DLCs! The DLC missions are super awesome.
I have no problem proclaiming that this is my favorite game of this year, and easily one of the best games of this console generation. I hope more games are to come from the AC series, and also I hope for the return of the flight combat genre's glory days. If this game is the start of it, it's one heck of a running start. Writing this whole thing just makes me want to play it again, which I will do right now.
Shoutout to @Bigdude1 , @Lotias , @Tearju-Engi , and @Gurrzilla for also giving this game points! Also, shoutout to Huber, Damiani, Blood and Ben for giving the game some love during the 2019 deliberations.