F.A.S.T. and Skies of Glory: A Review of SGN’s Flight Simulators

It has been months since the first release on the iPhone of SGN’s air combat game Flight Air Superiority Training, or F.A.S.T. But the company decided to make it free just before Christmas, along with another new flight simulator called Skies of Glory, so we decided take a closer look at their game-play and monetization.

Like most flight simulators, these two boil down to a few core details. In FAST, you’ve got a jet, and you’ve gotta blow some stuff up — other jets, ships, villages, and so forth. Swap out your missiles for machine guns and a constantly droning prop, and you’ve got the World War II planes of SOG.

Turning is mainly accomplished by tilting your iPhone, while a handful of buttons on the periphery control speed, attacks and so forth. The plot in each is also standard fare, although each game comes with missions and something of a skeletal plot for people interested mainly in playing alone; FAST has also gone through two major upgrades since its summer release, adding some variation to the play.

It’s in the gameplay and graphics that FAST and SOG really succeed. Once you know the few controls in the games, either through the tutorial or guesswork, the learning curve is only a few minutes. Visually, these simulators look good; the ground mostly resembles a fuzzy blur, but that’s true if you’re looking out of a plane in real life, too. When you get a close-up of the enemy or a glimpse of your own plane, both are always crisp and clear.

Two drawbacks should be noted. One is that making sharp turns can have you twisting and turning the iPhone to the point that the screen is difficult to make out. The other is that, especially in multi-player missions, the constant turning of your enemy to evade being targeted can make dogfights drag on frustratingly. These are a problem for the whole flight sim category on the iPhone, though, not just SGN’s games.

Small irritations aside, these games are pretty fun — though SOG has a leg up over FAST, in my judgment. That’s partially because SOG is the company’s second try at the flight sim category, giving SGN a chance to improve on the gameplay, while still giving players the chance to pick which they prefer.

SGN’s new chief operating officer, Randy Breen, also thinks SOG offers a better experience. “Prop planes that move slower and get closer are much more engaging in terms of the gameplay,” he says. “When it’s jets fighting, things happen fast and from a long way away. I think it was just obvious to us that there was an opportunity for a dog-fighting game, and it offers a better multi-player experience.”

The catch is that FAST is a more developed game, with in-game currency that lets you “buy” more alternate planes and missions for the price of playing a few times. For now, it appears that all the extra content in SOG has to be bought with real money.

Which content you’ll want will depend heavily on how social you are, as a player. While buying all the available add-ons for either game would cost well over $20 each, more than double the price of an expensive paid app, Breen says that most players will tend to gravitate to either a single- or multi-player experience.

Those who opt for single-player will spend a few bucks to expand the length of the game with new mission packs and variations of the core plane-fighting experience, like naval battles. People playing against other real players, on the other hand, won’t care much about missions, but are likely to spend money on new planes, weapons, armor — small purchases ranging from 99 cents to three dollars that will add up to a significant advantage over other human players.