I first saw Heliborne as I skimmed through one of the websites where content creators can apply for review keys. Long story short, I didn’t make the cut for whatever reason. Fast forward to 2019 when I saw Heliborne again, this time bundled with some other games on Fanatical. I’m a fan of the vehicle action shooter genre, and the game description sounded promising. I decided to roll the dice, and they came up double sixes! I hit it big with Heliborne.
Developed by Indie studio JetCat Games, and published by Klabater, Heliborne was released in full on October 12, 2017. It’s extremely similar to the Wargaming family of games like World of Tanks and World of Warships. In this case the focus is on Helicopters, but it adds an extra layer with the addition of troops into the mix. It runs $19.99 for the base game, and can be found on Steam or other sites where Steam keys are sold. Additional monetization so far includes DLCs in the form of skins. These ‘camouflage packs’ are cosmetic only skins for your helicopters that give it the appearance of Chinese military patterns, law enforcement pattern, US Marine Corps camo pattern, etc. These packs range from $2.99 to $3.99 in price.
You can play Heliborne solo, or in co-op with up to four people. There is a third PvP mode where you can play 4v4 matches. Maps are set in historical conflict hotspots from the Vietnam era, through the cold war, and into modern day places like Afghanistan. It’s a very casual game in the standard mode, with varying levels of difficulty. You can crank it up with historical and hardcore game modes if that’s your thing, or have more objectives show up at the same time to keep you speeding across the map at all times.
Games consist of flying helicopters from point to point, dropping off and resupplying troops. You can engage enemies on land, sea, and air to support your forces. Trips back to base are required to resupply with fresh troops and ammunition. Progression is very similar to World of Tanks. You can unlock different helicopters with XP earned from missions. XP is universal and can be used to unlock any helicopter, not just the one you used during the mission. Maps are designed for specific tiers of helicopters, from I to IV. You put together a squadron of 3 helicopters, limited only by your choice of United States/NATO or U.S.S.R. factions. You must mix and match to adapt your squadron to the mission, or for versatility. There is a limitation on co-op that all players must choose the same faction that I wasn’t a fan of. I can’t see why it would even matter in co-op. PvP is already open to cross-faction mixing.
The helicopters look sharp and crisp in game, and the terrain looks good graphics-wise as well. Everything looks historically accurate. Even the era-appropriate music is great, though it could use another track or two. It can get a little repetitive sometimes. The sound effects in game are realistic, and really put you into the chaos of battle.
Heliborne has some incredibly unique gameplay. It’s almost like World of Warships without the punishing free to play grind. Development is still active with 2 new maps, 4 new helicopters and more, arriving as recent as April 2019. It’s been a real diamond in the rough for me. I can keep it casual at my own pace, or coordinate with friends for that regular tactical military sim type experience. There is still a small community that can fill up a game if you don’t want to play alone. Mil-sim and shooter fans alike can find something in Heliborne!