The first Just Cause 3 expansion grants you every gamer's dream tool. Still, the fun doesn't last as long as you might expect...
Let's get the formalities out of the way first. Sky Fortress is the first of the three Air, Land & Sea expansion packs for Just Cause 3. No bonus points for guessing which of the three themes is up first. The pack first went live for season pass holders, before it was released to the general public. Question is: is it worth your money? If you liked the base game the answer is yes, but the experience wasn't as thoroughly awesome as we had hoped it would be beforehand.
Let's start from the top. The storytelling in Just Cause 3 is quite poor and thus we're not very concerned about spoiling anything for you. In any case there's not a whole lot to spoil. Unlike in the main game the cutscenes in Sky Fortress are presented through hand drawn stills, but it doesn't really make a difference. It's all just filler accompanied by caricatured voice acting, meant to give some sort of structure to the madness. The explosions themselves play the true lead role in this game, and such is the case for the first expansion as well.
This time the island nation of Medici is under attack by an evil company known as the Eden Corporation. They're after the mysterious substance called Bavarium, and even though it's mined from deep beneath the mountains their vehicles of choice are airborne drones. These drones have the look of the remote controlled toys that have made local airspace unsafe the last few years, but these ones are armed with machine guns and rockets. You don't get those at down the local gadget store. Additionally the Eden Corporation has a massive airship floating a few kilometres up, with a design obviously inspired by the aircraft carrier seen in The Avengers and other Marvel movies.
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Previously the airship would be inaccessible without a plane or a helicopter. Those are easy to come by in Medici but no longer a necessity. The reason for that, is a brand new toy in Rico's arsenal, and in truth that toy provides the essence of this expansion. Thanks to Baverium (what else?) Rico's wing suit has become a jetpack! With it you can race through the air like a plane, and there's even unlimited homing missiles and machine gun rounds integrated on your back. Very handy indeed.
To begin with it feels great! Do you remember what it felt like the first time you opened the regular wing suit? It's that same great feeling all over again. With the jetpack you can soar majestically through the skies, and you're even more mobile than before. It's like having a fighter jet available at all times. A fighter jet that fits in your pocket.
In fact you feel like a total badass to begin with, and against the bases from the original game you are unstoppable. Up by the airship the drones gives you a better fight, but aerial superiority is unmistakeably yours all the same. Manfred von Richtofen, better known as The Red Baron, ain't got nothing on you. Suddenly you have the weapons and speed that used to be reserved for the fighter jets (the jetpack isn't quite as fast but it's not that far off) while retaining your freedom of movement. You can still open your parachute at any given time, to gain an overview or to use the old, "regular" weapons.
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It sounds too god to be true, right? Well, the downside is a diminishing sense of challenge. You've become too awesome. You've become a superhero, without an equally powerful nemesis to fight. On top of that, if you had your fill of destruction and chaos in the base game, there's a lack of stuff to do here that truly feels new. The jetpack is cool, and gives you increased mobility, but you are still using it to complete the same tasks. Just like in the main game, you are still liberating areas by taking out equipment clearly marked with red paint. You are still doing story missions that manages to be fun, but that fail to be ground-breaking.
Additionally the balance in traversal is hurt by the new jetpack. With the original wingsuit you could move swiftly across the land, but you had to continuously use the grappling hook to maintain momentum. To maximise your speed you had to make precise calculations and fling yourself forward as near to the ground as possible. It made for a dynamic gameplay experience with a learning curve, both of which are gone with the jetpack. You can't boost the jetpack continuously, much like the nitrous on vehicles, but the cooldown is fast enough for endless, effortless flight. Because of this we eventually found ourselves opting out of using the jetpack in favour of the low-flying grappling hook technique.
The most essential critique of Sky Fortress is its lack of something genuinely new apart from the jatpack itself. Sure, the flying feels great to begin with, but it's not enough to mask the lack of new gameplay objectives for much more than a few hours. At the same time this is a DLC pack and not a fully-fledged new game, which makes cloud covered expectations less reasonable. In light of this, Sky Fortress is a good but not great injection of content. And my god Avalanche, isn't it time to start fixing the framerate issues before release, now?
7 / 10
Great flying mechanics, lots of fun.
You're too powerful, not enough variation, nothing really new.