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Guardians of the Skies can be fun, but it does little to represent the Indian Air Force

Earlier this year, the Indian Air Force gave a company named Threye the privilege of developing its official game. The game is called Guardians of the Skies and it’s out now.

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While my phone clearly isn’t powerful enough to run the game the way it’s meant to be, it was still decently playable and even enjoyable.

Guardians of the Skies is a 3D military air combat game that’s currently available for Android. It’s been developed, I assume, with the purpose of getting India’s youth interested in the Indian Air Force (IAF), and maybe even driving recruitment.

I don’t want to be too critical of the gameplay and other technical aspects here since I’ve only had the opportunity to play it on my ancient Galaxy Nexus phone, but while my phone clearly isn’t powerful enough to run the game the way it’s meant to be, it was still decently playable and even enjoyable. It’s a free game so its worth at least a try, but I faced framerate issues, crashes and loss of control calibration mid-game, so go in with expectations in check, especially if you own a low or medium-spec phone.

But while these issues may not be present on higher-end phones (although issues have been reported on Nexus 5), it’s still a problem because the majority of India’s youth uses low-to-mid-range Android phones. If those phones can’t play this fairly demanding 3D game satisfactorily, it defeats the purpose of this well-meaning endeavour.

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The majority of India’s youth uses low-to-mid-range phones. If those phones can’t play this 3D game satisfactorily, it defeats the purpose of this well-meaning endeavour.

Militaries using games to attract the youth and drive recruitment isn’t a new concept. In fact, there’s quite a lot of business done around such ‘serious games’. Here are some examples where commercially available games and simulations have been used, and even funded, by militaries as recruitment tools and training simulators.

America’s Army – Perhaps the best known military-funded video game, this tactical FPS has been developed by the US Army using the Unreal engine, and has been steadily updated since its 2002 release. The game is used by the US Army as a training simulation and as a recruitment tool for the public. It is available for PC and Linux free of cost.

Full Spectrum Warrior – We know Full Spectrum Warrior as the Pandemic-developed, THQ-published console and PC game, but it initially started out as a simulation commissioned by the US Army. It has also been used by psychologists to help soldiers overcome PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the game is now available for free on PC – sponsored by the US Army.

Virtual Battlespace series – Developed by Bohemia Interactive (Operation Flashpoint, ArmA), the Virtual Battlespace series of military combat and training simulators has been developed in collaboration with the US and Australian militaries and is also used by militaries of several other countries, including Canada, France, Finland, Singapore and Netherlands.

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Strangely, the game includes no information about the IAF itself or how an interested youth may apply.

The difference between those games and Guardians of the Skies is that they run on PC or consoles, which are more powerful and therefore more capable of an accurate simulation than an Android phone with tilt controls.

But if not many Indian youth own high-end mobile devices, fewer still own consoles or mid/high-end PCs, which makes this a tricky situation. If the idea behind the game was to purely get people interested in military air combat, this game does a good enough job, but if that was indeed the plan, maybe a larger and less fragmented audience could have been reached with a Web browser-based release.

Guardians of the Skies is best approached as a game that just wants to give you a taste of air combat, something several other games across many platforms already do. But it does quite a poor job of representing the IAF, let alone acting as a recruitment tool. The game includes no information whatsoever about the IAF itself or how an interested youth may apply, and that’s a real missed opportunity.

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I downloaded Guardians of the Skies because I wanted to know more about the IAF and because I’d hoped that would be conveyed here in a fun and interactive way, and I didn’t get that.

All you get is an uninspiring and poorly executed intro (the image above is a still from it) to the game that you’ll almost certainly skip after the first time you watch it. If anything, that intro will drive people away from the IAF than towards it.

If I wanted to know what air combat felt like, I’d have played Flight Simulator, HAWX, Ace Combat, or one of the many air combat games already available on the Google Play Store. I downloaded Guardians of the Skies because I wanted to know more about the Indian Air Force and because I’d hoped that would be conveyed to me in a fun and interactive way through this game, and I didn’t get that.

Hopefully, future updates will add – aside from new missions – more information about the IAF, ideally embedded within the game and not through an ‘About IAF’ menu item that leads to a wall of text.

You can check out Guardians of the Skies for free on Android. Windows Phone and iOS versions are also in the works.

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