An interesting concept about a Ukrainian drone operator that needs a few updates: review of the arcade simulator Death from Above (Early Access)

By: Vladyslav Nuzhnov | 29.05.2023, 15:50

Death from Above is the debut game by Lesser Evil, developed by the Finnish studio Rockodile Games. The game is an arcade drone control simulator set during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The player is given control of a Ukrainian soldier who becomes a drone operator and performs several important tasks: destroying the occupiers and enemy equipment, reconnaissance of the territory, restoring communication lines and recovering stolen washing machines. So far, the game is available in early access, which brings with it some drawbacks that I hope will be fixed over time. The first and most important thing is poor optimisation, which does not always allow you to enjoy the game, and drops of up to 10-15 frames are inevitable if you do not have an RTX 4090. The game also has not the best artificial intelligence. The enemies are almost blind and do not react to explosions that occur near them. I would also like to see more variability, but despite all this, the game has one big advantage: 30% of the net proceeds will be distributed between two Ukrainian organisations: "Come Back Alive" and the "Army of Drones". In general, the game has an interesting concept and with updates it should become a really cool simulator.

In fact, I learned more about Death from Above during a Hendrik Lesser (developer of Death from Above): I really want to punch in the face Putin, his friends and everyone who supports this war. Then I learned about the inspiration for the development, cooperation with the Ukrainian GIS Arta and Aerial Reconnaissance, and other details of the game. After that, I became very interested in Death from Above and was waiting for the opportunity to play. Of course, the game has some shortcomings now, but I would like to write about what elements should be added to improve its quality rather than criticise it. So gg 's editorial team will tell you about all the main points of Death from Above that you should know and that would be good to improve.

5 Reasons to Buy Death from Above

  • you want to become a real drone operator
  • you want to donate funds to volunteer organisations in an unusual way
  • you want to get the maximum number of points in the game and become the 1st player in the world ranking
  • you want to return all the washing machines to their owners
  • you want to be one of the first to play the game so that you can go around and tell people that you caught the game in early access

4 Reasons Not to Buy Death from Above

  • poor optimisation
  • "stupid" artificial intelligence
  • small variety of tasks
  • you are from the 404 country

Quick Access:

  1. The Attack Always Starts with a Nenatsk
  2. How to Play the Game?
  3. Optimisation, Visuals, and Audio
  4. What We Did Not Like and What Should Be Fixed Before the Full Release
  5. Summary

The Attack Always Starts with a Nenatsk

The plot here lasts only one minute and is described in the illustrations that appear when the game starts. Therefore, to avoid spoilers, I will describe the main event. To atmospheric music, we are shown a shot of a nameless Ukrainian fighter lying on the battlefield near Nenatsk (which aptly describes all the jokes about the Ukrainian counter-offensive that will start by surprise). After being helped, he is able to fight again, and at the same time, he also finds a warehouse with a dozen shells and one drone (analogue of the DJI Mavic 3). And before completing the main task, we get to the training ground, where we are shown all the basic mechanics, and then the main part of the game begins.

One of the first illustrations seen in the game

Now the whole game is one big level: a forest area with a farm, two radio towers, huge sunflower fields and buildings. The level is divided into 5 missions, where in the last one we will face a boss battle. It would be nice to improve this battle, because there is a lot of room for ideas. But it is better to see for yourself what is happening there.

In general, even before the release, it was known that the game would not have a big story, cutscenes, or anything like that. The team wanted to focus on the gameplay. And given that the game can be completed in 1-2 hours, the illustrations that are present at the beginning are enough. Moreover, they are atmospheric and play well with the Ukrainian meme folklore that has emerged since 24 February 2022.

How to Play the Game?

You can control the game with an operator or a drone. You will hardly involve the former in the process; the maximum you can do as an operator is to move around the map, activate communication lines, or launch a drone, and with the latter, everything becomes much more interesting.

Our operator

With a drone, as the saying goes, "you can fly and bomb everyone". There are two types of ammunition available for the drone: anti-tank and anti-personnel. They can only be changed by flying up to the operator. At the same time, the drone is also automatically replenished with shells. At the same time, you can carry 6 anti-personnel or 4 anti-tank shells. By the way, at the beginning of the level there is another secret projectile. It is not for enemies, but you will understand as soon as you see other creatures on the location.

And the tactics in the game are very simple, because there is not much variation here, hopefully temporarily. You open the map and see which area needs to be liberated, launch a drone, take anti-personnel shells and fly to reconnoiter. After you have scanned the area for enemies, of which there are two types, although in fact there is only one: infantry and vehicles, you start dropping shells and liberating the area. To drop a shell, you need to switch to the appropriate camera. If the enemies are hiding under the trees, you can switch on the thermal imaging camera to see them. Then you return to the operator, replenish the ammunition, and repeat the process. But remember that your drone can be destroyed with an AK-47 or an RPG, but it seems that it is made of adamantium, because my drone was never destroyed, although it was shot at quite a bit. To better understand how it works, here's a video demonstrating the gameplay.

I should also add a few words about the controls. Personally, I didn't feel comfortable playing on the keyboard, so I connected a gamepad at the training ground, and then it became more comfortable. There's a reason why real drone operators use remotes with joysticks for control. Just keep in mind that if you play with a PlayStation gamepad, the game won't see it, and you'll have to download an app that emulates an Xbox gamepad (I recommend DualSense X).

What else can I do besides destroying enemies?

There are several secondary activities in the game. The first is to recover the washing machines. To do this, you need to fly the drone to the washing machine, grab it and fly it to the green marker on the map.

Washing machines that can be taken back from the occupiers

You can also find Putin's posters and paint them. There are some other interesting items that you can collect. They are in the air and on the ground, but for the sake of intrigue, I will not show them.

A painted poster of Putin

Also, some enemies may surrender. As soon as you see this, you need to fly up to the occupier, press the button, and he will say "palyanytsia" in bad Ukrainian and disappear from the map.

Surrender of the occupier

You will receive points for each of these activities. After completing the game, you will be shown how many points you have managed to collect in total and what place you have taken in the world ranking. After my first playthrough, I managed to take second place in the ranking, which I consider a good result. So, if you want to compete with your friends to see who is the best drone operator in the game, Death from Above is the place to be.

Your place in the global ranking is always visible in the main menu

You can also choose a skin for your drone before starting a mission. A trifle, but interesting.

Optimisation, Visuals, and Audio

And now let's talk about the biggest problem in the game - optimisation. I played Death from Above on a Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 gaming laptop (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 + AMD Ryzen 5 4800H), and on medium settings I never saw stable 60 frames per second. Mostly it was 40-50 frames, but once the fps dropped to 10, and it lasted for 4 minutes, I just had to wait for the situation to return to normal. Of course, you can set the graphics settings to low, and then there will be even more than 60 frames per second, but there is such graphics that it is better not to play at all.

1) graphics at low graphics settings; 2) graphics at medium graphics settings

And I would understand this if the game had stunning graphics, but it doesn't, and optimisation is the first thing to work on. Steam has recommended system requirements: GTX 1060 + Intel Core i5-6600K, but this is clearly not enough for a comfortable game. I'm sure that with a stable 60 frames per second, I would have had much more fun.


There's not much to say about the visuals here. The graphics here are absolutely ordinary, as in most indie games made on the Unreal Engine. But if you tighten it up, it will look great thanks to the variety of terrain. There are sunflower fields, a farm, a neighbourhood with houses and roads. That is, the picture before your eyes is constantly changing. You just need to improve the optimisation, and this aspect can be praised. In the meantime, I will give a plus only for the variety of forest terrain in the game.

Locations in the game

Audio that you will enjoy

The music is one of the best elements here. Except for the song that is played at the beginning of the game, there is only one song here and it was recorded specifically for Death from Above by the band ANTITELA and is called "My Falcon". The song is very energetic and incendiary. According to Taras Topolya, the band's leader, the video wanted to convey the atmosphere of the game, its dynamics, character, as well as to recreate the characters and once again show and emphasise to everyone who or what the army of the aggressor country really is. These are creatures that have a minimum of human traits and qualities.

And against the backdrop of all the "Vanya Vstaniok" and "Anxious Backpacks", this song is just 10/10.

What We Didn't Like and What Needs to Be Fixed Before the Full Release

I've already complained about the poor optimisation, but the game has a few more flaws that need to be fixed. And if you remember what Cyberpunk 2077 was like at the beginning and what it became later, I believe that Death from Above will be improved, and it will be a game that can be safely recommended.

What changes would be good to see in the game?

  • Enemy vehicles don't make any sense. Tanks and enemy vehicles just stand still and that's it. Their only purpose is to fill up space on locations. I'd like to see the vehicles move around, because after the third destroyed tank, you get the feeling that they're only there to earn more points by dropping shells on them. I would also like to see a bit more vehicles: REBs or jeeps with machine guns to shoot us down.
  • The artificial intelligence is terrible. If two occupants are standing 2 metres apart and I start throwing shells at the first one, the second one doesn't notice and walks calmly. I understand that this is an arcade simulator, but not to the extent that the enemy does not notice the drone. And their phrase "look for the operator" makes no sense at all, because in the 2 hours I played, no one looked for me, even though I wasn't at the other end of the map. After optimisation, you need to immediately work on the AI, because with such enemies, there is little desire to play the game again.
  • Lack of minimal realism. If an AK-47 horn is fired at your drone, it will be harmless, crashing into a tree will also be harmless, and the BC is endless. Again, yes, it's an arcade game, but at least there should be a limit of 50 or 100 shells. If you hit a tree 5 times, that's it. And let the drone survive several shots, but not 30.
  • At least a little variety. It's not interesting to play the game a second time. The way I see to fix this is to add another type of drone - a kamikaze, a little more equipment and new levels. Then this game can be played at least 3 times, because I launched the game for the second time to take screenshots for this review. In general, it would be possible to make a level where you need to do reconnaissance with a drone without being noticed, identify a conditional colonel or general and eliminate him.
  • The ability to play with friends. While talking with Hendrik, we fantasised that it would be interesting if you could play the game with a friend. And this is the solution that the game needs. There are several options - either you are 2 drone operators, or a friend controls the artillery and you control the drone - then you can play this game and play it, and it will add even more variety.

I didn't mean to show in this part of review how bad the game is, but rather to give advice to the developers to make Death from Above 10 times better than it is now. I understand that it will take about a year to implement all this, and to encourage the developers to make all these changes, you need to buy the game and share your impressions on Steam.

Summary: 4 Things You Need to Know about Death From Above

  • Death from Above is an interesting concept of a game about a drone operator that is still in a "raw" state and needs new updates, but you should give the game a chance.
  • As soon as the team reaches break-even, 70% of net income will be transferred to the funds. So even if you don't like the game, you should buy it at least to support our wars. Moreover, its price on Steam is only $6.
  • The game has other things to do besides destroying enemies, such as painting Putin's face, taking back washing machines, or marking Easter eggs.
  • If your game doesn't lag, it will be a lot of fun to destroy enemies during the first playthrough.
Death From Above
Genre. Arcade
Platforms PC
Number of players Single player
Developer Rockodile Games
Publisher Lesser Evil
Time to complete 1-2 hours
Release date May 25, 2023 (early access)

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The editorial team thanks GTP Media PR agency for kindly providing the game for review