Fans were overjoyed to learn that Ace Combat 7 would be one of many Ace Combat games to take place in a fictional world known as “Strangereal“. Strangereal’s Earth is completely different from our own; the landmasses, countries, and history are completely unique. Most Ace Combat games that take place in this fictional world are highly reviewed, and fans have been asking for a new game to take place in Strangereal for years.
The most recent releases in the Ace Combat series – Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Ace Combat Infinity – instead took place on our real Earth. Sure, fictional events took place with fictional characters, but they involved the United States, Russia, Japan, Dubai, and more. Hardcore fans of the series despise the use of the real world. However, an argument can be made for those unfamiliar with the series or simply interested in the gameplay and not the story. Ace Combat is far from the first franchise to present the question, “Which is better: a fictional world or fictional events in our world?”
A Fictional World is Better
One of the best examples of a fictional world is J.R.R. Tokien’s Lord of the Rings franchise. Humans exist, but so do Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, and a number of other species. A fictional world allows for the creation of a completely different setting, one in which the author has freedom to do whatever he so desires. Anything that would normally defy scientific reasoning is simply accepted because it doesn’t follow the rules of our universe. Ace Combat has taken this to heart, where many aircraft featured in Strangereal games should not be able to fly with our understanding of physics.
Fictional worlds also allow writers to avoid the geopolitical environment of our world. The conflicts that exist between the United States and Russia, for example, are not factors in a world such as Strangereal. In this way, it allows us to escape from everything going on in our world and throw ourselves into another world, with its own leaders, its own geography, and its own technology.
Our World is Better
A popular example of the use of our world in fictional media is the TV series Doctor Who. Alongside visiting other planets, the Doctor consistently returns to and fights aliens on Earth. In this sense, viewers can relate to landmarks or famous people or locations as they are presented as story elements. This relation between the viewer and the media was an important factor in bringing the Ace Combat series to our world.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon took the real world and made a mostly realistic story out of it, involving a conflict with rebels taking over the Russian government. This was purposely designed to draw those who weren’t fans of the series into Ace Combat.
Ace Combat Infinity went one step further and used our world as a building block for a series of far-fetched fictional events. When trailers came out detailing the asteroid impacts in Infinity, players spent time figuring out if their hometown had been impacted. Mission locations are depicted with accuracy thanks to Google Maps and similar technology, allowing people to identify even their own house from the air.
Verdict: Neither is Better
Fictional worlds do not necessarily equate to good stories. In fact, the story of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation is regarded as one of the weakest of the Strangereal games. Fictional worlds or fictional events in our world are equally effective in drawing the viewer in. What makes the cut is whether or not the reader can be drawn into intriguing events and characters, regardless of the world. The only real advantage that Ace Combat 7 will have by being set in Strangereal is the ability to go even crazier than previous titles in the series.