So after spending the weekend with the game, here's my final thoughts (all spoiled to protect the innocent).
Non-spoilery opinion: Game good. Go buy. Flat doggo is best doggo.
I'm not going to talk about the gameplay much in here; it's polished to a degree that only a team that hasn't done anything but games like this for a long time can do.
Storywise, this continues AC's trend of being like "What if Metal Gear Solid, but with airplanes?"; This game's theme, oddly enough, is nostalgia. At one point, one of your enemies says "As long as you're here, this country will never know peace!", and I am almost certain that this is a statement directed at us players just as much as it is directed at the characters involved. Nostalgia comes into play via the enemy ace's desire to keep flying forever, despite his failing body; he takes part in a project to upload his skills to an AI just so that a part of him can keep flying forever. The world is plunged into chaos, wars devastate nations, all because one man doesn't want to stop flying -- and again, I can't help but feel that, on some level, this is a representation of us fans: We too want to keep flying forever, but because we do, Strangereal is plunged into war again and again, over and over (Fun fact: Ace Combat X, which is actually a really good AC, takes place only a few months after the end of AC7!).
There are also undercurrents from AC Zero resurfacing -- In that game, your friend-nemesis Pixy talks about borders and how they're invisible, unnecessary and harmful, thoughts directly echoed by characters in this game. In this, several characters echo those feelings; even the takeoff sequence of the last mission gets in on it. It's baked into the backstory of the war, with a refugee crisis being one of the instigating factors, Osea's imperialism making everything worse despite best intentions (like, seriously, there's some backstory about the space elevator and how it was borne out of a genuine desire to help but how it ended up making things a LOT worse) being the other.
It's a complex story, y'all.
But it is being told ... suboptimally, I feel. At several points, I felt like watching a movie that's been edited badly. Characters enter and leave the narrative, scenes end and begin, and there's not much rhythm to it all. The war progress is unclear, and unlike AC04, we do not have the benefit of a "ground level" POV to see what it's like to be caught up in it. The script and translation (despite the best efforts of the voice cast) make me wish I knew Japanese; Maybe in that language with its own cultural concepts, the lines flow better than they do in english.
Regardless, it is SO ****ING GOOD TO BE BACK IN STRANGEREAL. I WANT MORE. GIMME MORE. GIVE PLANES NAO, KONO-SAMA!