Wings Over France – April 1917
After a long and arduous mission (unlike the pilots, we never had a chance of being shot down) the PC version of Wings Over France is very near completion.
Those of you who have played the original version will see many, many familiar aspects, and quite a few un-familiar ones.
Wings lets you take control of one or more flights from 23 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, based in Amiens, France during the period of World War One forever known as ‘Bloody April’. Each 10 man flight consists of 6 scouts (single-seater ‘fighters’) and 2 two-seaters (used of observation, bombing, Artillery spotting and taking photos of enemy areas). Each flight has been assigned different aircraft, each providing their own challenges. A mixture of skill and experience amongst the airmen also provides you with many challenges.
The Allies were on the offensive during this period so most of your missions will be in enemy territory, opening you up to the dangers of the ‘Archie’ (anti-aircraft fire), and ground machine gunners. The major problem though was the undisputed fact that the Germans were better! They had superior machines, superior pilots and an elite Jasta 11 squadron led by the infamous Baron Manfred von Richthofen
(The Red Baron).
You will be assigned missions at the start of each day, ranging from Balloon Bursting to various patrols, Trench Strafing to bombing, oh and a few special missions throw in. It is up to you to assign when to fly, which pilots to use, and what your strategy will be for the day.
Make sure you check the weather, which is one of those features far removed from the original game. The weather is a constantly changing beast, with an hour by hour forecast provided at the start of the day. The weather fronts move realistically across the screen, blocking your view of the ground if you are above any cloud layer. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting above a thunderstorm waiting for it to clear before taking the precious photos (damn the weathermen for getting their timings wrong!). Watch out for the wind as well. The prevailing direction is towards the enemy, so it can be a slow and dangerous trip back home to safety.
The beauty of the game lies in the myriad of small decisions to be made regarding both pilot and mission selection and, most importantly, those which need to be made during the mission itself. When you are having a good day, the temptation is to stay around the target for just a bit longer, when it has been a bad day the temptation is to stay around the target for just a bit longer…… When a plane is damaged, do you send him home (with an escort?). Do we fly above or below the clouds? Hmmm, 2 Germans 4,000ft below, shall we have a go at them? There’s so much more involved that you really get into the game very quickly and very deeply.
You win or lose through Victory Points, which are awarded for achievements in each mission. But even if you lose (likely), you might have the satisfaction of keeping some guys alive for the entire campaign (unlikely) and maybe even seeing them being awarded a medal (very unlikely!). You might even shoot down the Red Baron (in your dreams!!).
The human touch. Each pilot has a short biography (does the fact that Jones was married two weeks ago influence your decision to send him up single-handed?), and a photo. If they survive for a few days (a big if!), you will get attached to them, and quickly come to know their strengths and weaknesses. They may prove a frustration, a solid guy or someone special, but one thing is for certain, you will hate losing any of them. There are one hundred and thirty-five replacements awaiting call-up, each with a bio and photo (we originally only had 114, but quickly ran out!!).
If you are looking for flashy graphics then Wings may not be for you. The graphics and sound effects are there to provide the atmosphere which surrounded April 1917. You will wince every time Archie explodes on top of your plane, cringe when bullets thud home, and be stunned when one of your planes falls out of the air, crashing into the ground below. The enjoyment lies in the decisions you have to make and the involvement in the game, not the re-paints you can do or the mods you can install.
Wings Over France 1917 is highly addictive, easy to understand and play.
The demo is available from www.roogames.co.uk/wingsdemo.html
and the full version is scheduled for release on Monday 7th March 2005. Cost will be £25 with UK postage included.