Flight And Damage Modeling
First World War flight sims present the unique challenge of replicating the characteristics of aircraft that are either no longer in regular service or are simply extinct. With the rare exception of The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and The Vintage Aviator Company, almost no living aviators have experience flying First World War machines. Source material from the period is also difficult to interpret. As a result, much of what makes the flight model convincing is based on something as etherial as how the game "feels".
WOFF:UE's flight model then, is difficult to judge on the criteria of how accurately it reflects flying these machines in the real world. I've only flown a modern prop plane a handful of times, so my own knowledge is limited. I can say that the flight modeling in WOFF:UE feels different from other First World War sims like Rise of Flight. The twitchiness of the aircraft in WOFF:UE feels somewhat more muted. That said, the quirks of the various machines are here in spades. The Fokker Dr1 is almost impossible to dive because of the amount of lift that it generates. The Camel is useful in the hands of a veteran but for a novice, it is more than a handful. The Sopwith Pup, however, is docile and a joy to fly and the SE5a makes even a mediocre pilot look half-decent in a dogfight. What truly makes a flight model convincing is how the historical numbers translate to the player's controls. And here, all of those those details - rate of climb, turning circle, horsepower, etc. - just "feels" right.
More importantly, the flight models of each plane fit well together. The historical strengths of an airplane: the diving ability of a SPAD or the tight turning radius of a Sopwith Camel, are perfectly replicated. Real-world faults are here as well: the fragile underwing of the Nieuport 11 has killed several of my pilots, and the incredibly finicky nature of the Fokker Dr1 makes it a nervous and exhausting machine to fly. The numbers baked into the game's code create the most realistic looking engagements I've ever seen on a computer. The flight model is so convincing that players would benefit from reading historical accounts of the war as survival guides for the sim. If it worked in the war, it will work in the sim.
Environmental effects also influence the flight model. Wind buffets your machine and few flights are as miserable as a long sortie in bad weather. WOFF:UE replicates snow, rain, wind, and all of the hazards they entail. The results are more than just felt, they are seen. Aircraft are buffeted around in flight, and the sim visually convinces you that they are moving through a mass of air, and not just replicating numbers crunched in an algorithm. They float, dive, stall, and spin and ways that realistically reflect the laws of physics. The sim truly shines as as an example of its respective parts working together in unison. This is especially evident in how the computer controls these difficult machines.
I can summarize the AI in WOFF:UE in one sentence: it is the best artificial intelligence I have ever seen in a flight simulation. OBD has a lengthy explanation of how the computer controlled pilots effectively "live and breathe" in the sim. Each pilot and observer weighs a litany of factors every second they are in the sim. Where are they in relation to the front and their side of the lines? What is the weather? What is the condition of their machine? Have they been injured in an attack? Is their plane experiencing a mechanical failure? Are they leaking fuel? What is the condition of their wingman? Have they accomplished their mission? Are there any nearby threats? Can they see them? What types of machines are they using? The list goes on and on. They ultimately want to survive and, just like human beings, they are limited to the same fallacies of mere mortals; they cannot see through clouds, they get tired, they get scared, and they make mistakes.
AI can also range in experience and morale. If an AI pilot loses a wingman who burns to the ground, his morale can be shattered. Pilots with low flying hours might not react in time if they are attacked, or they might get cold feet when pressing an assault for the first time. Seasoned AI will work in teams to cut off an opponent and insure a kill. If a plane suffers a mechanical failure in flight, as often happened, AI pilots will fall out of formation and head for home. Above all, they work together to survive and, in a dogfight, they are lethal. Experienced reconnaissance crews will hold formation and lay down a field of fire that would ward off even the most seasoned combat veteran. Ace pilots stalk their adversaries and, once in combat, will out-maneuver them in a dogfight if they have the advantage. When at a disadvantage, the AI's survival instinct will kick in, and the enemy will run for home if they feel the situation is hopeless. The litany of factors that inform the AI's actions means that dogfights begin and end like they did during the war - with swarms of aircraft engaging and, after an intense fight, individual planes will break off and run for safety. These attributes also mean that predicting the AI in a fight is nearly impossible and that every mission is so immersive and so dynamic that, in many ways, WOFF:UE doesn't need an online component.
Keeping your pilot alive for more than a few weeks soon becomes an achievement worthy of recognition. Actually shooting down enemy aircraft is even harder - and the task is made no easier with an accurate claims system that requires a report to give you credit for a kill (as they say in The Blue Max: "Unconfirmed by Army means unconfirmed"). That said, if you can actually stay alive and stay aloft, you will develop an affinity for not only your pilot, but the virtual aces and computer generated fliers alongside you. WOFF:UE succeeds in making you feel some of the emotions that First World War aviators grappled with - thankfully from the safety of your own home.
OBD has accomplished something utterly unique in the contemporary gaming landscape. They have worked tirelessly to create a dedicated offline simulation that not only recreates what it was like to fly during the First World War, but to do so over a fully realized theatre of war. Their attention to historic detail is apparent from the first moment you start the sim and follows you through the lifespans of your virtual pilots. Immersion, accuracy, and fidelity are the foundational tenants of this sim. While OBD has worked against a litany of challenges: from an ageing graphics engine to an ever shrinking market for flight sims, they have created not only an excellent flight simulation, but the most fully realized recreation of the First World War that has ever existed. It is a simulation that is beyond compare, and one that continues the legacy of the classic sims that came before it. It features the kinds of experiences that inform so many of our memories of what great games can be. It is dynamic, utterly compelling, and incredibly immersive, and will quickly occupy every spare hour you can give it. If you have even a passing interest in the First World War, or in the dawn of powered flight, you simply must take a look at Wings Over Flanders Fields: Ultimate Edition. You will not regret the opportunity to take part in one of the greatest flight simulations ever made. We only hope that that this "ultimate edition" is but a taste of the great things OBD will do next.
Test System Specs
- Dell XPS 8700
- Windows 10 64bit
- Intel i7-4790
- 16GB RAM
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 745