If you want to jump into flight simulators and you think you want to fly around in a vintage World War II aircraft then the IL-2 series the the defacto standard – but there are a lot of different versions which can make things confusing.
So which one should you buy? Let me break it down.
The IL-2 series comes in three parts
It’s important to understand that there are three different pieces of the IL-2 series. Some of them are inter-related and others are entirely separate experiences with the entire series stretching back to a 2001 release that goes all the way to the present with a new product due at the end of 2017.
Let’s look at each of the entries.
IL-2 Sturmovik through IL-2: 1946
The original IL-2 Sturmovik was released in 2001 and updated frequently over the course of several years. IL-2 Forgotten Battles, Ace Expansion Pack, Pacific Fighters and a few other releases ultimately culminated in the release of IL-2: 1946.
If you want to get into the original IL-2 flight sim then you only need to buy IL-2: 1946 – its a compilation of everything that came before and with mod packs and semi-official updates still forthcoming you can have access to most of World War II and hundreds of different aircraft.
It’s relatively inexpensive at around $10-12 USD.
IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover
The original Maddox Games team did their best to produce a next generation sequel to the original IL-2 series. The series turned the clock back to 1940 and took to the skies over England and France during the Battle of Britain. The goal was to bring an all new game engine and create the ultimate World War II flight sim experience. There were some problems, however, that marred the series release.
The initial release came too soon with the product unfinished. It had severe performance problems and bugs. In subsequent years an unofficial group of modders called Team Fusion worked diligently to update the product making it not only playable but enjoyable. Team Fusion has become semi-official now with an official partnership with 1C Games.
New efforts are now expanding the series towards a North Africa expansion and the future looks to be much better than just a few years ago. The price is quite low here too.
The next generation: IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad, Battle of Moscow and beyond
IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad represents a new start to the IL-2 series with a new development studio at the helm. The series had a rough start but has grown over the course of its four year history and is now the leading edge of the IL-2 series.
The new IL-2 series is more of a flight sim platform where players buy access to content and automatically have access to the latest version of updates. Big updates affecting all owners have included 64-bit support and a switch to DirectX11 (from DX9) both which improved performance dramatically and opened the door to VR support.
There are two main products available now, with one expansion in development:
- IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad came first in the series with a campaign centered around the late summer, fall and winter campaigns of the Battle of Stalingrad. Originally released with just a winter map, a later free addition added summer and fall campaigns for free – so if you buy today you get all 3-seasons of the campaign right away.
- IL-2: Battle of Moscow was the first addition to the series. The campaign is based on the late 1941 and early 1942 Battle of Moscow period and a new map, aircraft, and campaign were released encompassing this time period.
- IL-2: Battle of Kuban is set to release in late 2017 and represents the third release in the series. The Battle of Kuban is set during the climatic Black Sea battles of spring, summer and fall of 1943.
Each of the new IL-2 series releases comes with 8 standard aircraft each (4 each for Axis and Allies) and 2 Collector Planes available in the Premium releases or available as individual purchases. To make things a little more confusing, you can also buy two additional Collector Planes which are not part of any specific product. These are the Yak-1B Series 127 and the Ju52 /3m.
Like I said earlier, you buy access to content so you always have the latest version of the game no matter what. The series is effectively one release with new content being added in as different packages. You can jump in and buy Battle of Moscow or Battle of Stalingrad and you have access to the latest version – minus access to content you don’t own.
Multiplayer is compatible across all content releases so if you are on a server that switches from a Stalingrad to Moscow map you can keep playing – so long as the server owner has made aircraft you own available.
- Direct from 1CGS
- Steam Store (note: you have to buy Battle of Stalingrad here first, Battle of Moscow and Kuban are or will be available as “DLC”)
So which one should I buy?
Let me jump straight to it: IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad Standard Edition is the best place to start these days.
Some reasons to go with Battle of Stalingrad:
- Though available at a higher cost than other options, IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad Standard Edition is currently available for $49.99 and frequently has sale prices that bring it down to around $29 which is reasonably affordable. Sale prices offer deeper discounts on Battle of Stalingrad as well so this edges it out slightly over Battle of Moscow.
- Battle of Stalingrad is a good middle point in terms of aircraft and owners will be able to participate and be competitive in the widest array of multiplayer opportunities with their late 1942 aircraft set.
- Development on this series is ongoing with 1CGS actively releasing game updates and improvements about once a month. Some of the updates are geared towards future releases but they improve the core game as well.
- IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad has significantly higher fidelity than earlier versions of the series possessing one of the best flight modeling and damage modeling systems in the business and very good graphics with VR support forthcoming.
If pricing is less of an issue and you don’t care too much about multiplayer then Battle of Moscow is also an excellent place to get into the series but if you’re looking for the overall experience with the lowest potential price – Battle of Stalingrad is a great starter to jump in and from there expand to Moscow, Kuban or future installments.
The next entry after Battle of Kuban has also already been announced and it will be taking the series to the Pacific with the Battle of Midway so American and Japanese naval aircraft fans will have something to look forward to. Carrier ops using VR headsets at the Battle of Midway is a kind of flight simmers nirvana and that is coming soon.
If you have an old PC or gobs of time then I’d say also jump in on IL-2: 1946 and/or Cliffs of Dover as well. They aren’t the leading edge of things to come but they aren’t dead either with slow development on-going for both.