This year has been a very good one for fans of combat flight simulations. Old stalwarts like Falcon BMS and IL-2: 1946 continue on, Cliffs of Dover has new lease on life, and ongoing developments take the DCS and IL-2: Great Battles series forward with new content and new hopes for expanded gameplay in the future. Let’s look back at a year in flight simulation.
IL-2: Great Battles series
1C Game Studios has had a very busy year developing the IL-2 series with a long list of big changes to the core of their primary game series.
The team has been focused on developing IL-2: Battle of Kuban since fall of 2016 and their efforts are about fully pay off with the final release of IL-2: Battle of Kuban sometime in winter 2018.
Throughout the year, the team has been updating content and adding new features. Some of the standout new features include adding VR support, a complete flight model revamp, graphical tweaks to the new DirectX 11 engine, and improved AI handling for better performance and to allow for more AI units to be added to missions. There are still some issues that the series needs to tweak (AI behavior still needs some work) but we saw a lot of big changes this year.
The Scripted Campaign system really came to the fore this year for IL-2’s single player experience. Blazing Steppe, a $9.99 pay for campaign experience joined Ten Days of Autumn in offering top notch single player missions straight from the developers. Meanwhile, the community started to come on stream with the mission builder and produced some impressive contributions of their own. Campaigns like Cold Winter and JG 51 over Velikie Luki were among my favourites.
We’ve also had a flood of new content in the first half of the year. From January to August we’ve seen the release of the new Kuban map, Spitfire Mark Vb, IL-2 Model 1943, Hs129B-2, FW190A-5, Bf110G-2, and He111H-16.
Another aircraft, the La-5, received a new feature update in the form of select-able engine modifications adding the M-82F engine and unlimited boost time at low altitudes. This effectively adds an early model La-5F to the series and paves the way for future engine modification options – a feature quickly followed up on with the Spitfire Vb that had both Merlin 45 and 46 engines as an available modification. Surely, more of these types of modifications will follow in the future.
The Kuban map is worth a major mention with its detailed terrain geometry and gorgeous visuals. Its the best looking map in the series so far and it delights with its varied geography and locations.
The series has made great strides but still needs to improve on its AI, single player content and multiplayer lobby and co-op systems. Much is planned by the team in early 2018 to address those issues.
It was also a big year in determining the future of the series. Controversy arose when the direction of future titles shifted away from the Pacific and shifted towards three new titles focused on the Western front, on bringing Rise of Flight content into the new IL-2 engine, and on a new tank battle simulation all connected together in the IL-2: Great Battles Series.
Though 2017 had no official “release” for the IL-2 series, it was a great year for all kinds of foundational technologies that will continue to help develop that sim into the very top tier (if the stuff we’ve already seen is any indication) of World War II flight sims.
DCS gets ready for big changes
This year was a transitional one for the Eagle Dynamics lead DCS simulation. A busy schedule of incremental updates all year long slowly added and changed features in DCS World 2.x while holding steady on support for DCS World 1.5.
2017 was a year where DCS leapfrogged the competition by upping their visual effects game to make DCS easily the best looking flight sim and one of the best looking titles anywhere. The new physics based renderer still has bugs but when things come together, DCS looks phenomenal.
It was also a great year for the release of some WWII related content in the form of the DCS: Normandy map, the Spitfire IX, Operation Epsom single player campaign, and plenty of new WWII asset package objects to create a more immersive environment.
It was also a year of controversy where Eagle Dynamics took some flak from the community for separating the Normandy map and WWII asset packs. There was also a considerable amount of conflict over new modules like the Yak-52 and the Christen Eagle II aircraft – these basic military trainers and aerobatics oriented aircraft weren’t the focus on hard core military aircraft that many were hoping for.
RAZBAM’s extremely well regarded AV-8B N/A Harrier module changed the conversation slightly too. Simulating the night attack version of that aircraft, RAZBAM’s release is still very early in the ‘early access’ period but its already turned into a fan favourite and a compelling type to fly. It’s VTOL capabilities have lead to some fun and interesting multiplayer scenarios and some outright hilarious YouTube clips.
This year also saw the Su-33 re-launch with new features and a Eagle Dynamics created professional flight model (PFM). The Su-33 will be a vital aircraft moving forward as the series focuses on updated carrier landing physics and the Strait of Hormuz map which will be more naval intensive.
Meanwhile the updated module offers new features and a far better flight model making it the third release for the Flaming Cliffs 3 series with a professional flight model.
2017 was also a year where the Eagle Dynamics team worked hard on a couple of key aspects of their future release schedule. DCS World 2.5 and the merged DCS experience has been long awaited for and 2017 is a year where the team was busy making that a reality. We’ve been promised that DCS World 2.5 will be an official release early in 2018 – a rare thing from a developer notorious for its vague release dates. This update paves the way for new graphics, new technologies and more maps like the Strait of Hormuz.
The other plank of their efforts has also been on the F/A-18C Hornet. It won’t be released in 2017 but we went from hearing very little to hearing and seeing quite a lot of this future module. Fans of the series and of this multi-role jet fighter are very excited about the Hornet’s inclusion.
2017 was a year of transition for the DCS experience with major changes being prepared for and just a little out of reach. We’re still in that situation at the end of this year but with some major releases and milestones now behind us we look forward to the new DCS World 2.5 ‘merged’ experience that will help define (and re-define) the series going forward.
The Phoenix moment: Cliffs of Dover rises from the ashes
This year was an interesting one for fans of the Maddox Games developed IL-2: Cliffs of Dover Battle of Britain focused flight sim. Released in an unfinished and buggy state six years ago, this year saw Cliffs of Dover’s unofficial third party mod group Team Fusion become an officially recognized team with support from 1C Game Studios including access to the source code.
This move allowed the team to recently re-release the title with a laundry list of bug fixes, new aircraft, and improved visuals with a renewed sense of purpose.
The new Blitz edition release was a free upgrade for previous owners while new players could experience the only slightly aged sim for the first time.
Team Fusion has plans for the future of the title with an expansion into the early North Africa conflict. All of this will be distinguished from the IL-2: Great Battles series with its own IL-2: Dover series. The two titles are using separate engines and remain incompatible with each other.
Although Cliffs of Dover is aged in some ways, upgrades to the visuals and a planned VR update in the future will go a long way towards making the title more modern.
In more casual gaming, War Thunder added a ton of new aircraft and new maps to their series. These additions were wide ranging from upgraded models of existing aircraft to entire new designs.
This year, War Thunder added both Italian and France nations (along with their air forces and armored vehicles) to the series with upgraded aircraft models from ones previously present and entirely new types of aircraft were added to help fill out these nations tech trees.
The aircraft added, in typical War Thunder fashion, ranged from the exotic prototypes to the frontline workhorses. You can fly the excellent D.520 that saw war time combat or take to the skies in the VG.33 of which only two reached operational squadrons.
The series continues at a solid pace upgrading old types and adding new ones as they enhance the tech trees of their now seven nations. Their armored gameplay options also continue to expand as the series now has started adding vehicles from the modern era. A ship based series of battles is also planned and has been played and tested by a select number of War Thunder enthusiasts as well.
Just a small slice
This is just a slice of what is going on in the flight sim world as there is much more going on with civil aviation simulators. Multiplayer remains popular across all of the titles I’ve been talking about and across others too.
I’ll be writing a follow up soon about what I’m most excited about for 2018 so stay tuned for that.
Let me know in the comments what you think was the standout update or moment for you in 2017. Have I forgotten something crucial? Let me know!