I started writing this as a first impression on the SPAD XII and Fokker Dr.I but it ended up being a first impression of the early access release of Flying Circus Vol 1 and so that is what I’m writing to you today. My first hours with Flying Circus have been a largely positive experience but with the hopes for much more in the future.
These are early days
Flying Circus Volume 1 is the first of what will hopefully be multiple content releases bringing the content of Rise of Flight into the world of IL-2. The strength that 1CGS has been preaching in recent months and years is the single client approach – that is, you start one game engine up and from there you have access to a wide variety of simulator content all driven by that single client. This approach is working for DCS World and I think it can work for 1CGS’ unique take on the same basic model too.
Flying Circus Vol 1 is still at its inception point and at the moment it is represented by just two of ten aircraft intended for release in the first volume. The Arras sector map is still concept at this point with a 100x120km section of the Western Front in 1918 intending to be represented – but for now we’ll have to content ourselves with flying over one of the other maps available in the series.
For now, I’ve used the Kuban spring and summer map as my backdrop for all screenshots as they represent best what the 1CGS map team can do in terms of detail as well as its theme of green open fields (although the planned farms, towns and city arrangements of the Kuban map is far from what you would see over the French countryside).
Flying the popular SPAD XIII
Flying Circus will ultimately launch with ten WWI era aircraft and the team has tried to find a balance when choosing from the existing Rise of Flight hangar (of about 40 types) for rehabilitation and upgrade. The first two to arrive are the SPAD XIII and the Fokker Dr.I. Both of these aircraft have earned their places in history so let’s have a look at both types and at how they compare going from Rise of Flight to Flying Circus.
The SPAD XIII in 1918 was the singular most important fighter in the Aéronautique Militaire equipping the vast majority of its squadrons. It’s popularity was also high for American fliers as the SPAD XIII equipped 15 of the 16 operational United States Army Air Service pursuit squadrons by Armistice Day.
The SPAD is a sturdy and fast pursuit aircraft (by WWI standards) with a 220hp Hispano engine. It’s not as nimble as some of the rotary engined types it comes up against and so it favours a slashing attack style instead.
Flying this aircraft in Rise of Flight and in Flying Circus is interesting. The developers have stated that the flight model used in both is essentially the same as they have ported over the already excellent work on the Rise of Flight model. Despite this statement, I find the Flying Circus SPAD feeling a little different than before.
In the new Digital Warfare engine, I feel like I have finer tuned control over the aircraft and it feels more present “in the air” to me than in Rise of Flight. This may underlay some controller differences between Rise of Flight and IL-2’s Digital Warfare engine rather than a specific flight model difference but I have to say that it really comes alive here. This may be placebo more than anything but it does feel good.
On to the Fokker Dr.I
I had the pleasure of being up close and personal with a Fokker Dr.I just the other day and so it was a lot of fun to hop into the cockpit of this visual recreation of that aircraft with a newfound appreciation for the size, simplicity, materials, and raw exposure that the type offers.
Popularized throughout media and literature and possibly the best known as “the Red Baron’s plane” by just about anyone you can talk to, the Fokker Dr.I iconic tri-plane arrangement was actually a response to Sopwith’s similar tri-plane pursuit aircraft which never achieved the same notoriety. Highly agile and flown by some of the best pilots that Germany had to offer helped cement the reputation. It’s agility was never beaten but its slower speed and poor performance at altitude began to erode its superiority and the Dr.I was gradually replaced. Production did not end until May 1918 and many saw service through to the Armistice.
One of the things that I didn’t have before was the extra add-ons for Rise of Flight aircraft so its interesting to see them here. The Fokker Dr.I comes to Flying Circus with plenty of cockpit enhancements including a reflector gunsight (in day and night versions), a light, ammo counters, and a primitive slip indicator.
The Fokker Dr.I is just as quirky and difficult to control as I remember it from Rise of Flight. Turning left requires a very steady and capable hand on the stick and ample rudder to overcome the rotary engine’s torque. A blip on the throttle helps correct for some of the difficulty too by temporarily cutting the engine.
Like the SPAD, the Dr.I feels just a little different here in Flying Circus than it does in Rise of Flight. The differences are subtle but I like flying the Dr.I here much more than I do in the prior title. Is it a control difference between the two titles? Is something different with the flight model? I don’t know but it seems to retain all of its quirks but at the same time it feels much more under my control than the one in Rise of Flight does.
More aircraft and features to come
What we have right now is appropriately named early access as the vast majority of the content and features are still yet to come. Make no mistake, I’m excited about the future of the series on the whole and of the Flying Circus experiment too. I have high hopes that sales of Flying Circus will be good enough to warrant continued development and that means a Flying Circus Vol 2 and on filling in more aircraft, adding more features (like Career mode), and bringing with it a larger map.
There is a lot that needs to come to Flying Circus Vol 1 during its development cycle too that I hope to see. Features range from the small to the big but they include hit effects and sounds for the fabric aircraft as we currently we see sparks like WWII types and the sounds are metal on metal.
The little things like custom scarfs, streamers and handguns were features I was worried might be lost, however, that is not the case and you can already see them on the new much better detailed pilot.
The inclusion of the Arras sector map will also have a huge affect on the development and perception of the title. There are also the associated structures, vehicles, tanks, and observation balloons that are currently not yet in the title. and everything else that makes this feel like a World War I themed flight sim – right now it doesn’t quite have that feeling yet. I think it will over time!