In 2013, Ilya Shevchenko (with Oleg Maddox and Igor Tishin) started a kick-starter to bring WWII to DCS World. The kick-starter was initially successful but the project ultimately ground to a halt before it was injected with new life thanks to Eagle Dynamics. It’s been six years and the question I want to ask is: What is the state of DCS WWII now and what is it looking like for the future? Is the current model working or does it need a rethink? Let’s discuss!
The most important thing…
For me and for many other WWII simulation fans, authenticity and historical relevance play at least part of the equation in what makes an excellent sim. The IL-2 series has, for years, done this fairly well (with a few missteps) and under the current shepherds (1CGS/777 Studios) has made a name for themselves in releasing some quality packages that have good aircraft sets that are also historically coherent. This is something, by comparison, that DCS WWII has ultimately done poorly. Presumably it was done to appease backers who were burned by the WWII kickstarter project’s failure but it has left them in a complex position.
For reference, these are the aircraft from the initial Kickstarter list:
- Republic P-47D-28 Thunderbolt;
- Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX;
- Messerschmitt Bf-109K-4;
- Focke-Wulf FW.190D-9 (from DCS: World);
- North-American P-51D Mustang (from DCS: World).
Frankly this list makes no sense given what came later outside of trying to appeal to some interested players who wanted to fly these aircraft. I suppose that’s what a Kickstarter project tries to do but the list never felt that cohesive.
The first, and only, map to release for DCS WWII so far has been the 1944 Normandy map. Of the five aircraft listed in the above list, only three of them are historically connected to the D-Day invasion and post Overlord period of time (the Spitfire IX, P-51D and P-47D). The Bf109K-4 and FW190D-9 came months later and so they are out of place lacking a scenario or appropriate competitors to do battle with.
This was all not the best start in my mind, however, it is now water under the bridge.
The tide is turning
For all that I’ve said above, the tide appears to be turning for DCS World and their WWII content. Eagle Dynamics most recent comments on their FW190A-8/F-8 developments tell a lot of the story:
The Fw 190 A-8 will be an excellent counterpart to the Spitfire Mk.IX and provide a period-correct aircraft for the Normandy map. The F-8 version will provide the Luftwaffe a capable ground attack aircraft to match the upcoming P-47D and Mosquito.DCS World Weekend News
This tells me that Eagle Dynamics is going to aim to focus more on the types that fit their already established scenario of Normandy 1944. That doesn’t stop third parties from doing the I-16 or the F4U as is currently the case but it does mean that there will hopefully be more focus from Eagle Dynamics themselves.
The current aircraft under development include the Mosquito FB.VI, P-47D (is it still a D-28?), FW190A-8/F-8 and the Me262. In addition to these aircraft are a collection of AI only (for now anyways) types like the Bf109G-6, Ju88A-4, A-20G, and C-47. This set helps fill out the DCS WWII line-up with Normandy 1944 authentic aircraft types that will help make that scenario stop feeling like a kludge of types and more like the down to the rivets accurate simulation that I know it can be.
Eagle Dynamics is also still working on improving their damage modeling. Their current system is adequate for missile lobbing and rapid fire cannon firing jets but far less so for WWII warbirds and so Eagle Dynamics announced quite some time ago that they would be overhauling the system (before ultimately implementing it across the entire line-up).
There’s more work to be done too to bring in period accurate voice overs that don’t use modern terminology.
There are definitely some weaknesses in the presentation so now let’s talk about strengths.
Playing to strengths
What DCS WWII and DCS World in general do well is extreme attention to detail. Look at the work being done on the FW190A-8 for DCS World as an example. The modeling of the internal engine bay is not just an aesthetic consideration either as DCS World goes extremely deep into the simulation of the engine and the conditions that make it work.
That attention to detail also exists on the Spitfire, Bf109K-4, FW190D-9, and P-51D models and these aircraft have all seen revamps of their aesthetic qualities over the last few months bringing them up to the very latest standards from Eagle Dynamics.
DCS WWII is not going to quickly build a large collection of WWII warbirds to fly. However, the ones that they are offering will have the highest level of detailing possible and they will come with the complex system modeling that DCS World fans know and expect from the more modern jet modules.
I hesitate to compare to IL-2: Great Battles but I will allow this one comparison as I think the two series are doing two different things: IL-2 is offering a lighter take on the systems modelling (i.e. no complex click pit start-up procedure) so that it can be a wider scope of battle simulator.
DCS World is doing what it does best – focusing on the small details and doing it for a small number of aircraft. This has resulted in DCS’ WWII aircraft being at the absolute peak of accuracy for systems and flight modeling (if not currently damage modeling)… but it takes a long time for just one plane to appear on the scene. The series is in urgent need of the line-up being filled out a bit and that is simply not something that will happen quickly.
Still, what aircraft we do have appear to have been modelled at incredible levels of artistry and programming detail. Each switch, knob, and intricacy is there in the start-up and systems management for each of these warbirds and they seamlessly integrate into the rest of the DCS World ecosystem.
What will be
Projecting forward into the future, DCS World and their WWII themed content offerings have or will have a map (Normandy), one Axis fighter and fighter bomber rolled into one that is historically appropriate, three Allied fighters and fighter-bombers that are historically appropriate, and one Allied twin that also fits the Normandy/D-Day/Overlord scenario. Plus eventually we’ll have the Me262 which doesn’t fit the current map all that well and the already released Bf109K-4 and FW190D-9.
On top of those flyable aircraft are several dozen ground vehicles and AI aircraft available as a separate content package (that can be combined with the DCS: Combined Arms package allowing for limited control over ground vehicles). Together, these assets should help fill out the scenario nicely. They will help make multiplayer more balanced and more historically accurate and do the same for single players too.
Speaking of single player scenarios, DCS WWII is doing their campaign making fairly well with a slow but constant stream of new campaigns coming out on a semi-regular basis.
For the P-51D there’s the new The Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney Campaign by Reflected Simulations and Charnwood Campaign by B&W Campaigns, for the Spitfire IX is The Big Show Campaign by Reflected Simulations and Operation Epsom Campaign by B&W Campaigns.
All of these would (and hopefully will retroactively) benefit from having some more aircraft types available.
One other problem
DCS WWII has one other stumbling block that I alluded to at the start. The method in which it has been sold. To get an authentic WWII simulation you will need to shell out some cash on a few separate items:
- DCS: Normandy 1944 Map for $44.99
- DCS: WWII Assets Pack for $29.99 (though the price is set to climb)
- DCS: WWII aircraft module (Spitfire IX, P-51D and all others are $49.99)
There’s also a bundle deal for the Normandy and Assets Pack that brings the price to $59.99 for both (saving you $14.99). At full price it will be $109.99 USD just to get started with the scenery, assets, and a single aircraft. Of course, nobody said that flight simming was cheap but all of the steps required to get started with DCS WWII can feel daunting at times.
I advocate for buying during a sale which helps bring the price down for Normandy to $22.50, a WWII fighter to $25 and I’ve never really checked on the asset pack but I presume that it drops to around $15. This is a more reasonable proposition for most.
Ultimately, its not the price but the way that it’s been packaged that I think throws some potential buyers off. Eagle Dynamics has tried to keep the permanent Normandy/Asset Pack bundle going but I know that separation still puts some off.
DCS WWII is an interesting experiment for Eagle Dynamics, one that they appear to intend to continue supporting and one that is slowly growing into something that hopefully matures into a cohesive package. For years it has been trying to come together into something great. It isn’t quite there yet but I see light on the horizon.
With a more cohesive aircraft set in development, more supporting aircraft and vehicles, and continued support from Eagle Dynamics, this area of the DCS World franchise can be just as strong as its modern jet aircraft side of the business. More exciting, the series is starting to grow its early cold war set too and that offers some great possibilities for the future of DCS’ combat flight simulation spanning a significant chunk of the last century of combat aviation.
DCS WWII got off to a rough start and its been stuck there for years, but I think we’re now about to see it turn around in a brilliant way. At least… I hope so!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments! I know some of you are fans of the WWII content that Eagle Dynamics has released over the years.