This year I made it a mission to fly more multiplayer. I wanted more of a balance between single and multiplayer and specifically with IL-2: Great Battles Series. In that goal I think I have largely succeeded with plenty of multiplayer fun to be had over the last several months. Here are some recent exploits from IL-2 multiplayer and plus some thoughts on how to get involved if you’re thinking about it but just not sure if it’s for you.
Tactical Air War – My second season
Tactical Air War is by far the most intense IL-2 multiplayer experience I’ve had in a sustained way. While you can individually have intense experiences in other IL-2 multiplayer servers, TAW’s season approach with constant map refreshes, a moving front line, a limited (and regenerating) number of pilot lives and available aircraft all means that even when you’re not online the state of the conflict could be changing. When you are online, it could all come crashing down at any minute. It changes the way that you and everyone else approaches everything from takeoff and landing to combat missions. It’s very close to a persistent virtual world and it’s a very cool thing to have on top of a simulation.
This season so far has seen two wins for red team and one for blue team. This fourth map in the season proving to be a pitched battle with no real movement either way at the moment. It could come to a draw or it could suddenly go one way or the other. The group I have been flying with have been doing our part to try and push things forward with sustained strikes on blue team’s airfields and infrastructure.
Some more dramatic episodes include some very intense airfield strikes flying Pe-2’s where we flew everything from high altitude level-bombing runs to dive bombing. We’ve even used shallow high speed passes using one aircraft to drag the AAA away from the others opening the door to lower and more precise drops. AAA on TAW is intense and set to the highest levels which does make for an extreme challenge.
In one of these flights, we had just dropped our bombs during a dive bombing run when a trio of Bf110’s showed up to intercept us. Fortunately, one of the Bf110’s mistook another 110 for one of our Pe-2’s and we were able to escape back to base unscathed. This is the kind of chaos that you experience in TAW.
In the screenshots below, you’ll see one of the sorties flown with Jon Coughlin (creator of Roger Meatball), Wolfpack345 (an IL-2 content creator and YouTuber) and myself.
In another sortie, I had two missions. One was to perform a recon flight over a friendly area that had recently come under attack and second was to meet two Pe-2’s on another airfield attack mission. No enemy aircraft were spotted in the first location but I arrived slightly too late as an enemy fighter was spotted over the base we were attacking.
One Pe-2 was shot down by flak, a constant hazard, and the other was intercepted by the enemy fighter. I was at full throttle and arrived on scene only moments too late to try and intercede. I did, however, extract revenge by surprising the Bf109 and getting my first TAW fighter-to-fighter kill. Landing back at base later was an intense moment.
TAW is the kind of server where intense action is interspersed with plenty of quiet and where a little patience is required no matter the type of mission. On one hand you’re constantly on the look out for enemy aircraft and ground positions and on the other things can be very quiet… right up to the moment they aren’t.
Of course, TAW favours teamplay and alongside the group I fly with regularly, there are dozens of other formalized squads and more informal groups out there too. Things can even get busy at airbases with sometimes dozens of aircraft on takeoff and landing.
It can be an intimidating scenario to jump into if you’re not flying with an organized group and it’s one of the rare times where I would say that jumping in here on your own may not be the best way to experience TAW. I’m sure some do and do have a good time but I don’t think I’d be one of them.
Tag team S.E.5a’s on Jasta5
One of the sorties I flew in the last week saw Wolfpack345 and I take to the skies in a pair of S.E.5a’s on a patrol over the western front in Flying Circus Vol 1. All was not quiet and it wasn’t long before we spotted a lone Halberstadt CL.II flying what we think was a reconnaissance mission.
The most interesting part is that I’m about 90% sure that the Halberstadt CL.II was flown with a human gunner which means that four people were playing this multiplayer scenario in three aircraft. Engaging head-on, we ended up in a swirling dogfight with the Halberstadt trying to keep his gunner pointed at one of us and our two S.E.5’as trying to reposition to ensure that they could only easily engage one of us.
It was a tag team effort with Wolf and I both getting hits in. Unfortunately we also received some hits ourselves.
It was a great fight that ultimately saw all three aircraft using teamwork to try and win the day with all parties ultimately withdrawing from the fight with battle damage. We’ll call this one a draw!
Combat Box – Drag and bag over the “Battle of Dortmund”
The second multiplayer experience I wanted to write a little bit about involves two sorties on Combat Box. A spring 1945 western front scenario with about a dozen targets arranged along the frontlines stretching from north to south was the backdrop for two missions.
Taking off from the RAF base on the map with IL-2 tutorial maker, Requiem (check out his Air Combat Tutorial Library), we flew in a two-ship Tempest Mark V flight where we climbed to around 10-12,000 feet. The first few minutes of the sortie were completely uneventful and even when we thought we had spotted a bandit we ended up finding only other Allied aircraft. That was all about to change however.
Word on the team chat was that a large battle was taking place in the northern part of the map with combat centered around Dortmund and a bomber base located there. We headed north to find out for ourselves.
Almost immediately on arrival we spotted tracer fire low and it became clear that a multi-aircraft mix of Allied and Axis aircraft were fighting it out. Early into the fight I ended up with a Bf110 on my six but that was quickly cleared by Requiem after a short chase and a full throttle power dive in my Tempest.
A minute later and it was a FW190D-9 also on my six. Once again we used teamwork and some excellent gunnery to see that fighter dispatched. Rinse and repeat as a third Bf109K-4 and fourth FW190D-9 latched onto me blasting through our formation and landing a couple of machine gun rounds. Everything became a bit of a blur at this point.
I felt like a bit of a target during this sortie, however, we were challenging each fighter we came across and coming out on top thanks to coordinated tactics, some defensive maneuvering, the awesome speed and power of the Tempest and more than a little luck.
I was hoping to open my own kill tally on this mission but ended up not being able to. And that’s ok! Playing the role of wingman and providing support, spotting, and dragging the enemy fighters into positions where they could be shot down is also useful. I did, however, manage to get a couple of successful passes on the Dortmund base strafing parked aircraft and a flak battery before heading for home.
Home ended up being a field about 50 kilometers from target as we dodged yet more Bf109 attacks on the way out. By this time I was nervously looking at the fuel gauge as I had only taken 75% fuel. In the end, my fuel ran out just 20 kilometers from the nearest airbase.
It was a completely engrossing multiplayer experience from start to finish with plenty of exciting moments and tense ones too. It was also a real joy for me to take the Tempest Mark V up into a crowded multiplayer server and enjoy a reasonably historical scenario with all of the aircraft fighting on both sides that make both historical sense as well as being great opponents for each other. It’s a hard to find experience and one that the IL-2 series does so well!
One last sortie
Finally, one last sortie I did with Jon Coughlin with a mixed P-38J-25 and P-51D-15 flight that saw us tackle a bandit that had shot us down earlier in the evening. It was by chance that we ran across the very same FW190D-9 flying in the same area, however, this time we had the advantage over our foe.
We chased the FW190D-9 down into a valley where Jon’s P-38 was just behind him and slightly outside of effective gun range. I was keeping cover from higher up and had both speed and altitude to my credit. Watching the fight go down in a valley, I went low overtaking the P-38 before cutting the corner anticipating the valley turning back to the left. I hoped he would come to the left towards home and up the valley. Sure enough, the FW190 did! Passing directly in front of me, I now had speed and position to pull in behind. A 3-second burst cased major damage before a wing separated and the FW190 crashed to the ground.
Once again, teamwork was essential here with Jon in the P-38 keeping the FW190 occupied and staying in charge of the larger operation as I moved in to score the victory. I couldn’t have done it without him.
General thoughts on getting into multiplayer
Multiplayer in a combat flight simulator can be an intimidating thing and there’s nothing that I can write here to necessarily make that better. There are layers of challenging things to overcome from the basics of flight, to navigation and spotting on some of the more challenging servers out there, to the intense combat and incredible skills of friends and foes alike. While that hill may seem steep, it’s also worth giving a try and seeing if it is for you.
All the way through my above accounts I hope to have gotten across the fact that teamwork can be really essential but also a great source of learning on its own. I wouldn’t be as good at navigation or air combat or have gathered other random pieces of knowledge without flying in a group.
That said, if you want to fly solo in IL-2 multiplayer you definitely still can. Years ago I did a trailer called “The Destroyer” where I flew some spontaneous teamwork with another Bf110 pilot. It was fun, it was enjoyable, and it all happened because I decided to follow another Bf110 after takeoff. You can read about and watch the trailer right here.
Not every server is going to feature intense teamwork either. A server like Berloga is just pure dogfighting fun where you may be shot down at any time and ten seconds later are back in the skies looking for your next target. The range of experience is there and the hardest thing is taking the first steps. So go… give it a try! You might have fun!