To say that 2019 was a busy year for the 1C Game Studios team and for the IL-2: Great Battles Series would probably be an understatement. By the end of this year, 1CGS has released two of three titles that they announced back at the end of 2017 and announced a new title. They also released a huge number of aircraft and tanks across all three titles and improved some of their core technologies too. What follows isn’t an exhaustive list but rather some of the key highlights from 2019 that I wanted to look back on and appreciate as we move towards 2020.
New aircraft to fly
The IL-2: Great Battles Series has added more aircraft in 2019 than I think we’ve seen in the series to date. Much of that was thanks to the refurbishment of Rise of Flight aircraft into Flying Circus but we also saw the conclusion of a development cycle for IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte and that meant plenty of new WWII aircraft as wel. Starting in March, we received an update with the Sopwith Dolphin, the Fokker D.VII, D.VIIF and the Fw190D-9 “Dora” which began a familiar theme through the year of a couple of new Flying Circus aircraft combined with a new WWII type.
June was a big month with the addition of the Me262, Albatross D.Va, and S.E.5a to the aircraft mix. The Me262 in particular was a big deal with it’s reveal at FSExpo 2019. With the launch of the 262 came a new era of aircraft for the series with the first jet engine and near Mach speed flight modeling for IL-2: Great Battles Series.
In July it was the Halberstadt CL.II and Bristol Fighter F.2B adding the first multi crew aircraft to Flying Circus. Both of these helped to finish the aircraft line-up for Flying Circus Vol 1 and were the first two types added that weren’t only scout fighters but also multi-purpose in role including level bombing and the potential for scripted photo reconnaissance.
September perhaps outdid any of the other months for the series with the release of the Tempest Mark V, P-51D-15 and P-38J-25 for IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte. The trio of Allied fighter releases helped to finish off the flyable aircraft set for IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte. That wasn’t all as the AI B-25D Mitchell also came into the series at the same time.
Three new maps
New aircraft are great but it is often the new maps that tie aircraft and a particular historical moment together and this year we were spoiled with three new maps for the IL-2 series. Prokhorovka was first arriving in March with a smaller but more detailed map intended to be ideal for tank battles but also still big enough for aircraft operations. I’m hoping to see more of this map in 2020.
Next up, it was the Arras map which helped finish up major content releases for Flying Circus Vol 1. The Arras map was also a small map for the series which limited it’s appeal a little bit, however, it was also featuring some great work on landmarks that helped to make every corner of the map feel vibrant and unique.
The highlight for the year for me, however, was the release of the Bodenplatte or perhaps better known now as the Rhineland map. The new western Europe map features a large size covering everything from Amsterdam to Frankfurt and plenty of historical places in between. The maps wide scale and relatively stationary nature of the front between autumn of 1944 and the spring of 1945 makes it a perfect stage for all manners of late war WWII air combat.
It’s not a perfect map and some have criticized certain lack of details or some of the repeating textures, however, it also features some of the most dense urban areas we’ve seen in the series so far and given the size and complexity I think performance is extremely good.
Tank Crew campaigns released
While Tank Crew might not have featured as prominently in my review of the year’s goings on, it still factors in to some of the things that 1CGS has built. There are still some tanks needed until the project is finished but that hasn’t stopped 1CGS from releasing a pair of 10 mission campaigns for Tank Crew.
Featuring a historical look at the Battle of Kursk and the titular ‘Clash at Prokhorovka’, Tank Crew’s campaigns from what I’ve seen are lots of fun and arrived at a key moment for the title as it pushes towards release.
Upgrades all over
In addition to new aircraft and tanks (which I haven’t focused on as much), the series was also busy updating older types and making changes to some of the core systems of the series with everything from AI to cloud rendering getting big updates across 2019.
Recent patches for IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte introduced new cloud rendering techniques that both improved frame rates and added a new very high detail setting that smoothed cloud appearance and made them look better than ever.
AI improvements were a big part of the last few months with a new programmer hired by 1CGS set to help improve the AI for the entire series. We’ve already seen some improvements to how the AI fights with less endless circle battles and more nuanced flying and fighting styles. There’s still work to do but 2019 was a good update for the series and we’re very hopeful that 2020 will incorporate more AI improvements.
4K textures were a part of 2019’s core updates with community members making some major contributions to help make some older types in the series look sharp and fresh with the latest high resolution textures and bump maps.
Another big update to the series was the addition of a whole new pilot physiology model. Using real world research on the effects of G forces on human pilots, this update is perhaps the biggest change to the way that pilots fly aircraft in the IL-2 series with the realism imparted by this feature requiring not only aircraft speed and angle to be factor but also the amount of G forces that your pilot has been pulling both all at once and over the course of a fight.
This is the kind of feature that has an impact across the entire IL-2 series from the earliest I-16 versus Bf109E-7 fights to the late war P-51D versus Fw190D-9 competitions. Although the late war fighters do tend to pull more G’s and are therefore more affected, I think everyone will take the point that this is a big change across the board. I love that kind of enhancement!
Finished titles and a look to 2020
With both IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte and Flying Circus Vol 1 considered complete, 2019 has been a very good year with lots of content and new core technologies being unleashed as development on these titles and on Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovka wraps up.
Early next year should see the end of Tank Crew’s development cycle with the official release of Clash at Prokhorovka. Also on tap for early 2020 is the release of three new Collector Planes: the Hurricane Mark II, Yak-9 and Yak-9T. These aircraft will primarily add some diversity to the eastern front aircraft line-up with presence in Battle of Moscow, Stalingrad and Kuban.
Beyond that we also have the start of development on IL-2: Battle of Normandy which will be a the next major release for the 1CGS lead series. Normandy will fill out the western front aircraft set with a diverse array of aircraft including the Mosquito, early versions of the P-51 and P-47, and some interesting Axis aircraft like the Me410 and Ar234. It’s unclear at this point which of these aircraft will appear first or when we can expect to see the first few but if history helps guide us on this, it will probably be late winter when the new Collector Planes arrive and early spring when we begin to see the first of the Normandy aircraft.
Beyond that, we don’t know too much about what else might be coming next. With Tank Crew and Flying Circus development wrapped, we don’t know if either of these will see follow up content although it seems likely that 1CGS will be maintaining these titles as part of their core experience.
The team has also mused about making upgrades to the core engine with improved rendering technologies on the horizon. The long awaited Air Marshal system for multiplayer will also hopefully be revealed in 2020.
There are definitely some question marks right now on the future but I don’t think that’s something to be concerned about but rather that 1CGS hasn’t fully revealed all of their plans for 2020 and beyond.
A great year!
I think 2019 has been a great year for the IL-2: Great Battles Series. The completion of Bodenplatte alone is cause for celebration as I think the move to the western front has brought a ton of new players into the fold not only for Bodenplatte but also to some of the eastern front titles too. I don’t have numbers to back this up except to say that I’ve see a notable uptick of people asking for help and looking to get started with the series on the official forums, on Facebook and on the Reddit groups that I frequent for this series.
A few more questions hang in the air for what happens with Flying Circus and Tank Crew, but with some luck I think we’ll learn about plans for the future with both of these in the new year and I really think that 1CGS will be able to move the needle forward in positive ways for these two titles too.
With plenty of new content, core technology updates, and improvements on areas that have seriously annoyed players stretching back years, I can honestly say that 2019 has really been a great year for the series. Better still, I’m very excited about Battle of Normandy and what we’ll see with the fusion of Normady and Bodenplatte content as the two together add to a more well rounded experience on the western front.
Here’s to 2019 being a good year and 2020 being hopefully just as good!
Those are my thoughts but I of course want to hear from you. What were your IL-2 2019 highlights and what are you most hopeful for in 2020? Let me know in the comments!
Updated: Added a short segment on Tank Crew