My usual Flight Journal is interrupted by a ‘tank journal’ story. This one happened over a week ago and involved driving around in some Panzer IV’s on the Finnish Virtual Pilots – Dynamic War server. This is just one story of what a combined arms experience looks like in IL-2: Great Battles.
Finnish Virtual Pilots is one of the few IL-2 servers at this point that supports both tank and aircraft battles as a regular part of their gameplay experience. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen tanks on a server, I wrote about that experience a few years ago (before Tank Crew was even announced), but Finnish Virtual Pilots have made it a priority to make the tank spawns very much part of every battle. The server uses a dynamic frontline where the front moves back and forth depending on targets destroyed and objectives accomplished and so we set out to do our part.
Our mission took place on the winter version of the Velikie Luki map which was not explicitly designed for tank battles although it’s pretty clear to me that recent updates to the visual systems in IL-2 have resulted in convincing looking battles even at the extreme low altitudes of ground level.
We set out in a trio of Panzer IV’s, two with the extra armored side skirts and my tank without (because I forgot) and headed for the target. We hit the road soon after setting out, crossing a bridge before arriving at a T intersection where we made a quick left and then on to the target. We were in enemy territory now!
Approach to target
This is a combined server where aircraft and tanks are working together either in coordination or because of shared goals. And it didn’t take long before the skies overhead were starting to become filled with aircraft. A distant dogfight with tracers of both colours indicated a fierce battle was underway. A Ju87 and Bf110 zoomed over us at low altitude being met with enemy AAA fire as they bombed another target we couldn’t see. This all going on as we made our way to our first position overlooking the first part of our target. A dense collection of dugouts, artillery and tanks.
Maneuvering carefully through the nearby forest and using our binoculars we were able to pinpoint enemy positions without opposition and engaged the whole area taking out artillery, AAA, vehicles and even a couple of tanks. Before long we were spotted and a Hurricane Mark II with four Hispano cannons started to engage us. My tank took light damage forcing me to retreat back into the forest – fortunately he wasn’t armed with the 40mm Vickers anti-tank guns or powerful bombs or rockets.
After a time spent repairing the tank, and with ammo to spare, we pressed on to another nearby position.
My tank was hit and critically damaged by an unseen artillery position. The first shot took out the drive train while the second shot killed the commander and saw the rest of the crew abandon the tank. Fortunately, the time in between allowed the other two tanks in our group to get out of the firing line and into cover.
That could have easily been the end of the story but it wasn’t because Tank Crew is fully supporting multiple roles per tank. So, I hopped into one of my teammates tanks and became their gunner while they drove the tank full time.
Coming up on the second position, the team of three human players now in two tanks worked to spot and clear hazards such as gun positions and parked tanks, one which took a potshot at us before we were able to return fire. Meanwhile, our friends in the Bf110 were overhead again buzzing us on the ground and strafing targets in the same area – no doubt helping to ensure our success.
At the end of the mission, we came away with several dozen targets hit by our combined tank group and the enemy frontlines surely pushed back on the next server refresh. A successful mission on the whole!
Call me impressed
I wasn’t sure how Tank Crew would work out in the end but there’s two big take-aways that I’ve formed from this experience. First, the hard work of 1CGS to get the terrain up to the detail level that it needs to be has paid off. Even on a map that wasn’t intended to be used for tank battles, things hold up surprisingly well. I’m told there are the odd occurrences where there are invisible walls that block pathways but I didn’t run into any on this mission.
The best part is how seamlessly this blends in to everything else going on. You can be blissfully unaware of the tanks below you in an aircraft or interacting directly with them. The tanks on the ground can be similarly unaffected or directly affected by the air battles swirling above them. But together everyone is on one team or the other and on a mission to push back the frontlines. It’s an impressive experience that just comes together organically and I think that is the best way for a combined arms setup like this to work.
I will definitely be doing more missions like this in the future!