This year has not been the year that we expected and for fans of DCS World it has been one with its share of ups and downs. As fans of the series we’ve seen some impressive releases, flawed patches, and a regrouping and reorganizing of the series update schedule. There were also a few new releases this year and some new content to enjoy so let’s take a moment to have a look at DCS World in 2020, note some of the highlights and the challenges, and then look to what 2021 is set to bring us. This is my DCS World 2020 year in review!
New content, new modules, and a few challenges
DCS World has had a year that can be described only as a roller coaster with high points and low points. The story begins on a high point with the release of DCS: Supercarrier in early March. Supercarrier was the module that I didn’t know that I needed and one that impressed even some of its early detractors by releasing in such a state that it hasn’t needed significant patches since release.
Although we are waiting on some additional features to release at some point in the future, the early access version available right now has already exceeded my expectations. Read my full review of the early access version right here.
And then… in March, our worlds changed and Eagle Dynamics, like most companies, had to adapt to working from home and shifting their business. At they same time, they also recognized that times have been tough for the community that has been built up around this sim.
One of the highlights of the year was Eagle Dynamics “Free for All Month” with numerous models available to try for free on a rolling basis from April 18th to May 18th and it was a highlight for me during a particularly challenging part of this pandemic experience. Eagle Dynamics event, together with some inspiring words from Eagle Dynamics co-founder Nick Grey, shone a bright light on dark times.
Also in March, we saw the release of the DCS: FW190A-8 ‘Anton’ out of early access and into completed development. This release saw the aircraft gain its air to ground punch with several bomb options added to the mix. Major development was finished, however, the Anton has seen several more updates through the year and most recently saw its engine modeling pick up more nuance and more detail.
Months of challenges
The spring of 2020 is also when DCS World ran into some troubles of its own. DCS World 2.5.6 came out in February and introduced a new lighting system and some big changes under the hood. Although the initial changes impressed, subsequent patches and a difficult to maintain patch schedule caused performance issues and graphical glitches to multiply to the point where many players were struggling to play DCS World at all.
It also caused me to ask if a rethink of the open beta/public release system for DCS World was really working or if it was adding to confusion and community discontent. Although that wasn’t a popular opinion, there was near consensus in the community and apparently within Eagle Dynamics too that changes were needed. In June, it was announced that Eagle Dynamics would slow their release schedules and enhance their testing regimen.
This was a low point for the series but also a turning point. At the end of 2020, Eagle Dynamics appear to have shaken off many of the problems from the spring and have emerged all the stronger for it.
More new content comes out
In June, Eagle Dynamics had twin releases of new DCS WWII content with the DCS: P-47 Thunderbolt and DCS: The Channel Map becoming available as part of their early access program. The Channel is very similar to the other DCS WWII map, Normandy, but with a focus on the south eastern part of England and across the channel to France and it is a visual wonder to behold.
Meanwhile, the P-47D Thunderbolt brought together some of the best of Eagle Dynamics aircraft modeling to put together an impressive aircraft release. The early access module has been improved over the year adding two additional models (the D-30 Early and the D-40) and is now considered a fully released module. It was also the module to help usher in a new era of high fidelity DCS World damage modeling.
In November, Eagle Dynamics offered a new version of their most highly regarded DCS World module with an upgrade to the A-10C. DCS: A-10C II Thunderbolt is available now as a full module sold separately. Owners of the earlier version are able to do an upgrade to the new version and for a while, Eagle Dynamics made that upgrade just $10 at launch – an update that, I thought, was well worth the price.
The updated A-10C II comes with a revamped exterior model and texture set, new cockpit textures (in addition to the new textures added to the older version), and new avionics including the Scorpion HMD which gives the A-10C impressive and unparalleled situational awareness.
Also out in November, Heatblur released a long awaited update for their DCS: F-14 module by adding the F-14A-135-GR (Late) to DCS World. This version of the F-14 is almost identical to the F-14B that we’ve been flying around for over a year now with one key difference – lower powered and more troublesome TF-30 engines.
Heatblur intends to offer two more F-14 variants at some point later in the future along with their Forrestal-class carrier and AI A-6 Intruder. I was impressed with the F-14A’s character and have enjoyed having both versions of the Tomcat around to fly.
2020 also saw significant updates from RAZBAM for the DCS: AV-8B Harrier which elicited some controversy by declaring the module out of early access – and then introducing significant updates anyways. It was also the year that Leatherneck Studios saw updates break their DCS: MiG-21bis radar and where they were able to finally fix the radar in one of the last updates before the end of the year.
The DCS: F-16C Viper gained new features including the ability to carry and fire the AGM-65 Maverick, upgraded targeting pod capabilities, and a basic implementation of the AGM-88 HARM in HAS mode. It was also a year where the F/A-18C Hornet closed in on being feature complete with updates to everything from the jet’s radar, to automatic IFF, and updates to the jet’s JHMCS display.
I’m not forgetting DCS: Syria which was one of the biggest releases that I think we’ll be affecting the DCS World sim for years to come. The map was developed by Ugra Media, whose first DCS: Normandy map didn’t really come together at first but finally reached its potential in 2020, and raised the bar for detail in DCS World maps. DCS: Syria isn’t finished as the team behind it has committed to adding a Cyprus and increasing the available ocean area for enhanced carrier battles. This map will very likely come into its own next year as more multiplayer servers and single player campaigns make use of the new map.
There were also some big releases this year for campaigns including Baltic Dragon’s DCS: Raven One Campaign for the DCS: F/A-18C Hornet (and Supercarrier and Persian Gulf) and Reflected Simulations Horrido campaign for DCS: FW190A-8 (and DCS: The Channel Map) among others.
It wasn’t a perfect year for DCS World, but it was a good year for quite a few modules when we look at everything in the end.
Looking to 2021
Eagle Dynamics has plenty of new content planned for 2021 including the DCS: Mosquito, the DCS: Mi-24P Hind, and some core engine updates including the new cloud and weather systems which will be phased in over time through the year and beyond.
2021 is the year that we should see the DCS: F/A-18C Hornet get to completion or reach very close to it and will hopefully be the year that the DCS: F-16C also comes into its own as its systems and features are filled out and new capabilities added.
I think this is the year that we’ll see RAZBAM’s plans for DCS: South Atlantic start to bear fruit and where they finally fully reveal their new DCS: F-15E Strike Eagle and DCS: MiG-23MLA modules. We’ll see developers like Leatherneck show off and maybe even release their DCS: F4U-1D Corsair and reveal more details on their F-8J Crusader. AvioDev now turned Aerges will show us in 2021 what they are capable of with their new Mirage F-1. Polychop will also hopefully release their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. Finally, I look forward to seeing plenty of new updates from TrueGrit, one of the newest developers, as they work towards getting their DCS: Typhoon off the ground.
There may also be surprises from developers like Deka Ironworks who have been working away on the DCS: China Asset Pack, the DCS: JF-17 and a new module that we know will be something different than their work on the JF-17 with Deka revealing only that the new aircraft will not have screens in the way the the JF-17 does. We’ll see what happens in 2021!
Those were the highlights of 2020 as I saw it. What were your highlights? Let me know in the comments!
EDIT: I’ve been reminded about FlyingIron’s A-7 and somehow I completely blanked on Eagle Dynamics AH-64D Apache Longbow. And the UH-1’s multi-crew additions. These should all make for some interesting updates through 2021 and beyond.