IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles most recent patch has brought a significant new feature to the sim and for single player virtual pilots, this feature is likely to have attracted a fair bit of attention. Now that the new system is available, I want to dig into the features, talk about what it offers, and see how it adds to the types of gameplay that you can find in the series. Let’s have a look!
What is it and how do you interact with it?
The advanced quick mission builder. We’ve called it AQM, AQMB, and probably a few other acronyms but suffice to say that the new system is designed and intended to get people flying and having some fun quickly.
Doesn’t the Quick Mission Builder (QMB) do that? It does, but in specific instances. In the past, when you selected a map you could pick a single aircraft on its own, a duel, or a multi-aircraft engagement that maxes out with an 8 v 8. Tank duels are also a possibility. Nearly all of these scenarios have very specific scenarios in mind. The aforementioned 8 v 8 lets you get into some nice multi aircraft dogfights but the other uses are limited when you want to do, say a bridge attack or a combat air patrol over a specific zone. And that’s where the AQM comes in.
The AQM is another option on the Quick Mission Builder map. Click it and the map changes dramatically with frontlines, army and air force organizations, and a nod to the history of the scenario. I really like this and it elevates the history of the events being portrayed.
Next you choose your aircraft. The maps have a list that are rooted in the history of the scenario. Pick the Rhineland map and you’ll get a mix of the Bodenplatte and Normandy aircraft. Kuban features primarily Kuban aircraft with a few from other eastern front titles and so on.
Then you choose the type of mission you want to fly. The available options are many:
- Intercept bombers;
- Intercept ground attack planes;
- Intercept transport planes;
- Escort bombers;
- Escort ground attack planes;
- Column attack;
- Artillery position attack;
- Train attack;
- Airfield attack;
- Anti-shipping attack;
- Ground troops support;
- Ships support;
- Ships cover;
- Cargo delivery;
- Cargo paradrop;
- Special mission squad paradrop;
- Artillery position bombing strike;
- Railway station bombing strike;
- Airfield bombing strike;
- Supply dump bombing strike;
- Bridge bombing strike;
Finally, pick the time and weather and then hit fly.
What’s the advantage of the AQM?
The big advantage of the system is the very limited amount of things that you need to do before you’re up and flying. The Career mode is still the go-to when you want to fly a series of missions with a persistent pilot, squadron and aircraft type.
Say you just want to fly a single mission in the P-51D Mustang escorting some bombers? You can just do it. You don’t need to create a new Career to have that experience. The next day you might want to fly a ground attack mission in a Bf110E over the Moscow map and you can just go and do that.
Although some have lamented that you can’t choose the opposition beyond selecting the amount of resistance, I think this is a good thing. Enemy forces are chosen based on the scenario and there’s a random element here so you may run into any number of types of enemy aircraft and you never really know exactly what you might face. It’s great!
Missions that I’ve flown
My first AQM mission was in the Typhoon on the Rhineland map. I set my target as a bridge and I had limited time so the mission started in the air. Within 10 minutes we had arrived at the target, my wingmates had adeptly struck the target, and the Spitfire XIV fighter escort had successfully tangled with and kept a group of Fw190A-6’s and D-9’s off of us while we did the attack. With the bombs gone and the Typhoons still fully armed with 20mm canons, we joined in the fight. I scored four kills, destroyed a secondary bridge, and flew home to mission success. Very fun!
In another mission, I flew a Bf109F-2 over a wintry Moscow map with the objective of intercepting some Pe-2s on their way to strike a target. Thing quickly got hectic as the Pe-2 flight with MiG-3 escort was joined in the combat area by a second strike group featuring IL-2’s with a P-40 escort. Good thing I brought 5 wingmates. The ensuing brawl was intense and even epic. A wingmate nailed a Pe-2 while I damaged two before running out of ammo.
Back over the Rhineland map in a airfield strike mission. The weapon of choice? An Me262! I rarely fly this aircraft as its rarely available in multiplayer and I have long neglected my Me262 career. But with the AQM I was just able to jump in and fly. It was a challenging mission and it saw us intercepted by P-38s at the initial point leading to a chase and a big air battle with Bf109s, P-38s and our Me262s over the target airbase.
I also flew a Yak-1B escorting IL-2s over Kuban, an A-20B on a strike mission on the same map, and a Hs129B-2 on an anti-shipping mission along the Volga on the Stalingrad map at dawn.
It seems like a simple thing but the AQM is actually a big deal for IL-2. With a significant portion of the sim community sticking with single player, AQM adds tremendously to the value of the single player proposition for IL-2: Great Battles. It adds to the ways that people can experience the sim.
Above that, this is really well executed as a feature. The missions themselves are a cut above anything that we saw from the old Campaign system that the AQM is based on. They have enough going on in them to make them feel like real missions. They feel just like the latest scripted campaigns and the updates to the Career mode missions which is just great. Finally, I like the added aesthetic with the frontlines and army groups printed on the map.
The only thing that I want to see from AQM? More maps to be added to the support list. High on the list? The new Flying Circus maps when those come (both sectors please!). AQM will be a terrific thing for Flying Circus and giving the single player more meat with this package. There’s also Velikie Luki and Prokhorovka maps that could really benefit. Finally, if Tank Crew could somehow connect with this feature in the future I think it too would add tremendously to the single player experience there.
It’s a good sign when I feel like I want more because the work to date has been extremely worthwhile. This is a great feature and a substantial boost for Great Battles. Check it out!