On November 18, 2001, 1C and Ubisoft released a brand-new flight sim from a little-known development studio based in Russia. Maddox Games’ IL-2 Sturmovik introduced a series of firsts into the flight simulation market with its focus on the eastern front and, to most of us in the west, a little known attack aircraft called the Ilyushin IL-2. Now, 20-years on the series is still going strong!
Back in the old days
When I first heard about IL-2 Sturmovik I was like, I think, many people who dismissed it. A new flight sim from a studio in Russia about a Russian aircraft that I didn’t know very much about. I had read about it one of the various aircraft encyclopedia’s that I had but it didn’t capture my imagination like the stories of Spitfires and Hurricanes challenging the Bf109 for control of the skies during the Battle of Britain.
After Combat Flight Simulator 3 proved to be critically buggy, many in the community went looking for other options and IL-2 Sturmovik had a demo that easily won me over. The interface was spartan but workable, the aircraft flew well, the damage model was impressive, the music… unforgettably quirky. But what I most loved was the sensation of flight that the series offered.
Introduction to the east
One of the biggest breakthroughs that the series had was introducing many of us to the eastern front of World War II in a way that most of us had never been exposed to before. I had heard of the MiG-3 and the IL-2 and the famous Battle of Stalingrad but little else. It was a vague piece of history for me until the sim started me down the path of reading the real history.
From learning about legendary aircraft types like the LaGG-3, La-5/7, Yak-1, 3, 7 and 9, the Pe-2, DB-3 and IL-4 to what I could now say is the much more famous IL-2 (in the west). Today it seems almost incredulous that we knew about the legends of the west like the Spitfire, Bf109, and Mustang but the 36,000 strong IL-2 Sturmovik production line getting almost no attention. Of course, times change, information on what happened in the past began to flow more freely, and IL-2 Sturmovik was right there at the right time to help tell us that story.
Up to the modern day
Now 20-years later, IL-2 Sturmovik still lives on. The initial release was followed by Forgotten Battles (2003), Ace Expansion Pack (2004), Pacific Fighters (2004), and finally IL-2: 1946 which combined all of the content from the previous iterations of the game together with content unreleased in the west in the form of Sturmoviks Over Manchuria and Pe-2 together with 1946 themed content. This final iteration of the title is still around today and is sold on the Steam Store.
Numerous mod packs were introduced around this time and a group of developers from the community, known as Daidalos Team, also released several official patches. Fun fact, I developed the Hawk 75 campaign and the QMB mission templates for the Soloman Islands QMB scenarios when I was part of the Daidalos Team group. That was in addition to a lot of campaign content which you can still find on Mission4Today.
After the original series came out, Maddox Games turned to create a second generation title centered around the Battle of Britain. This would eventually become the initially maligned IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover. Although the title never gained traction like the first generation did, it has in recent years held onto a core following and finally reached its potential thanks to the modders turned developers over at Team Fusion Simulations when they re-released the sim under the name IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover Blitz Edition.
The story for Cliffs of Dover and the follow up Desert Wings – Tobruk is not over as Team Fusion continues to develop for their sim with new technologies including VR planned for release at some point in the future.
Meanwhile, IL-2 Sturmovik’s original spirit was resurrected under a new development studio in the form of 1C Game Studios with the initial IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad release forming what would become the first of several Great Battles series releases. And as many of you know, that story is nowhere near being over as the series’ initial release in 2013 has lead to Battle of Moscow, Kuban, Bodenplatte, Normandy and spawned connected titles in the form of Flying Circus Vol 1 and 2 and Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovka.
The future seems bright for the IL-2 Sturmovik series. May it last another 20-years!