A look around Flying Circus’ Western Front 1918 map

Released in late November with Update 5.003 for the IL-2 Great Battles Series, the Western Front 1918 map is one more step towards recreating the original content of Rise of Flight in the upgraded Great Battles simulation engine. I thought it’d be fun to have a look at the map and see what it offers!

Overview

The exact plan for Flying Circus and its maps are a bit murky at the moment. Advertised on the store is the addition of a large Western Front map with 120,00 sq. km of territory included and this new map release incorporates quite a bit of the original Rise of Flight map into this upgraded version.

Not content to do offer just a sector in a new area, this new map features two zones with plenty of detail baked into them and then a surrounding area with fewer details.

This is consistent with what was announced when Flying Circus Vol 2 was revealed and the plan for Volume II and III came into a little bit of focus. What we don’t know is if this plan is still on track or if it is no longer on the way. Hopefully we’ll learn that over the next few months but you can see what the original plan was with an Arras Sector and Verdun Sector filled in and a future Reims Sector completed for Vol III.

Looking at the airfields

I’m breaking this down not as a tour of the map, sector by sector, but by looking at different elements and aspects of the map and I want to start with airfields.

Ugra Media I know are particularly proud of some of the details and landmarks that they have put into the original Arras Sector map and I see more of the same here with lots of little details to appreciate. On the airfields we have some very typical buildings scattered around the various fields with some good details for tie-downs on the tents and lots of little objects like boxes, lifts, and other miscellaneous details. I’ve also spotted gates, fences, and bicycles scattered around.

I did spot some things that appear to be new objects at some of the airfields. Or at least, I hadn’t seen them before. Have a look for yourself!

Cities and towns

Spending most of my time looking around at the new Verdun sector, there is a good mix of towns and cities on this map. Verdun, located right on the edge of the no-mans-land is a particular standout but there’s also Nancy, Metz, Thionville, Bar-le-duc, and Charleville all located inside the detail zone.

These are all essentially a standard affair for the IL-2 Great Battles and Flying Circus series. They look good with good asset quality that stands up and is consistent across everything else in the series while not packing in too many details to slow the combat down too much. It’s a delicate balance and it means that the sim isn’t going to offer jaw dropping visuals in these areas but they do hold up well as you zoom around in a dogfight.

The Ugra Media team have been pretty good at blending smaller buildings on the outskirts with larger buildings in the city core. Better than much of what’s seen on the Rhineland map and more in keeping with the quality of Normandy’s map instead.

Most cities have a church or cathedral as a landmark.

Railway stations, a key aspect of many a European city or town, get particular attention with lots of custom objects from signal towers, telegraph poles, railway platforms, and water towers.

Landmarks and no-mans-land

The map also does a decent if not spectacular job with landmarks scattered around the map. The biggest landmark is no-mans-land, the multi-kilometre wide swath of obliterated ground after four years of shelling and combat. Its the defining feature of the western front and it runs through the whole of this map.

Bare and dead trees, pockmarked ground, rows of bunkers and razorwire, all get modelled here. Now, just like with the original Arras map, there are some caveats to performance and you aren’t going to see dug trenches with soldiers in them. That’s just painted on. So are the artillery shell craters.

It’s not an improvement over the last map but it’s serviceable when you’re dogfighting over it.

There are some, what appear to be new, buildings that I haven’t spotted before. There’s a bunker complex or a fortification that appears to be burned out or shelled. It’s not super detailed but it does look pretty good especially several are scattered around.

One other landmark stood out to me. Located in Thionville is a large industrial center with some very cool looking buildings. I assume this is the local iron ore industry that was build up at the turn of the 20th century. It looks awesome from a distance and even better up close. It also offers a potential strategic target for formations of bombers.

Finally, red triangles on the map seem to indicate army bases. These have plenty of objects including huts, temporary structures, guard towers, and more. There’s even a pathway texture that blends in with the surrounding terrain that often snakes its way through these bases. They look cool and offer more potential targets for scenario creators.

Final thoughts

Although not revolutionary, the Western Front Spring 1918 map is a pretty good improvement to the recreation of Rise of Flight in the guise of the Flying Circus series. The new Verdun sector has some unique landmarks, buildings, and industrial zones, that help offer some distinguishing factors from the Arras sector that we’ve become very familiar with. It’s also an area with more elevation changes and more twists and turns in the no-mans-land area offering a bit more variety and interest than the almost entirely east/west divide in the Arras area.

Speaking of the Arras sector, it too has been enlarged from the original version on offer with Flying Circus Vol 1. That this map is now available to owners of both products also boosts the overall value of both versions of Flying Circus which is a huge bonus in my mind!

While the map is largely more of the same from this now well trodden sim, I’m still very pleased to see what we’ve got here. It’s a bit unclear but I am hoping that the additional seasonal variants take us beyond springtime and let us experience this from the fall, winter and summer months too. Rise of Flight had that on offer and so… I hope we’ll see that here too.

This map also portents the later release of Career mode for Flying Circus which will be a huge boon to the series’ single player. Looking forward to that day!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Snowy says:

    I’m very pleased to see this expansion in Flying Circus. Thanks for the list of new features which I will check out. I think Ugra Media have kept the balance right. My VR flying experience in FC is very good indeed. I’m enjoying the Vol II aircraft and looking forward to the Snipe.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Raptorattacker says:

    As usual many good points veru well thought out and put Shamrock!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raptorattacker says:

      ‘VERY’ of course!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Blue 5 says:

    Though your enthusiasm is always uplifting, I infer that it is a little flat. TBH there is nothing here that would convince me to buy FC Vol. Deux. I cannot see much that a map-maker can do, balancing what is in some ways very complex terrain with the utility of what is seem from an aircraft. Painted on is, frankly, probably the best solution.

    I have to say that the artillery and fortified objects look terrible. Anyone building something like that would get the shit shot out of them very quickly. To me they are akin to Il-2 1946 levels. Which is a shame, but maybe that is it. Could they have looked at the maps – even the RFC photos – of Beaumont Hamel, Hawthorn ridge and similar? Would be a good guide for this.

    This evening I’ll take a SPAD and wander over Verdun. If Vaux and Douaumant are absent then I wash my hands of the series.

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Fortunately, even if you have Vol 1 you’ll still have the map and the new Career mode that’s forthcoming. So I do think it’s a pretty good net benefit for everyone even if … it’s mostly what we’ve seen before.

      Like

  4. Paul Baeumer says:

    Nice write up. The active community seems appreciative of the attention with an overall positive reception especially the opportunity to fly in the Verdun sector after several years in Arras.

    Speaking of Arras, the update unveiled new suprises not least of which was the gem that is Boistrancourt Chateau including historical hangars and the factory!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I don’t think I spotted the chateau. I will have a have a look!

      Like

  5. Novice-Flyer says:

    My two cents on what FC III may be
    a). Has the Reims sector and the remaining RoF planes save for the Russian planes and seaplanes
    b). Another front (Channel, Eastern, or Italian) is introduced with the devs doing most of the map work

    Novice (known on the IL-2 Forums as Enceladus)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. SYN_Vander says:

    FYI there are several more models you can highlight which should be well know to any WW1 enthousiast:
    The abbey at Mont St Eloi which was a well know landmark for RFC pilots. The Bertangles chateau, Boistrancourt chateau, airfield and factory (J5 home ground), Cappy mansion (where von Richthofen spent his last night), Roucourt chateau, the Cloth hall in Ypers, Lille has several unique buildings from the opera to the chamber of commerce. In addition, several very visible slag heaps and mining buildings have been added to the Bethune-Lens area.

    Like

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