Let’s Crash in Rise of Flight, Part One

I recently acquired Rise of Flight in an IndieGala bundle for $6. What I thought was going to be a grognardy, overly-hardcore simulator experience actually turned out to be a lot of fun! So much fun I decided to make a foray into the game’s campaign mode.

Flying an ill-designed box-kite with a propellor attached has never been prettier.
Flying an ill-designed box-kite with a propellor attached has never been prettier.

In the campaign you take the role of a pilot fighting over the Western Front in the First World War. As a member of any of the active squadrons the game chooses to simulate, you engage in dynamically generated missions from combat patrols to recon sweeps and bombing runs, depending on your aircraft. I decided to record my campaign experiences playing as Sergeant Tommy Sparrow, a plucky young British fighter pilot named after the least threatening bird I could think of, in what will hopefully be a series of blog posts (assuming I don’t get killed in his first couple of missions).

I began my military career as a member of 56 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Formed on the 8th of June 1916, 56 Squadron was posted to France in April of 1917 and stationed at an airfield not far from Estrée-Blanche, in the idyllic French countryside. Unfortunately, for the first two days of the campaign a thunderstorm grounded all flights so I was left hitting the “Next Day” button hoping for some action. Thankfully, two days later on the 17th of July 1917, a Tuesday to be precise (Rise of Flight’s campaign is a day-by-day recreation), combat operations resume and I’m rostered to the very first flight that morning.

With two Captains and a Lieutenant, this is a pretty top-heavy flight.
With two Captains and a Lieutenant, this is a pretty top-heavy flight.

Thrown out of bed at a time which is far, far too early for any sane human-being to be awake, the pilots clamber into the cockpits of their assigned aircraft only to be met with more levers, gauges and pedals than a steampunk cosplayer’s wardrobe.

Nothing in this canvas bucket is correctly labeled.
Nothing in this canvas bucket is correctly labeled.

56 Squadron are flying the S.E.5a, an experimental biplane with a dodgy engine and an eccentric weapons loadout featuring one gun mounted on the top wing and another to the left on the front of the fuselage, making it difficult to shoot at anything and frustrating to reload. With enough waggling, prodding, poking and hair-pulling (or mashing the keyboard as the case may be), I manage to get the machine to start. After a bit of wobbling and wing-scraping around the aerodrome (joysticks are hard, hurhur), I figure out how to point the control stick in the “up” direction and the experimental fighter lurches uncomfortably into the sky. First on the agenda is regrouping with the rest of the squadron who have rather inconsiderately left me behind.

It sure was considerate of the engineers to put the engine exhaust in front of the pilot.
It sure was nice of the engineers to put the engine exhaust in front of the pilot.

After a lot more wobbling around and a complete inability to stay in any kind of cohesive formation, the patrol is off to an auspicious start. Careening over the vast brown mass known as the “front line”, I catch sight of the rest of the squadron engaged in a fierce dogfight with four German planes: two single-seat fighters and two twin-seat reconnaissance aircraft. While my squad-mates seem entranced with the fighters’ rather interesting methods of flying…

I hope they remembered to fasten their seatbelts.
I hope they remembered to fasten their seatbelts.

…I choose to pounce on one of the recon planes hoping they’ll make easier prey. After wobbling around some more in pursuit of a target that is theoretically much less manoeuvrable than myself, I manage to plant myself on the tail of one bosch flier for about as long as it takes for me to remember that my plane is also theoretically much faster.

Whoops.
Whoops.

Choosing to re-educate myself on the intricacies of the throttle (particularly the throttling down bit), I reorient myself for another attack. Slipping onto my target’s tail rather more smoothly this time, I finger the trigger. What I get in return is three rounds before my guns jam. Cursing the stupidity of the engineers who designed such a ridiculous aircraft, I start mashing the reload/unjam button, forgetting that the enemy tailgunner has been patiently watching me throughout all of this. He unleashes a quick burst and I’m given a face full of engine oil.

Brilliant.
Brilliant.

The engine begins sputtering and vomiting out smoke while the temperature gauge spins up so far into confusing imperial measurements I toss my calculator over the side. Gone are my hopes of medals and accolades from squad-mates at my heroic destruction of a German warplane, replaced with a dread that my fragile canvas and wood flying machine may meet the ground rather quickly with me inside. At least if this was a World War II simulator I’d have a parachute. No such luxury here.

The engine gives a last feeble gurgle before completely dying. As the oil clears from my goggles, I realise I’m going to have to land my plane unpowered. Thankfully, it’s barely heavier than a winged wheelbarrow give or take the hundreds of kilos of engine, so it shouldn’t be that difficult. I gently lose altitude, trying to keep the nose of the plane pointed towards the horizon and the landing gear pointed towards the ground and make a relatively soft touchdown in a random field.

Emphasis on "relatively".
Emphasis on “relatively”.

Miraculously, Sergeant Sparrow manages to walk away from what I’ll call my creative landing procedure without a scratch. Thus ends my first foray into aerial combat. Hopefully next time I’ll spare the paintwork.

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