A fellow pilot has dropped it into the English Channel, go drop them a supply package to help them survive, easy! You couldn’t be further from the truth. Bomber Crew’s cartoony, cutesy exterior hides a very tough, hectic aircraft crew management sim that will have you tearing your hair out.
I first tried “Bomber Crew” at EGX this year and was thoroughly impressed with the short demo. At first sight, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was like FTL: Faster Than Light in a World War II setting. Sure, you manage your crew, assigning them different roles on your bomber while trying to complete the set mission. That’s where the comparison ends though. You can’t pause the action at will like you can in FTL to issue orders. In other words, you have to do everything in real-time, and that’s where the mayhem (and sometimes fun) really kicks off.
The game eases you in with a quick tutorial to show you the main game mechanics, and then you’re straight into your first mission. You pick your crew and are assigned your first bomber. You can customize it a little, giving the plane your own personal touch. Straight away I thought back to the 90’s film, “Memphis Belle” (it’s well worthy of a watch if you have never seen it before). Your plane sits at the end of the runway ready for take-off, and you’re away. Simply put, the crew’s actions (and lives) are now in your hands.
The interface is really easy to use. You can either click on each crew member’s avatar in the plane or their name on the left-hand side of the screen. Each role opens up a menu of available actions at the bottom of the screen to execute. For instance, as your plane sits ready at the end of the runway, you click on the pilot and command him to take off. As the plane speeds down the runway and lifts up into the air, you need to command the pilot to raise the landing gear (or you’ll start using fuel quicker) while your navigator plots a new course, press Space to switch to navigation view and home in on the new target.
The plane changes course and you’re off, easy! However, as you leave good ol’ Blighty, anything can happen. As your navigator continues to plot new courses, the radar operator might spot incoming fighters. So it’s advisable at this point to switch back to navigation view to find the enemies, that way your gunners will open fire and home in on them. Meanwhile, you’re nearing your objective so you might need to get your bomber into position to open the bomb-bay doors. While your gunners are firing, your pilot’s flying and your navigator’s picking off new targets to fly towards, you need to keep an eye on the bomber view camera to drop the package on the right spot.
That’s just the half of it though. You see, that’s not the end of it. You might think it’s a simple case of heading home, but those fighters might still be out there, or another target becomes available, maybe a photo opportunity for more recon points (needed to unlock upgrades later). Suddenly, a fire breaks out in one of the engines, so who do you send to put it out? Lose a gunner and risk further damage? The engineer but then the electrics might go down? I think you get the idea!
What started out as a seemingly easy mission will soon have you sweating and stressing over every action. However, that’s where you feel the real rewards, because as my plane limped home from a particularly brutal Luftwaffe attack, I felt relief and elation at getting everyone home safely. As I continued to partake in more and more missions and skill up my crew more and more, I was becoming very attached to each and every one of them. Every action I was taking would have consequences and I didn’t want to lose a single member. The developers had really annoyed me here. So I felt completely responsible for these seven people’s lives and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that amount of pressure!
Every mission involves a vast array of decisions for you to make in a very short space of time. Not just which crew member to use in each situation but do you drop your bombs from a high altitude to avoid the flak cannons but decrease the window of opportunity to drop them or fly at a lower altitude, making it easier to drop the bombs but making yourself a bigger target for the ground guns?
Every completed mission rewards you with money to buy equipment for your crew and plane while recon points open up new upgrades available to you. The missions ramp up in difficulty pretty quickly but you can replay some of the early missions over and over to grind out some extra recon and money to keep upgrading your plane.
Pretty quickly you’ll find your carefully constructed plane nose-diving into the ground as it’s ripped to shreds by the enemies. A crash means restarting, rebuilding your bomber and replaying the mission over again. This became very frustrating but you soon learn to change your strategy, reflecting on what went wrong last time and trying a different approach. Bomber Crew has a knack of making every outcome feel fair though. There are so many options available to you that a change here or there will change a dire failure into a resounding success.
If I had one criticism of the game it’s the interface, I often found myself clicking on the wrong crew member or not knowing what some actions would do until I’d executed them and this sometimes resulted in the loss of crew members or, worse still, the entire plane. This may have been down to some lack of skill on my part, especially in the heat of battle, but you’d like to think that, if I were on that plane, I’d be shouting out orders nice and clearly and everyone would know exactly what they were doing rather than the pilot, all of a sudden, taking a wander to the back of the plane because I’d clicked on him rather than my engineer!
Nevertheless, all in all I have to say that Runner Duck’s have managed to create a very good and entertaining strategic survival sim with “Bomber Crew”. So do yourself a big favor and buy the game as soon as possible. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
+ Great action, keeps you on your toes right from the off
+ Becoming attached to your crew means you’ll do all you can to keep them all alive
+ Plenty of variation in the missions
+ Lots to unlock and a solid upgrade path keeps you coming back for more
– Interface difficult to use at times
– Brutally difficult at times
– You have to start from scratch with a new plane if you lose your last one
Replay value: 5/5
I have enjoyed Runner Duck’s strategic survival sim “Bomber Crew” a whole lot. However, the game gets pretty difficult very quickly, but ultimately it’s a very rewarding experience. You find yourself doing all you can to keep your crew alive, even if it means emergency landing in occupied territory. The cutesy, cartoony graphics hide a really in-depth, complex game. Losing an established plane can be extremely frustrating, but it just makes you rethink your strategy and try and do better next time (that’s something that some of our heroic WWII crews sadly never got the chance to do). Go buy this now, you won’t regret it!
Title: Bomber Crew
Developer: Runner Duck
Genre: Strategy simulation
Release date: 2017-10-19
Spent time: 20+ Hours
PEGI age rating: 3+
Install Size: 500MB
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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