DGS Games

Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol

Developer: Firaxis

Publisher: 2K Games

Author: Boggit

click images to enlarge

Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol is a game about aerial combat on the Western Front during the First World War. As my prayers so far for a re-release of an updated, and revamped version of Achtung Spitfire, Over the Reich, and Flight Commander 2 have so far gone unanswered, I picked this one up as it seemed somewhat reminiscent of them.

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The Interface is intuitive and easy to learn. The game also features a “Baron-o-pedia” for extra information.

For a game about the First World War, it is a surprisingly very “PC” game for the PC. You can’t die, and you can’t kill your opponents. Following the suspension of historical accuracy is that half your pilots are women, you can play the US in 1916, and you don’t seem to have any limits on ammunition. Your opponent pilots seem to acquire combat victories at a surprising rate, even after you shoot them down several times, so that by the late war they often have more kills than your own aces – weird! That’s about the worst of it. It’s definitely NOT a “Grognard game”, but in my opinion it’s fun, and light relief – a good “Beer and Pretzels” game. As to gaming challenge, it offers five levels of difficulty from “Rookie” to “Legend”, which gives victory point multipliers for successful missions.

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The game map is clear and informative. Note the different manoeuvre options, cloud, and “Archie” cover (red hexsides). The front line is clearly evident, and can determine the fate of shot down aircrew.

Starting in 1916 you manage an alleged squadron of four aircraft! I know – more of a flight than a squadron – over four campaigns, namely the Somme, Arras, Cambrai, and the Marne, for a total of 24 missions. You can play either as American, British, French, or German. Starting planes are time appropriate, for example the British get the DH2, and the Germans the Fokker E.111. The planes are nicely drawn and coloured, and despite the slightly cartoonish appearance of it all, the graphics mesh together well, and the overall effect is quite pretty.

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Combat is resolved with 3-d animations. Here my SE5 lets rip at a Fokker D.VII

Over time you get improved planes, experimental buffs for your aircraft, and as your pilots rack up kills their manoeuvre options improve, so you can over time perform split-S’s, power dives, Immelmann turns, sideslips and the like.

Each turn during a campaign you can usually “choose” one of three missions. These can be high risk (read “suicide”, but they aren’t – because you can’t die), defensive, or offensive. Typical missions involve defending or protecting balloons, recon planes or bombers, and strafing, fighter sweeps etc. I’ve mentioned the lack of death in the game – if you get shot down, you are either captured, or wounded depending on which side of the trench lines you are on. The game effect is to deprive the player of the pleasure of the importuned characters company for a few turns until either they escape/are released, or make a recovery. Serious aircraft damage operates the same way with the character spending time repairing their “old kite”- not that replacement aircraft, or ground crews existed for that purpose…. Other nice features include flak zones, and clouds where you can hide – it goes the other way too for your opponent. At first glance, multiplayer by PBEM, or Internet don’t seem to be supported – but two player hot-seat battles are.

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Combat occurs when you are in range, and in an appropriate aspect to an enemy. Several factors determine damage.

Other nice features of the game include clear, attractive graphics, character progression and skills, 3-D animations of combat, and the manoeuvre options available. It is a very engaging game, and is a lot of fun. It is not a serious wargame, but if you can overcome that, it’s refreshingly different. Turned based WW1 air wargames are rare, and whilst I like Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol, it made me wish all the more that a developer would take things a few stages further and re-make air war games like Achtung Spitfire, Over the Reich, and Flight Commander 2, but with the attractiveness of Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol.

The Grumpy Grog says “This is a power dive to some light hearted fun.”

2 Responses to Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol

  1. Krol says:

    It seems like every review mentions the historical inaccuracy of starting the US campaign in 1916, except well, American pilots fought in 1916 under France with the Lafayette Escadrille, a mostly All American volunteer squadron.

    • Boggit says:

      Very true. It’s a fair comment.

      However, the Lafayette Escadrille were under French command until early 1918, and were formally part of the French Air Service. In essence, an aerial Foreign Legion, and with a French commander too. American volunteers flew in other French squadrons as well.

      As the United States did not join the conflict until 1917, and the American volunteers flew under the command, direction, and most importantly as an integral part of the French Forces in 1916, it seems appropriate for reviewers to comment that the 1916 American campaign is ahistorical.

      Conversely, and whilst at short notice I can find no evidence for volunteer American pilots flying for the German Air Service, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some did. An interesting speculation though…?

      Regards
      Boggit 🙂

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