My engine is on fire and my crew are panicking as we are being shot to ribbons by 10 enemy pilots, flying at us from all the angles under the sun. I instantly had what can only be described as a complete loss of hope. I pointed my stick towards the ground and closed my eyes. All my crew died and I sat there staring at the screen wondering what just happened.
This was Bomber Crew and the tough times were only just beginning.
Bomber Crew is best described as a ‘Roguelike RTS World War 2 Flight Sim’. And before I hear your collective ‘wuh?’s, you only need play it once to see what I mean. The game lulls you into a false sense of security with its cute blocky graphics. Do not be fooled though; Bomber Crew is mean, nasty and will put you through the ringer before you can yell ‘Kill the Jerrys’.
You start off on an RAF base and there you are able to choose crew members to take on next mission, give them gear and train them if need be. If you fancy it, you can also jazz up your plane with different colours and decals to give it extra flair as you go on your bombing runs. A short tutorial guides though the basics of flying your plane and managing your crew. A 3 tier zoom system is in place and zooming in and out of each sections grants access to different commands. Essentially, it’s just a case of sending Crewperson ‘A’ to sit on gun turret ‘B’ while Pilot ‘C’ is sat at the front making sure the plane goes in the right direction. Later on, you will need to send engineers to certain parts of the plane to ensure they are being maintained or supplying turrets with more bullets. You never actually fly the plane yourself. When zoomed out, pointing the target in a certain direction and clicking a button, will order your pilot to follow that direction. The same goes for actually shooting targets down. It’s not just a case of aim and shoot. Targets need to be painted so your crew can auto target them. During the tutorial level, this all seems to work fine in principle. Come mission two however, the gloves are off and every pilot in the universe is after the souls of your crew (see beginning story). Everything can get hectic very quickly and without a pause action button, you really are having to think on your feet. Not a bad thing but it requires some practice and patience.
RTS games will always require on the fly thinking and decision making. This is no different. It doesn’t however feel as intuitive as your typical run-of-the-mil RTS experience. I played this on PS4 and couldn’t help thinking how much more I would have enjoyed it using a keyboard and mouse. On a side note, this was originally released on PC and I couldn’t help thinking that’s probably the preferred experience.
Losing crew can be a massive set back and I think the deal here is you are supposed to not get too attached to your team. A bit like X-Com or Darkest Dungeon, losing a vital member is a pain set in stone and remembered. At least those games give you the chance (with their turned based mechanics) to make sure you are making the right decisions before you commit. Here though you are forced into a panic, and losing someone because you felt there was no other option is crushing.
Overall, Bomber Crew is not a bad game. It definitely has a lot to offer but I just don’t think its very user friendly; something which is key in fast paced strategy games. I’m sure after many hours of practice, touring the skies whilst commanding your crew with inhuman accuracy would become second nature; but for myself with the short time I had, I found myself getting very frustrated. I felt like I wasn’t picking the mechanics up quick enough and it made me just want to put it down. Games that keep people interested, usually have a good hook within the first hour or two and a steady learning curve that won’t put people off. The difficulty spike here left me feeling a little sour. A game like Dark Souls where you die a lot or other Roguelikes where you lose characters always leave you with a taste that’s moreish enough to push you forward. I didn’t get that here. I lost everything and just felt like giving up. If you have plenty of time on your hands and a Zen-like level of patience then by all means please give this a go. Otherwise it’s probably best you save yourself the stress of crashing that plane you spent half hour customising.
Bomber Crew was reviewed on PS4 and is out now!