Comanche Steadily Expands Single Player Campaign
Updated: Sep 23
Comanche (2020) continues to evolve during its early access period. The developers and community team members of NUKKLEAR have been receptive to feedback and requests from their early access user base. The changes and additions to Comanche from March through December 2020 result from voting, Discord discussions, and general feedback on the game. A third-person camera view has been added, new drone skins, improved flight controls, custom button mapping, flight assist programs, and advanced controller support was introduced (joysticks, flight sticks). Even native support for several Thrustmaster brand flight sticks and HOTAS was made possible by working directly with that company. Though there are certainly a few game mechanics that need work, those are being addressed over time, as shown by the game's updates.
One of the most extensive additions to the game is more single-player content. Admittedly, Comanche being introduced as a multiplayer-only experience at Gamescom 2019 was highly unusual. Since the 1990s, Comanche is a series that has primarily been known for its single-player campaigns. It seems as though the lack of single-player had been received so poorly, by the time its early access phase started on March 12th, 2020, the developers had already assembled the first mission of a new single-player campaign.
Since March, each major early access update has included a new mission, making the campaign as of December 19th, 2020 a six mission campaign; technically, seven if you count how the newly reworked tutorial mission plays. Each mission is broken into multiple parts or chapters, allowing players to restart at specific points in a mission if they are shot down.
Now, of course, multiplayer remains a key part of the experience even after months of updates. The recent decision to make the multiplayer segment of Comanche free to play and changes to multiplayer matchmaking show the continued interest in maintaining and expanding its online capabilities. But so far, the single player has shown the most progress over the months. Because the campaign continues to be developed and adjusted, a full review of this game is not yet possible, but the backstory of this game's story and spoiler-free descriptions of the missions can be provided.
Following the capture of the RQ-170 Sentinel by Iran in 2011, the United States of America quietly restarted research and development of the canceled RAH-66 Comanche. With the unmanned aerial vehicle being stolen through cyber warfare, the new Comanche program's goal was to fulfill a new reconnaissance and attack role while being able to deploy its own onboard UAVs to further enhance its abilities. New military units that operated the Comanche in special operations were formed and saw immediate, repeated successes. One of these units being the International Joint Task Force (IJTF). The single-player campaign then explains that an act of espionage occurred, and the designs of the operational Comanche design and various proposed prototypes were stolen and uploaded outside of secure military networks. This then gave any nation or organization with enough finances and technology to produce their own versions of these designs along with benefits the other stolen data may bring. The player joins this international conflict as a pilot for the IJTF to destroy the primary antagonist behind the information theft and any other enemies that attempt to assist them.
Vanilla 1 (the player) is a silent protagonist character, while Vanilla 2 (computer co-pilot/gunner) handles all radio communication with the other characters in the story. There are a few quick one-liners and conversations that show Vanilla 2's comedic side. But the radio chatter is mostly there to move the story along and explain to the player what they must do to complete their objectives. Occasionally enemy radio chatter is intercepted, but this is an unusual occurrence.
There is no taking direct command of allied air, land, or sea forces to order them to attack targets or take objectives. Nor is there a constant wingman or flight of allied Comanches under the player's direct command. But non-player character allies do appear from time to time depending on the mission objective. Meanwhile, enemies frequently outnumber the player, of course, but their damage output is something to note. While it is not overwhelming, the amount of damage the player can take when getting hit by three or more units can amass faster than one would expect. Approaching an engagement in a rushed way can result in losing half of your helicopter's armor in under a minute.
So far, the primary airframe players will be flying is the 'Prototype' variant, which is closely based on the actual Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66. There are missions where other variants of the Comanche can be flown, which opens the door for the other variants from multiplayer to appear as a part of the story. The single-player versions of both helicopters have more weaponry than their multiplayer versions because of the nature of the high volume of enemies encountered in the campaign. Players shouldn't expect to go into only PVP with three or four different types of weapons at their disposal with various types of countermeasures and such. While their multiplayer versions have limited weapon selection, they do benefit from a cooldown timer with an unlimited ammo count, whereas their single-player versions have a set amount of ammunition but better weapon selection. Ammunition and repairs are given as players cross checkpoints/chapters in the mission they are playing. The exception being mission 3, which has players hover over high-tech nano pads that repair and resupply them while in mid-air.
The addition of drones to the flow of combat has actually worked out well so far. It's clear that they are primarily meant for use in buildings to interact with computer systems. When deployed, drones are controlled by the player, leaving their attack helicopter to hover in whichever position it was last left in (always remember to auto-hover!). These drones can interact with computers to gather information, plant computer viruses, and many other things. Each drone comes equipped with weapons they will need to fight infantry, defense turrets, and enemy drones. Unlike attack helicopters, drones are disposable. Deploying and discarding as many of them as needed is not a problem. The drones can still cause damage to enemies of any size, albeit with reduced effectiveness on larger enemy units. But the presence of the drone in outdoor combat still draws enemy fire. Using them to get in a few hits on hostile units or placing them in areas where patrols will attack the drone first opens up ambush opportunities for the attack helicopter if it's done right.
The helicopter and drone players operate is pre-determined for each mission and cannot be changed. Each mission presents distinct experiences that employ the blend of helicopter and drone combat Comanche is staking its current identity on. The diversity of objectives and scenarios was more than would be expected from a game that most likely was envisioned without a single player in mind.
Mission 01: Operation Blind Anvil
The first single-player mission was released on March 12th, 2020. In comparison to how it plays after the 2nd early access update, it's noticeably harder. The entire mission takes place throughout a canyon, which widens, narrows, twists and turns with varying amounts of cloud cover. Throughout are small facilities and a few large facilities built into the terrain that requires drones or the 'Prototype' Comanche helicopter itself to fly into. There are times when small and large enemy warships appear in considerable numbers. Using terrain to limit the amount of incoming fire from their formations is a surefire way to increase chances of survival.
Mission 02: Operation Door Breaker
A stealth mission that has the player sneaking through a majority of the mission while enemy forces patrol around them. Using the optical camouflage of the Ghost-class Comanche, there are tense moments that involve a game of cat and mouse with a heavily armored Rhino-class Comanche actively searching for the player. Trying to fight enemy infantry indoors using a combat drone while keeping a close eye on the Rhino search pattern certainly heightens the level of tension. Eventually, the tip-toeing gives way to an action-packed segment that sets the tone for the campaign going forward.
Mission 03: Operation Bank Job
The exact opposite of the previous mission. No sneaking, all attacking. While spearheading a ground offensive against a vital enemy facility, areas that are captured by ground forces grant access to nanopads that repair and resupply the players' helicopter. The need to be conservative with weapons is lessened because of this, so feel free to go heavy on the ordinance. This mission quickly reminds players how dangerous recklessly approaching groups of enemies can be. Those looking for a more "traditional" Comanche experience will especially enjoy this one.
Mission 04: Operation Fire Sale
Using the Horizon-class Comanche's railgun, the mission focuses on precisely hitting targets across different ranges and situations. Flying with the intention to maintain a maximum distance but gain the most visibility over the targeting area is helpful. Unlike most games that include railguns, there are at least minimal ballistics to consider. Understanding the projectile drop at long range becomes immensely important. Each round fired may not be powerful enough to one-shot kill every target. Do keep this in mind, though: a single reload at the wrong time can result in an instant mission failure - especially at the end of this mission.
Mission 05: Thunder Flash
If missions 1 through 4 were the first act of the Comanche story, mission 05 is the beginning of the second act. What seems like a pretty straightforward objective rapidly becomes complicated. While once again sneaking around in the Ghost-class Comanche, the design of this mission emphasizes low altitude flying. The engagement areas are very restrictive, resulting in frequent close range combat with groups of enemies. Being able to precisely fly at high speeds and turn quickly in a small amount of space are good skills to have on this one.
Mission 06: Fly Swatter
A lot more open and unrestricted flying for the most part but in turn, larger, more heavily armored, and hard-hitting enemies appear more frequently. The only way to progress forward being to fight them directly. Expect to use a lot of unguided rockets and guided missiles. With the larger naval units in particular, remember that damage to any part of the ship counts as damage to the enemy as a whole. Any opportunities to destroy an undefended section of a warship while it cannot return fire at you should be taken. You're outnumbered, so use any advantage you can get.
Honestly, I really wasn't expecting the single-player campaign of Comanche to catch on as well as it has and am pleasantly surprised with a certain twist in the story. It is available on Steam for an early access price of $19.99 USD. The last major update was on December 17th, 2020. These updates sometimes come with little to no lead up so checking in on their Steam page and their Discord server every once in a while is recommended.
About the Writer
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.