The newest entry in the Comanche combat helicopter series has completed its early access period. It has "landed" as a full-game release with double the amount of content it had set out to include over two years.
The full release of Comanche was made official on August 26th, 2021, with the game available on Epic, GOG, Steam, the Microsoft Store, and Xbox Game Pass. What was announced in August 2019 as an online multiplayer-only title evolved into a singleplayer rich title with multiplayer capability.
I've written about Comanche various times throughout its development, primarily because of its well-known series name and reputation and how publisher THQ Nordic and developer Nukklear Digital Minds would have to find a balance of new and old ideas to maintain the Comanche brand name. With the singleplayer story seeming to come to a close on February 16th, 2021, no one would have expected a new developer to be brought on board to work on a new singleplayer game mode. On April 15th, 2021, Ashborne Games Studio took over Comanche development introducing the new Conflicts game mode.
While the Nukklear team successfully made a story-driven campaign with frequent checkpoints, the Ashborne team has created something equally as impressive with more focus on challenging players rather than telling a story.
The story of Conflicts mode sends the main character from the campaign around the world with a new task force that is a part of the International Joint Task Force (IJTF) from the campaign. This time around, there are various hostile international, regional, and local hostile forces causing varying degrees of chaos for other alliances, organizations, and countries. Because of this, the IJTF to continue their worldwide peacekeeping-focused combat missions. While the player's backstory and their organization align with the singleplayer campaign, Conflicts is essentially a second story, albeit with a different approach.
For comparison, the campaign mode comprises six operations (missions) with two to five segments. Each segment utilizes save points that instantly rearm and repair the attack helicopter the player is flying. An occasional resupply point is available in one or two of the missions. Conflicts mode comprises 11 missions with no automatic resupplies, no checkpoints, no ability to replay mission segments, and resupply only available if a landing zone can be secured by force. The lack of resources slows players down, forcing them to approach situations more tactically, monitor enemy movements, and not overly rely on guided missiles to solve all of their problems. Players will utilize the terrain and low altitude flying more than ever to take full advantage of the defense and stealth provided.
The linear intention of the singleplayer campaign is evident even within its level design. In the campaign, there's usually a clear path from objective to objective with physical boundaries like valley walls, caverns, or instant death anti-aircraft networks that act as rails to guide the player along. A few larger areas give room for moments of frantic widespread combat or allow the player to sneak undetected, but that doesn't represent most of the experience.
In further comparison, Conflicts gives players a clear-cut objective without a timer hurrying them up and very large areas to operate in. It's hard to describe the difference in scale between the campaign and Conflicts maps, but players can expect to crisscross a map to hit various objectives while running into unexpected situations along the way. Each Conflicts operation features a newly designed map not seen in the singleplayer campaign, making things feel even fresher. Besides the enemy's main force, the action continues with roving patrol units circulating randomly throughout the area. The randomness of combat is present, and the movement of patrols never lets the player settle for too long. While campaign operations had a few memorable large-scale battles in three or four segments, flying into a full-scale battle with computer allies by your side and enemies all along the horizon is a frequent occurrence in Conflicts. The scale of battle has undoubtedly been increased.
Each Conflicts operation requires a set amount of points to unlock the next mission. These points are gathered by finishing an operation and meeting requirements for receiving medals. As more operations are unlocked, the cost of unlocking the subsequent increases slightly each time. This makes it necessary for players to challenge themselves to obtain harder medals like never resupplying during an operation or never being spotted before the final phase of a mission. Replayability is also increased with players wanting to get each medal, approaching the same operations with a different plan of attack each time.
When Early Access Update #6 on February 16th, 2021, came with the vague announcement of a new singleplayer game mode I was skeptical that anything more could be done with this game's content. But Conflicts has doubled its offline content while greatly expanding on the foundation laid by the campaign while maintaining a price point of USD 19.99 throughout early access to full release. Color me impressed.
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.