DCS World: Finding Satisfaction in its Complexity
Updated: Mar 16
Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) is a game that has positioned itself as one of the only surviving modern combat flight simulators of this decade, with its only competition coming from games such as Falcon BMS, which is not technically its own game and more of a community overhaul of a 1999' game. Titles such as IL-2 Great Battles could also count as competition as they do have partial overlaps with regards of WW2 combat, but nothing more. To put it frankly, DCS is the only one doing proper modern combat simulation as of the writing of this article.
A big part of what makes DCS, well, DCS; are its aircraft. From propeller-driven warbirds of old to modern marvels of technology, it has something for everyone. Most of these aircraft are simulated to a very high degree, which requires the player to learn them in a similar manner as they would on a real aircraft. This includes a lot of procedures and check-lists to operate the aircraft systems such as radars, targeting pods, guided and unguided weaponry, etc.
Are they 100% true to their real-life counterparts? No, and probably for the better as many of the fighters in the sim are still in-service with nations that would very much like some of the things that these fighters have to be kept as secret. What matters is that they are modeled well enough to not cross that line and still give the player one hell of an experience.
With this complexity comes a certain learning curve that can, in some cases, be pretty stiff and unforgiving. To get an aircraft from cold and dark to mission ready is a bit of a challenge the first time you pick up an module, no matter if you are a new or experienced player. You will have to do research, read or watch tutorials on how to do the most basic of stuff before you get to the more complex systems and their operations.
But this is where I find most of my enjoyment and the main reason why I dedicate a big chunk of my free time to DCS. I have never had the same feeling of getting a laser bomb hit on a target after practicing for almost two days-worth of training to get it right on any other game. It is a feeling that only simulators can give you as they allow you to master your skills.
It is that same feeling that drives me to learn more and more about the aircraft that I fly to know about their systems, the way they function and how to interact with them to use them to the maximum, be them combat aircraft or otherwise. But as I said previously, this does not make the learning curve less stiff or harsh. It is only natural that a combat aircraft will have complex systems that need to be managed in order to be combat effective.
While I personally find enjoyment in learning to fly these aircraft, I have also heard the opposite from many others. It is an activity that is very time consuming and you already have to have an interest in these things to try them. It is not so much about difficulty as I do believe that everyone is capable of learning anything if they put their minds to it, but more about about time and dedication.
In addition, while I cannot get the same feelings from them as I do from a sim, I also enjoy arcade flight games quite a lot (this website has quite a few examples of that). From the more recent Project Wingman to classic Ace Combat games and everything in between. One noteworthy example being Strike Fighters 2, as it brings some of that sim-like excitement without the learning curves of an in-depth sim.
But there is just something that DCS has that makes it shine a bit more in my eyes, making it one of those games that I always come back to either to relax after a long day or to learn something new. It must be all the years I have spent playing flight sims, but I have really learnt how to find satisfaction in their complexity and I hope you have too.
About the writer:
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034