DCS Flaming Cliffs 3: Legacy and the future of non-clickable cockpits
If I were to ask you, what would be the first thing that comes to you mind when I say "DCS"? For some of you it would probably be something along the lines of "in-depth simulation" or "complex", and to that I would agree. DCS is a simulator built from the ground up to be able to give its users the closest they can get to being a fighter pilot from the comfort of their chairs.
Instead of talking about that side of DCS, today I wanted to talk about the other side of it. One that relies of its simplicity to thrive: non-clickable aircraft. Specifically, the only one that exists at the moment, which would be Flaming Cliffs 3 (FC3). This module, which dates back to 2013, is one of the, if not the, best starter module one can buy.
It not only includes what I could consider to be the best bang for the buck experience in DCS as of today, but it also allows more casual players an entry point into the community and the simulator as a whole. Here is what it offers for those of you that do not know:
The oldest version of the Warthog in-game. It still has the capabilities to be a fun aircraft that is also able to tear through enemy lines like they are Christmas cookies.
One of the best fighters in the game, the Eagle is able to gain air superiority for any faction that uses it. Lots of fuel, ammo and missiles that make it capable of destroying everything in the sky, but it is still unable to do any kind of air-to-ground missions.
SU-33 "SEA FLANKER"
The cheapest way to get a combat-capable carrier-borne fighter. It is a joy to fly and to fight on, alongside being the only red-for aircraft that has air-to-air refueling capabilities.
SU-27 FLANKER AND J-11 FLANKER-D
A capable interceptor and dogfighter, the Flanker is one of the only aircraft in-game that can pose a threat to American-made fighters. The J-11 is also available, with R-77 missiles at its disposal. This would make it the only Flanker variant capable of launching "FOX-3"-type missiles.
MiG-29A AND MiG-29S
One of the best interceptors in-game. The A variants has access to older avionics, sensors and weapons while the S has access to a better radar suite and modern weapons, such as the active-radar R-77 missile.
Not to be confused with the Su-25T that comes with the base install, this Frogfoot is an older and less capable variant of the same aircraft. That does not mean it is not a bundle of fun regardless of its lack of capabilities.
FC3 comes with all of these aircraft and its campaigns for far less than what it would cost to buy a single module. So, what is the catch? What makes this module so cheap with this much content?
THE CATCH AND CONTENT ISSUES
Coming back to my initial question, one of the proposed answers was "complex". FC3 is the ONLY module inside of DCS that does not have clickable cockpits. This is, as I am about to discuss, a double-edged sword. The fact that it does not have clickable cockpits lowers the entry bar a lot, making it easy for everyone to get into the sim as I previously discussed.
By the contrary, by making these aircraft non-clickable you are also losing so much of what makes DCS special. I do not know if it is because I have almost a decade and a half of simulator experience but what makes this sim special is the fact that I can interact with almost 1:1 replicas of real fighter aircraft and touch their cockpits. Learn their cockpit flows and what makes them unique. You miss most of that with FC3. The fact that FC3 does not feel as in-tune in DCS as it could derives from the fact that the Flaming Cliffs series as a whole used to be its own franchise, one that was completely separate from DCS. In fact, this franchise dates all the way back to the early 2000's, when DCS was but a dream in someone's mind.
The basis of what would become FC3 were set with the release of FC2 in 2010. Here, enjoy some nostalgia with me by watching the FC2 trailer:
When everything merged into DCS:World; FC2 and by extension its upgrade, FC3, also merged with it. It was the smartest and easiest choice since including their rosters increased playability by an incredible amount. But we are now in a different DCS than we were. One that has dozens of full fidelity modules and third party add-on that greatly increase the variety of aircraft we can fly.
Flaming Cliff aircraft now feel kind of like relics from the past. For better or worse. Do not get me wrong, I love them for what they are and understand that they have their purpose inside of DCS, but they are just not the same as any of the other modules. Hell, they have received visual and functional upgrades over the years: new weapons, new flight models, new PBR textures, etc. But they still feel like they would belong better on another game. Hence, my next point and the main purpose of this article.
THE FUTURE OF NON-CLICKABLE AIRCRAFT: MODERN.AIR.COMBAT (MAC)
It has been over 8 years since Eagle Dynamics has released any aircraft that is not full-fidelity, so they have shown that that is not their focus when it comes to DCS:World anymore. And from today's poll on our twitter, it seems like at least half of our voters (thank you all for participating, even if only over 50 of you did prior to publication) prefer only flying full-fidelity in DCS, with a certain percentage liking both FC3 and Full-fidelity aircraft.
This is where Modern Air Combat enters the scene. Announced a couple years back, MAC is the true successor to LOMAC and FC3. It will be an independent AAA title developed by Eagle Dynamics that promises to deliver a similar experience that those older titles but with today's comfort and technologies. M.A.C is where these non-clickable aircraft will shine, as they do not need to be compared with full-fidelity aircraft anymore. I do not think that FC3 is going away, it has its purpose inside of DCS, but any other future non-clickable aircraft will most likely be available on MAC, not DCS. I personally can not wait for this title to come out, as the market is in dire need of more sim-lite experiences.
About the Author
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