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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

GroundFall: 1st Anniversary Revisit

Updated: May 8

Diving back in after an important milestone

To me, accomplishment feels like hydroplaning a Piper Cub into a bay. Approaching at 20 knots, just above the water surface, easing the tires into the water and shoreline. I nearly ran across the beach into the treeline if I had not cut my engine, forced the tail down onto land and rapidly pumped the wheel brakes to slow down. I last visited GroundFall in June 2022, just a few months before it released into early access on September 24th, 2022. This is why I wanted to see just what one of the few dedicated bush flight simulators was up to more than one year after the start of its public early access period.

New Maps

The decision of Snow Creature, the developer, to set aside multiplayer and focus on solidifying the game's core is still something I praise to this day. As fun as multiplayer was, it is clear now more than ever that it was a distraction from what the game needed to be.

A new map management system now offers three levels for players to explore, with new levels in development. "Tutorial" takes the terrain and challenges from the original demo back in 2021 and 2022 and rounds them out in a 12 runway landing challenge. With each runway being relatively flat, complicated by rock formations and flooded areas, it is an easy-going introduction to the gameplay of GroundFall.

A screenshot of the runway information screen in GroundFall.
Keep racking up those successful landings!

The second map, GroundFall National Forest, features more diverse terrain with the type of very complicated terrain people think of when they hear the term "bush flight".

Runways on the sides of steep foothills, short patches of dirt surrounded by trees one could vaguely refer to as a runway and as I mentioned, beach side landing areas. Its mountainous terrain complicates navigation during the day and makes flight during low light and bad weather outright inadvisable.

Like real bush flying, there are just going to be some days when flying conditions are not cooperative and remaining on land will be better for your journey in the long run. Use that time to restock on items, try your hand at some cabin building, or explore the surrounding the area to scavenge for potentially useful items.

A picture of flying in bad fog in GroundFall.
It really is not worth the danger!

As of the time of this writing, I have yet to make it to the third map "Big Mountains". Though there are some interesting updates coming to GroundFall in the coming weeks. These include more side missions, interactions with non player characters, complex missions, aircraft modifications and some other ideas listed by Snow Creature. Expect another article from Skyward in the future featuring the third map and some of these new features.

Smooth Core Gameplay

The GroundFall I remembered was functional but certainly rough around the edges in all aspects. Its survival gameplay was somewhat clunky and felt somewhat over accelerated. Constructing structures and runways felt purely optional. Randomized item drops sometimes felt a bit too convenient, with essential aircraft items being rare to find in useful numbers. Here in September 2023, its serviceable gameplay has been refined to an easy-to-understand and reliable presentation.

A picture of an aircraft at night in GroundFall.
The nights are beautiful and dangerous. Stay close to shelter.

I'd suggest reading my last article, which goes deeper into the core gameplay, as all of that is still true even now. But I'd like to highlight the survival gameplay once again. Other first-person shooter and adventure games that incorporate survival elements can over rely on them, making them cumbersome on the overall experience. Thinking of survival shooter games specifically, the time spent sorting through dozens of types of body armor or weapons, then spending an immense amount of time using five different items to heal a wound can be a turn-off for many. GroundFall continues to have a nice balance in the way it handles fatigue, hunger, injuries, health loss by exposure to harsh elements and similar conditions.

The player's personal storage space and the weight of items has been balanced well. Carrying a decent amount of food, water and health items on your person to allow for long-range exploration by foot or multiple flights throughout the day is doable. Augmenting your carried supplies by forging for berries or hunting, then cooking certain wildlife when needed makes this even easier. One or two health items can be enough to heal even the most severe injuries, with building an impromptu shelter and spending a few in-game days sleeping, eating and resting being enough to fully recover.

Flying into the mountains in GroundFall.
Flying into the mountains.
Flight Characteristics

Certain aspects of operating and maintaining the player's aircraft are arguably the most important and restrictive parts of this game. This was especially true during the final phase of testing before early access release.

Flight wise, the aircraft is much easier to handle in the air. Low speed maneuvering and engine off gliding approaches are more manageable. With volumetric clouds, occasional bad weather reducing visibility and runway obstructions always possible at each airstrip, being able to loiter at low speed is vital for bush flight in GroundFall.

You could say that the instantaneous roll rate of the aircraft is a bit too much, but do keep in mind that this game is primarily a keyboard and mouse or game pad reliant title. Adjustments can be made in control settings if desired, but slower user inputs is the real fix here. Furthermore, the once extreme nose pitch up caused by increase engine pour has been dampened significantly. Finding the desired engine RPM setting depending on the aircraft's altitude is the easiest way to find stability in flight. Zooming around everywhere at maximum throttle is not always the best practice.

The many types of runways this game now has absolutely calls for this low speed stability to make consistent safe landings. Learning how to pump the brakes to maintain stability moments after landing, navigating semi-flooded terrain, bouncing over tree branches and small rocks, and selecting alternative airfields in lieu of risking it all to avoid a potential long-walk are important to learn. Learning how to fly over the runway, visually scan for obstructions, then slowly approaching to protect both the player and their aircraft is vital for long-term operations. I've learned that patience and pacing with both landings and personal goals I have on the ground is the best practice for success.

Travelling Aircraft Maintenance

In my opinion, this is the most important decision in the game. I finally feel as though an agreeable balance has been made. Pre-release, damage to the aircraft would be an immediate sentence to an extended stay wherever the player was at. With repair items so rare and frequently so far away, players could find themselves backpacking through the forests more often than flying at treetop level.

Example of aircraft cargo storage in GroundFall.
Example of aircraft cargo storage.

Each aircraft now has a twelve slot storage area. Smaller items like water bottles, leather and certain foods can be stacked in each slot in multiples of five units maximum. But most importantly, fuel cans and repair kits can now be stowed onboard the aircraft. This is a massive improvement. Because of the random item spawning locations in GroundFall, finding these items reliably is nearly impossible. So being able to take a decent supply of these items from the home airport of each map greatly extends the amount of time players can operate at long range.

Example of aircraft maintenance in GroundFall.
Example of aircraft maintenance.

An aircraft maintenance system can now be accessed by interacting with the engine cowling. From here, fuel and repair kits that are in the player's inventory can be used on the aircraft. Aircraft damage can vary from minor damage along the leading edge which slightly effects aircraft stability while in air, to wing buckling damage that makes the aircraft completely unflyable. I can tell you from experience, attempting to fly with that much damage will just result in the wing snapping off anyway. Even aircraft flaps can jam in place, further complicating low speed maneuvers.

Using repair tools kits can repair a certain percentage of the damage, but one kit won't give you a fresh aircraft. A truly catastrophic crash may take three or more kits to repair the aircraft completely. Flying with a partially damaged aircraft was definitely something I chose to do, just to save repair kits for terrible situations. In the worst case scenarios, where all kits are gone and players are maybe not having any luck finding more, the developer has added the option to respawn both their character and the aircraft in completely recovered condition. However, this respawn will be at a previous location and inventory may be lost. If you flip an aircraft and cannot recover it, I highly recommend offloading all of its cargo, placing it in a nearby cabin or building a storage area before respawning. Otherwise, some irreplaceable items may be lost. Players can then fly back to their original crash site and recover their items.

I am genuinely pleased to see GroundFall in its current state. Its objective based system of landing at various runways with multiple optional side missions is backed up by a now functioning game saving and loading system. This allows players to construct their ideal runways, build up cabins, make a serious attempt at hiking to nearby locations and progress at their own pace. In my opinion, GroundFall feels like a complete game which is now being refinded and expanded upon. If you are interested in seeing what is going on yourself with development, do join the official Discord server and get involved.

About the Writer

Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding, 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.



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