I have noticed something interesting that has been happening to the flight sim genre of games over the past decade or so. It is not a problem nor a particularly worrying issue, just an interesting movement made by developers that I did not expect at all back in the day. What I've noticed is that there are almost no single-player sim-lite games anymore; at least none that I am aware of. One of the last prominent ones being Strike Fighters 2.
All screenshots in this article were taken by my great friend, Hueman. Kudos to him! Article originally posted on 05/18/2021. Minor revision published: 08/02/2022
The sim-lite market seems to have been replaced by a now famous (or infamous depending on who you ask) game made by Gaijin Entertainment: War Thunder. Thousands upon thousands of players go into the game everyday to grind for more vehicles or to just have fun, although some of my friends who play the game almost religiously would describe it as a second job or "suffering".
But as someone that does not like paying for a game with my time, I don't particularly like games such as War Thunder. I would much prefer having that same sim-lite experience offline and that is exactly what Strike Fighters 2 provides. It might be old and it might not be the most beautiful game out there, but it sure provides certain experiences that are not available anywhere anymore.
One of the best examples of one such experiences would be SF2's initial and centric experience: The Vietnam War. Having the capability to fly from both sides of the conflict and take control of almost any airframe that fought during the conflict is something that almost no game lets you do. Let alone flying Soviet-made MiGs against the US, as such side of the war is usually unavailable to the player.
Strike Fighters 2 has always had that uniqueness to it, which can be seen in its official and unofficial expansions. From post-WW2 middle east conflicts to what-if scenarios such as a Soviet invasion through the Fulda Gap in Germany or even more recent but not that well known real conflicts such as the Lebanon War. Variety is the key.
Additionally, Strike Fighters has one of the most expansive libraries of mods that I know of. If it flew or was meant to be flown, even in paper, then someone probably made it flyable in SF2. I have seen everything from the Wright Flyer to Ultra Sabers and more. It's just amazing how mod friendly this title is sometimes, particularly when you look at mods such as Operation Darius that take the game and add a completely new expansion-sized chunk to it.
The great thing, for some people, is that you can fly most of these aircraft with almost zero previous experience. It is more game than simulator, hence why I refer to it as a sim-lite game. Sincerely, this is a game genre that I miss dearly. I love simulators such as DCS where I have to read and educate myself on each aircraft's systems in order to operate them, but, sometimes I just do not have the mood to get in and fly sims that day. Sometimes all I want is to fly the aircraft that I love without some of the "hassle" that comes with full fidelity sims.
Sadly, acquiring SF2 nowadays is only possible through Thirdwire's website. No discounts at all despite that it was last updated in 2013 with a Windows 10 compatibility patch. This means that getting this sim-lite experience is a bit hard and with no other competitors around aside from the Flaming Cliffs 3 (FC3) module for DCS, the genre's not in its best moment.
There is a bit of light leaking at the end of the tunnel, though. This comes in the form of Modern Air Combat, or MAC for short. Made by Eagle Dynamics, this new game should be a true successor to FC3 that will allow more people to easily access flight sims by being a sort of getaway drug that will give players a taste of air combat without some of the minutia.
Some part of me still wants Thirdwire to continue development on the Strike Fighters franchise, but it seems as if they have moved on past it. All we can do is hope that ED's MAC will be what I and many other people want out of the sim-lite genre.
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 the co-founder of SkywardFM, a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034