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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

The Brew Barons: Thoughts on the Beta Flight Model

Feeling out the flight model in the Kickstarter Backer Beta

The story of a band of seaplane delivery pilots has finally begun! Spreading their brews across the archipelago using brewing wit, business skill and a healthy amount of water gun combat, The Brew Barons has entered its Kickstarter backer beta. I have written a few pieces about it since I stumbled upon the game back in late 2021. The Brew Barons has been one of my most highly anticipated flight games in years.

Something the developers of Lifetap Studios, Diccon Yamanaka and Rob Hartley, have almost constantly adjusted is the flight model this game uses. My time with its various demos has given me experience with past iterations. This in turn has given me enough insight, as a long-term tester, to discuss this in a bit more detail. Of course what I write here is based on the flight model that is still being adjusted during the Kickstarter beta, so it is possible what I write here now could be inaccurate in a few months.

Mastering Low-Speed, Low Altitude

The business management aspect of the game requires ingredients to be discovered, harvested, returned to the brewery, brewed, bottled and stocked for sale or flown for delivery to customers. The flight regime for these operations mainly happens at low airspeeds. Roaring along at over 100 knots while harvesting apples from trees or wheat from fields makes the time window to do this effectively very small. To maintain high speeds, vertical maneuvers at maximum engine power are the only reliable way to avoid obstacles and dive back down to harvest ingredients. But a series of Immelmann Turns, Split S maneuvers and similar aerobatics are rather risky for picking up some non-combat maneuvering potatoes.

An aircraft from The Brew Barons flying at low altitude.
Get used to flying low and slow.

Flying between 60 and 80 knots while coordinating pitch, roll and yaw to make coordinated turns lessens the overall space needed to gather ingredients. This range of speed allows players to comfortably skim along treetops and rooftops with plenty of time to plan ingress and egress routes, using safe, controlled turns.

A plane gathering apples in The Brew Barons.
This is not a place you want to be flying at maximum speed.

Even with upgrades to engine output and overall maneuverability, becoming comfortable flying aircraft at low altitude and low speed is a vital skill for this game. Learning how the aircraft naturally regains airspeed at certain throttle settings and pitch attitudes, when rudder should be applied to avoid slipping into a stall while tightening a low speed turn and avoiding banking too much in a turn which results in the loss of altitude.

Long Distance Travel

There are many islands to travel to. In a propeller driven aircraft, it does take time to reach even the medium range islands, even at full throttle. Water Boost equipment attached to the aircraft utilizes water in the aircraft's storage bladders to provide sustained bursts of speed. Lifetap Studios designed the Water Boost specifically to avoid adding fast travel functions that would pull players out of the game.

The Brew Barons game map.
The archipelago the story takes place in.

Instead, long range flying is encouraged. Fortunately, the most basic version of the Water Boost has a large capacity and can be used over extended periods of time. Refilling it is as easy as flying above the ocean's surface, making it an infinite resource that is always available. The aircraft buffets at high speeds, and some pilots do not handle long-term use of boosting well. Flying straight and level while at a safe altitude is recommended for traversing between islands. While flying at low level will allow for rapidly rotating between refilling water levels and immediately going back into boosting, low altitude flight greatly increases the chances for a catastrophic accident.

A plane in The Brew Barons using Water Boost.
Using Water Boost to return from a long-range gathering flight.

Resource management and a bit of flight planning is needed to explore the outer islands. Even heavy use of Water Boost will not completely offset fuel use. The islands are not guaranteed to have any support facilities like shipyards to repair and refuel aircraft, the type of ingredients on the island may not be what you were hoping for or the presence of pirates in the airspace can lead to confrontation. Attempting to travel through the outer islands with half fuel and a moderately damaged aircraft can lead to disaster and loss of cargo. It is best to travel with purpose and choose your fights wisely.

Upgrades More Impactful

Compared to the previous demos, the upgrades that can be purchased in the hangar are noticeably more impactful. Of the dozens of aircraft parts and levels of upgrades they can receive, some may increase engine power, roll rate or augment other functions not related to how the aircraft flies, but stacking a certain set of upgrades could make aircraft harder to handle in unexpected ways. Each piece of equipment has pros and cons.

An example of parts that can be purchased in The Brew Barons.
An example of parts that can be purchased.

Say, for example, a newly upgraded Supercharged engine increases overall engine power but loses boost near land masses, at the expense of increased fuel consumption. Pair this with maybe a different type of wings that focus on increased lift but reduced overall air speed. Flight characteristics may change in a way players were not expecting. This makes combining parts to see what the changes in aircraft handling are an interesting part of trying out new aircraft builds.

I appreciate that it is not just as simple as buying the most expensive upgrades and winning just by having a large stack of money on hand.

Water Landing and Takeoff

This is one of the most important and somewhat touchy aspects of the game. Flying a seaplane, being able to consistently land and takeoff from the ocean is a vital skill. Besides pulling into bars and shipyards for business, landing in the ocean far from your headquarters is good for switching pilots, resting to recover from fatigue and other things. Takeoff from the ocean is pretty straight forward with little that can go wrong beyond pilots inputting too much rudder while at high speed on the water's surface or attempting to zoom climb right after takeoff causing a potential stall at low altitude. Landing on the ocean is a different beast.

Landing incorrectly in this game has substantial punishments. The aircraft can be severely damaged resulting in repair costs and cargo in the aircraft can be damaged. Glassware full of product that needs to be delivered to customers can shatter, completely ruining the day's order. Even a landing that may barely cause damage to the fuselage could shatter some cargo onboard. That delivery of an exact quantity of whiskey or beer you just brewed could be ruined with the loss of two or three bottles, depending on how much of it the aircraft's inventory was stocked with. Meaning that you will need to fly the entire delivery route once again, or potentially brew the entire order over again.

The most dangerous point of landing is during the last few seconds above the ocean's surface. Sustaining about a quarter throttle and descending onto the ocean with a stable rate of descent sounds easy enough, but the urge to do last second corrections can cause a dangerous event to occur. At low speeds, before landing, a sudden change in aircraft pitch and power can get the aircraft stuck in ground effect and transition into a stall. This brings the aircraft's nose upwards just a few meters above the water. The tail strike that occurs as the stall worsens can cause moderate to severe damage, costing large amounts of money to repair the aircraft, with all cargo lost. All of this can happen in 10 seconds or less, with just a small window of a few seconds for the pilot to possibly recover.

The aircraft's pontoons are actually rather sturdy and can handle landing at speeds above minimum airspeed before stall. Rather than attempting to land at a steep rate of descent within a small patch of ocean, a shallow descent rate across a large strip of ocean while remaining above stall speed is the safest practice.

Of course, in the event of emergency, attempting to power out of a stall during landing using Water Boost is possible, but this must be done before the aircraft's nose pitch up beyond 70 degrees or before the aircraft rolls, rotating the aircraft, so its wings strike the ocean. The last ditch zoom climb with Water Boost has absolutely saved my aircraft during my worst landings.

Overall Thoughts

I was concerned that feedback would cause the flight model to change so much the way aircraft are flown by players would matter less. Like the experience would be so overwhelmingly arcadey, it would be easy to throw the aircraft through the sky without a care in the world for weight, engine output and the like. However, it continues to be just realistic enough to make flight interesting, even when not in combat with the local pirates. With the aircraft somewhat harder to fly and its related maintenance and repair costs also being decided by the skill of their pilot(s), it does make the aircraft feel like an asset in a business rather than a vehicle purely made for fun. It lines up with the business management aspect of the game well.

I sincerely hope that the flight model does not change too much from its current state, as I do think it will be one of The Brew Barons primary strengths in the long-term. Even with players that are more used to simulator like flight experiences.

My next article about The Brew Barons will be something like a flight journal, describing my experience playing an early version of the full game experience. Look forward to it!


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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