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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Warplanes: WW1 Fighters: Flying in Blind

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

A foray into a genre I hardly know

Warplanes: WW1 Fighters, Flying in Blind

A long time ago, in the ancient time known as the mid-2000s, I recall becoming amazingly burnt out on games in World War settings. That feeling seems to have stuck with me for quite a long time. Rarely do I find myself even trying a first-person shooter with a setting during those times in history. Only recently has my mind gradually changed. Partially because of my fiancée. She occasionally expresses to me how the "zero generation of aircraft" (World War I combat aircraft) deserve more recognition in the current era of aviation. That same sentiment extending to games and simulators.

Just last week I decided to jump into my first virtual reality World War I flight combat experience knowing little to nothing about the title. None of my usual research into the game or developer. Not even viewing promotional video. Just jumping straight in! With barely over one hour of time with this game, I hesitate to call this a true first impression or review. So instead this is just a standard article about my experience so far.

Warplanes: WW1 Fighters from Home Net Games is the first title I have tried from this developer. I have seen some random screenshots of their other titles.

This purpose built virtual reality title strikes a good balance between the assumed World War I experience and enough arcade flight characteristics to ensure the whole thing works well with just a virtual reality headset and its touch controllers.

Its five difficulty levels range from Leisure, which features auto aiming and a very simplified flight model to Real War which offers an advanced flight model, real engine power for the era, aircraft stalling, takeoff, landing and no heads up display user interface elements. Though even in the most realistic settings, the arcade controls are still mostly noticeable in takeoff and landing. This article was written using Simulation mode. It has all the features of Real War, but still maintains a bit of the UI. I wanted to get my footing a bit before going all in.

While flying for either the Central Powers or Triple Entente, pilots are given a pretty impressive amount of customizations while at their home airfields. Upgrades include increasing aircraft performance, unlocking new aircraft and setting them as reserve aircraft or aircraft for wingmen. The color editor is rather detailed, with four locations for emblems and two slots for aircraft colors and paint patterns with different types of paint gloss. I spent way too much time with this feature. I thank the devs for letting me run circles around my customized aircraft for an hour or so. Haha!

Besides gawking, squadron assignments, aircraft management, settings adjustments and mission selection are handled at the airfield. Even the between mission UI keeps players moving their hands and interacting with objects.

Example of the campaign menu in Warplanes: WW1 Fighters.
Example of the campaign menu.

Flight and combat is where I was pleasantly surprised. I knew things were going to be interesting when even the throw of the floor mounted flight stick was modeled well enough to force me to change the way I normally handle aircraft in virtual reality. Attempting to fly it as though it was a side stick aircraft for the sake of comfort was detrimental. With aircraft engine power of the late 1910s represented somewhat accurately, turning rate fights and vertical rate fights are less common. I did not have the benefit of jet engines that produce thousands of pounds of thrust to easily sustain prolonged turning fights.

Screenshot of a well timed shot on a passing aircraft in Warplanes: WW1 Fighters.
A well timed shot on a passing aircraft.

There were times when I simply could not maintain an ideal position to hunt down a 'bandit' because of low engine power. My options were to perform an energy beneficial maneuver or break off from pursuit to defend against lurking enemies. More often than not, snapshots at passing aircraft, well-timed maneuvers to catch enemies while they are at low energy states and knowing when to daringly cash in all airspeed for a momentary engagement window are the common ways aerial victory is achieved. In an odd way, I appreciated the feeling of vulnerability that could only be made up for with pure pilotage. I am not often in these situations.

The damage model is not so detailed every part of an aircraft can be blown off, but accumulated damage in specific areas can affect flight performance. Rudders can be damaged to the point they are almost uncontrollable, fuel leaks can reduce flight time, shot up wings will reduce maneuverability - it is enough to make the game mechanic functional. Closing distance with the target before firing increases machine gun effectiveness, though long distance shots can be equally effective with good aim and patience.

I ran a few tests where I intentionally flew very sloppy and uncoordinated to see what would happen. It often resulted in me getting shot down within a few seconds of a dogfight starting. The AI enemies do capitalize on mistakes in varying degrees. In the middle of a six aircraft dogfight, I was surprised when I suddenly exploded without warning. My attacker being far below me, but they chose to zoom climb and stall out just to put a long burst into me. This was not a cunning human player, this was the single player AI.

While the aircraft can be flown with the thumbsticks and face buttons of VR touch controllers, the basic cockpit has enough interactive elements to make using your hands well worth it.

The stick and throttle controls are presented well enough that even small adjustments are immediately evident. Letting the throttle go will have it return to its idle position, allow the player's free hand to interact with the cockpit, while their other hand continues to control the flight stick. There are some specific things with cockpit interaction I'd like to do a deeper dive into, but it may be too much to get into this early in.

There is more to talk about, but I have yet to finish a full campaign, haven't tried a secondary game mode nor PVP, only have two aircraft unlocked... there is much more to do. Though I can say that I'm having a genuinely good time with this flight-sim lite and plan on writing more about it soon. This may be one of the games that helps me break through my log jam of World War setting games. Who knows? Maybe there is hope for me yet.

The cockpit of a fighter in Warplanes: WW1 Fighters.
The beginning of a new journey?

About the Writer

Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Skyward Flight Media, Ribbon-Blue avatar.

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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