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At Skies' Edge: Soaring Higher

At Skies' Edge: Soaring Higher

Checking in on the current state of the game as of v00.8a It has been a quite some time since our interview with At Skies' Edge developer, Mackerel Sky. Since November 2023, this still in development game had six updates available to the public to play via Itch.io . Just recently, the developer's personal X.com page has also seen a spark of activity. With so much going on, now would be a great time to check in on this project. For those that do not know, At Skies' Edge (ASE) is a game that has roots from as far back as June 2017, which then vanished for six years and reappeared with a publicly accessible demo on May 1st, 2023 without any promotion. The success of this surprise project seems to have encouraged its developer to continue learning and refining their skills since then, resulting in ASE moving ever closer to what could universally be considered a "real game". I would recommend reading all the devlogs yourself, but let's take a look at a few particular updates that highlight how ASE has been developing. Optimizations, Enhancements Keep in mind that Mackerel Sky, the developer, is not a full-time game developer and has learned how to program over the years largely on their own time. So the addition of many important changes to the core of this game, which were key for future expansion of ASE, is heartening. At Skies Edge was definitely not known for being the most computing resource efficient experience. When combat was especially dense, the former CPU-driven visual effects could impact the gameplay experience. With many of these processes now GPU-driven, efficiency has noticeably gone up. Work towards larger in-game maps and tackling Unity's inherent floating point precision limit seem to hint at a potential expansion both in terms of content and in scale. The past updates have also involved a rebuild of code related to AI units for so they can perform more intricate tasks. The introduction of a mission event and trigger systems and multi-parameter events have now made complex missions possible. As time goes on, these additions and new capabilities gradually surface in the missions players play. Missions Showing Off New Capabilities The easiest way to illustrate just how far ASE has come may be by discussing its currently available missions. It is the gradual increase in mission complexity and new AI units that appear in these missions that reflect the extensive work being done behind the scenes. Keep in mind that in the May 2023 release, ASE had two air-to-air only missions which largely played out the same way. As of the time this article has been posted, the game now has seven missions. These missions now include: a multi-aircraft escort mission that stretches the players to their limits, an assault on a fleet still stuck in port, a low altitude penetration mission to remain undetected while ambushing a weapon cache and now, even a multi-part "boss fight". As these missions are developed, so too are new enemy units added, their abilities expanded and new weapons introduced for players to use to counter them. Operation Desert Fury was formerly a relatively easy air-to-ground mission, with little pressure on players to complete it in a timely manner. The opposing force had a single forward deployed base defended by light air defenses, which players had to destroy. After this mission's rework, the player has to scramble to launch their aircraft with a small, friendly ground force guiding in artillery fire - which players can see while they taxi. The player's air base is being rushed by groups of armored vehicles, attempting to occupy it by force. During combat, these groups advance in different formations, stopping to engage in combat if necessary. If the attack is successfully repulsed, the forward operating base is unlocked as an objective with its renewed air defense. Operation Starhound, the newest mission, puts players with a small number of allies against an aerial fortress; a massive aircraft covered in turrets, containing vertical launch system missile cells and escorted by waves of fixed-wing combat aircraft. As important sub-systems of this oversized aircraft are destroyed, mission updates introduce new target sets. This is definitely one of the more complex missions in At Skies' Edge thus far. NRP-20 Highlights Flight Model The aircraft roster of ASE now sits at three airframes. The NRP-20, which closely resembles the F-20 Tigershark, is the first light fighter in the game. In my opinion, when other flight arcade games use classes like heavy, medium and light fighters, I always feel as though these designations mostly pertain to the amount of weapons they carry and little else really shows up in gameplay. However, because of how At Skies' Edge handles airspeed and throttle control, the flight characteristics of the NRP-20 do make it feel different from the other aircraft currently in the game. In ASE, airspeed defines how maneuverable an aircraft is at that moment. Much like real life. If an aircraft is travelling close to the speed of sound, there is no chance that it will be performing turns anywhere near its smallest turn radius or ideal turning rate. Next to the airspeed indicator in the At Skies' Edge heads up display, an extra bit of information defines the flight regimen the aircraft is currently in. "Cruise" is defined as high speed flght, ACM (air combat maneuvering) is the speed range for the best turn fighting performance, "Low" is defined as the aircraft flying just above stall speed and Stall being stall speed where the aircraft begins to fall out of the sky. Furthermore, the throttle input in ASE does not automatically reset to a default position when the player is no longer providing constant increases and decreases in airspeed. Players must set the throttle to a position they believe is beneficial to them while they are in combat; something that leans a bit more into flight sim-lite territory than flight arcade territory. After flying the two existing aircraft in ASE and the new NRP-20, I can say this is one of the few times when selecting a light fighter actually felt like it had a tangible effect. The NRP-20 has low weapon payload and low armor, but its engine accelerates almost on demand, the flight controls are snappy, and it has a larger ACM speed range, making close range combat much easier. The way the NRP-20 is presented in ASE further cements this particular part of the flight model as a potential "on the back of the box" feature of the game. Early World Building As early as its surprise introduction in May 2023, At Skies' Edge had traces of its fictional world's story in the descriptions of certain aircraft and weapons. Whether or not a full story was in development was a question asked in Skyward Flight Media's November 2023 interview with the developer. A part of the developer's response included: "The tone of the story will be hopeful. My vague idea is to explore the challenges and conflicts involved in rebuilding a world that was taken to the brink of mutually assured destruction." In April 2024, there is still not a clearly defined linear single player campaign. Story wise, a significant step was taken recently. In the dev blog for ASE v0.08a, the first concerted effort to tell the story of the world in At Skies' Edge as available for the public to read. Done in the style of excerpts from a fictional magazine from within the fictional world, these eye-catching pages certainly grab the player's attention. This method of describing the world the players play in is similar to the style of world setting media that Project Aces produces for the Ace Combat series. At Skies' Edge is still in early development, so it is possible that the names or information in these excerpts could change weeks or months from now. Still, this is a great first look at the setting the developer is considering (downloading these images from the dev blog post is highly recommended). The developer of At Skies' Edge may get busy and disappear for large blocks of time due to work, travel or studies, but checking in on this project from time to time shows that this game continues to trend towards becoming a decent standalone games, rather than a one and done demo. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, 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 .

DCS World Mission Editor: SAM Improvements (Part 1)

DCS World Mission Editor: SAM Improvements (Part 1)

Increasing Mission Complexity By Using Realistic Dispersal Tactics I subscribe to the belief that Digital Combat Simulator can be a "jump scare simulator". Unexpected encounters I had with surface-to-air missiles (SAM) slamming me in the face or flying in formation with telephone pole sized missiles are flooding my mind. After months of research and testing related to these complex missile systems, I began to notice a trend with the way SAM sites appear in various multiplayer servers. Even the most popular downloadable multiplayer focused missions follow this trend. The dispersal of medium and long-range SAM sites essentially use the "out of the box" template provided in the mission editor. In this entry of our DCS Mission Editor series , I want to provide alternatives to the seemingly standard practice of deploying SAM sites in their default templates. In part one, we focus on basic applications that do no require Trigger Zones, Switched Conditions, managing Alert Levels or any moderately difficult additions. DCS Default Template When I say "default template" I mean the actual drag and drop template from the built in mission editor. Normally, multi-unit surface-to-air missile sites like the HAWK, NASAMS, Patriot, SA-2 and SA-3 come in a single group. It makes it easy to select the lead unit and drag the entire group to the desired location. That is helpful for mission building, but too often are these high value targets just left in these clusters. These groups are usually roughly 400 meters by 400 meters. Perfect for a cluster munition or a few GPS-guided weapons to disable it in a single pass. Easy to spot and counterattack. Mission editors that prefer to focus on realistic deployment of SAM batteries would argue that these sites need to operate in a small area because they require support facilities and support vehicles. While true, this is mainly a requirement for more static SAM complexes like the SA-2 Guideline or SA-3 Goa. They are, by design, not highly mobile systems and operate best as permanent fixtures in purpose built locations. Inspiration From Reality Using the same application of realism, there are plenty of documented historical cases of more mobile SAM sites in past conflicts utilizing many types of unconventional dispersal methods. During Operation Allied Force (1999), NATO air forces found the Serbian deployed SA-6 Gainful to be surprisingly resilient because of its use of "shoot and scoot" tactics. After launching their missiles at NATO combat aircraft, the SA-6 units would disperse to other pre-prepared locations, where more ammunition and support infrastructure was on standby for their arrival. The SA-6 continued to be an ongoing threat throughout the campaign, despite the launch of 743 AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles. More recently, the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War (2022) has made the dispersion of SAM sites a requirement along its vast frontline. The Patriot PAC-2 under Ukrainian control has gained notoriety for destroying multiple aircraft within minutes and intercepting hypersonic missiles. Part of its success may be hinted at in a video from a Russian reconnaissance drone assisting in the destruction of two truck mounted Patriot missile launchers near the frontline. These launchers being detached far from their radar emitters, where they are least expected, seem to imply just how the Patriot is being so effective. Basic SAM Dispersal Suggestions In Digital Combat Simulator, multi-unit surface-to-air missile sites can be spread out as far as 25 nautical miles. SAM sites like the NASAMS, Patriot, SA-6, SA-10 and SA-11 are designed for use in combat while being dispersed from traditional support facilities. Let's take a look at some examples that can be used in the DCS mission editor. Example A: Expanded Dispersion In the Mission Editor, click "Create and Modify Templates". Select the Country and type of pre-made Surface to Air Missile group of units you want. Find a place on the map of choice to click the ground and spawn the template of vehicles. Be sure to deselect "Create and Modify Templates" to avoid accidentally spawning duplicate groups. While the core of this group can remain relatively close to one another in a configuration similar to the original template, a minimal effort to slightly spread them out according to the terrain would be beneficial. Select an existing missile launcher unit from the now placed template or create a new one launcher unit. Place that unit far from the core of the SAM group, but still within 25 nautical miles of the necessary search and track radars. It is important that each launcher have a supply vehicle of some type to reload the missile launchers, as they are no longer receiving ammunition from the supply vehicles in the core of the group. In this example, a quad-mount missile launcher is now detached from the main group of the Patriot battery. As hostile aircraft attempt to attack the search and track radar at the main group, they will find themselves being engaged by this detachment that is 9.30 nautical miles to the south-west. For the attacking aircraft, suddenly having a threat from an unexpected direction and potentially from a shorter distance than expected could be fatal or at least throw off any original attack plan to disable the Patriot site. Example B: Offensive Offset If the mission editor knows the likely direction of attack players will be using, a majority of missile launchers can be separated from the search and track radars to more advantageous positions. In Example B, an SA-10 Grumble has deployed its missile launcher up to roughly 13 nautical miles to its south, in the direction of hostile forces. While looking at this layout in the map overview, the radars do seem to be defenseless. However, the effective range of the SA-10's missile launchers both easily covers the radars and is now pushed out towards the incoming hostile aircraft. Any aircraft attacking using its radar warning receiver and anti-radar weaponry will now have two options. They will either have to fly deep within the effective range of the SA-10 missile engagement envelope, or they will have to individually find each detachment of launchers and destroy them one by one. While this example only focuses on the SA-10 battery, these SAM sites are often augmented by short range air defenses like anti-aircraft guns, MANPADS or other SAMs like the HQ-7 Red Banner or SA-8 Gecko. This SA-10 has now become quite difficult to deal with. Example C: Addition of Point Defense The default AI behavior of SAMs in DCS keeps their radar emitters on at almost all times. This can make most of these SAMs somewhat easy to disable with a single anti-radiation missile from a safe distance. Without having to get involved with trigger conditions or .lua, the easiest way to make these systems more survivable is to add point defense units to protect them. In Example C, an airfield is being defended by a small SA-6 Gainful battery with two mobile missile launcher units. The SA-6 was first introduced in 1958 and even with upgrades over the decades it became rather outdated by the 1980s. Assuming there are no weapon restrictions placed on the aircraft attempting to destroy the SA-6, in Digital Combat Simulator, there are various air-to-ground munitions that could destroy this SAM site without it being able to defend itself from incoming attack. The addition of a single SA-15 Tor point defense unit can greatly extend the SA-6's lifespan. Even if attacking players are using standoff weapons like anti-radiation missiles or glide bombs, the SA-15 can launch its own missiles to intercept them at up to 14.0 nautical miles away. Now, rather than the SA-6 being soft enough to disable with a single anti-radiation missile, a concerted effort to either focus fire on the SA-15 or overwhelm the SA-15's interception abilities with a saturation attack on the SA-6. I hope this gets mission editors thinking about changing things up for their next mission file. In the next entry of this series related to Surface-to-Air Missile Improvements, we will be getting more technical by adding Trigger Zones, specific conditions and support facilities that can be targeted to degrade SAM performance. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, 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 .

FSA Releases FlightSimExpo 2024 Seminar Schedule, Activities, Skyward Registration Link

FSA Releases FlightSimExpo 2024 Seminar Schedule, Activities, Skyward Registration Link

If you have not been paying attention to the epic saga that is FlightSimExpo 2024, a lot of convention killing hurdles were surmounted in near record time. The sudden closure of the original hotel (Tropicana Las Vegas), a rush to find a replacement with the assistance of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and securing a new hotel (Rio Las Vegas); a lot happened in four weeks. However, after recovering from such an unexpected "crosswind", the expo continues on. The Flight Simulation Association (FSA) has shared the much-anticipated schedule for their June 21-23, 2024 convention in Las Vegas, along with 2024’s Activities. Register and find discounted travel options at flightsimexpo.com . FlightSimExpo 2024 will feature developer announcements, panel discussions, and community-inspired seminars throughout the convention’s jam-packed, three-day schedule. Additionally, this year’s show will see the return of Activities: themed group events happening before, during, and after FlightSimExpo. 2024 Seminar Schedule The event kicks off with #FSExpoFriday, a series of announcements and new product reveals on Friday, June 21. The afternoon will include more than 15 presentations from developers like BlueBird Simulations, Combat Pilot, FlyInside, Nimbus, SayIntentions . AI, SimWorks Studios, SoFly, Tobii AB, and X-Plane. The weekend seminar series will feature talks on RNAV approaches, scenery design, online networks, combat and helicopter simulation, a live PC build on stage, and more. Seminars were sourced from the community and selected by vote of FlightSimExpo attendees. Talks take place in Rio Las Vegas’ Brasilia Room and on the FSElite Stage, located in the exhibit hall. “There’s absolutely something for everyone in our 2024 seminar schedule,” says organizer Evan Reiter. “Whether you’re new to flight sim or you’re a seasoned veteran looking for the next big release, you’ll find plenty to see and do at this year’s show.” Activities Before, during, and after FlightSimExpo 2024, attendees can participate in fun Activities featuring some of the many entertainment options Las Vegas has to offer. Paid and free Activities include a tour of the Las Vegas Air Traffic Control Tower, museum visits, a night out on the town, on-site workshops, and live shows at the Rio. Information about 2024’s Activities is available at flightsimexpo.com/activities ; registration will open on April 14 at 12pm PT. New Partners Since the initial reveal on March 22, FSA has confirmed 12 more exhibitors for the show: Beta Technologies, The Pilot Club, Hyperion Sim, Thrustmaster, Redbird Flight Simulations, BeyondATC, Vyral LLC, Yawman, National STOL Series, Somnium Space, Fly Virtual . net and FlyInside. Prospective exhibitors can visit flightsimexpo.com/partner for information about getting involved. “Since attending FSExpo a few years ago by myself and seeing all the amazing products that were offered, we jumped at the opportunity to come back as an organization,” said Tom Flanary, Founder of the National STOL Series. “We’re excited to bring something new to the community by introducing everyone to the world of eSTOL. We want to open everyone up to the world of bush flying and the competitive nature of STOL flying, and we are excited to do that at FSExpo 2024!” FlightSimExpo takes place on June 21-23, 2024 in Las Vegas. Registration is available online at flightsimexpo.com . Attendees are encouraged to book discounted hotel rooms before they sell out, and learn about discounts with Delta, Southwest, and United. Skyward Flight Media Registration Link For the third year, Skyward Flight Media is a media partner for FlightSimExpo. This year we have a registration link people can use to get their weekend passes for the expo. As more people use our link to register to attend the expo, we in turn get benefits as an organization for the expo. So we would appreciate your support! ### About FlightSimExpo. FlightSimExpo is one of the world’s largest flight simulation conventions. The event has welcomed more than 5,000 attendees to events in Las Vegas, Orlando, San Diego, and Houston since 2018. FlightSimExpo is produced by Flight Simulation Association, a community-driven organization of developers, simmers, and real-world pilots working to make it easier to get started in home flight simulation. Join the community today—free—at flightsimassociation.com for resources, learning content, webinars, and discounts on top add-ons and simulation hardware.

Nuclear Option: Maps and Pre-Planned Attacks

Nuclear Option: Maps and Pre-Planned Attacks

Appreciating an unsung hero? Lately, my game time with Nuclear Option by Shockfront Studios has gone way up. Delving into this game at a much deeper level crossed my mind after I saw a tournament was set up for April 6th, 2024. Seeing the announcement for the Nuclear Option Competitive Smackdown (Eastern Hemisphere) did make me think more seriously about if a flight-sim lite like this could become a high level competitive player vs player title. Over the past two weeks, fellow Skyward Flight Media staff members have joined me in multiplayer and player versus environment sessions to get a real feeling for what higher intensity gameplay Nuclear Option offers. That experience is bound to be an article of its own eventually, but not quite yet. It was somewhere between the intense two-ship low altitude incursions and tactical nuclear carpet bombing that the simplest tool in the game became the core of our tactics (and the inspiration of this article). You would think that the stand-off jamming capability of the recently added EW-25 Medusa electronic warfare aircraft or the area denial abilities of the Shard-class corvette would be the "new hotness" we would discuss. You would think, but... ...have you used the map, though? Yes, the map of all things. Whether you're slinging plasma bolts in a flight arcade game or painstakingly double-checking GPS coordinates in a flight simulator, having access to a map is useful, but not something you would write home about. This game uses the map to show the position of known allies and enemies. Players will mostly be interacting with it to scroll around the map to see the disposition of forces and select which airbase they will be launching their next sortie from. However, its hidden strength is the ability to zoom in tightly on small areas and let players hover their mouse icon over specific units. Not only to identify them by their unit name, but also to pre-target select them by left-clicking on their icons. While Nuclear Option does have beyond visual range weapons that players and their computer counterparts can access, the game is decidedly more of a within visual range combat experience. Even more so because of how it handles targeting in game. During flight, the horizontal diamond in the player's Heads Up Display must be put over the icon of a unit to be locked onto by depressing the "Target Select" button. Locking onto a single target will zoom the camera sensor in the player's cockpit onto that unit, providing a clear view of what exactly it is or what it is doing. In my opinion, this sort of extends the concept of what "within visual range is". Selecting more than one target at a time will zoom this camera out as it tries to show a view of what the selected targets are doing in a wide area, causing the camera to zoom out to try and fit both targets in its view. In the midst of combat, manually slewing the targeting reticle to lock and unlock targets isn't terrible, but can be hard to do when task saturated. Sometimes trying to pick out the exact target you had in mind at the beginning of the sortie gets lost in the clutter of combat and evading incoming fire. Target sorting while under pressure is doable, but the map's ability to pre-select targets opens up a degree of pre-planned attack strategies. Whether the player is starting up the aircraft on the ground or mid-flight, any targets that are selected from the map are selected targets for the aircraft. When the map is closed, the distance and direction of these targets will be displayed in the aircraft's cockpit camera sensor. Now, instead of manually searching for targets while ingressing into the combat area, players can focus on planning a route avoiding detection and air defenses, keeping their attention on reaching their target and utilizing the full capabilities of any standoff / beyond visual range weapons by monitoring their weapons engagement envelope indicator, visualized as a circle on the HUD that gradually becomes a full circle, then changes color from yellow to green to show that a weapon is within its ideal firing parameters. In an emegency, de-selecting the pre-planned targets to handle a new threat is fine, as long as players take the time to re-open the map, zoom back in to find their targets of interest and left click them again. Selecting targets from a map sounds cumbersome when explained in text, but in practice it only takes seconds once players know what they are specifically looking for in a target area. In coordination with other human players, a few mouse clicks can result in specific target sets per aircraft, resulting in a sizeable multi-weapon pre-planned attack that saturates enemy targets of all types within just a few seconds. In a game where dozens of units are maneuvering and exchanging fire over a sprawling map, efficiency in striking the right target at the right time can change the flow of battle. Shoutout to the map! A bit of an unsung hero. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, 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 .

Hunter Alligator: Flying the DCS Mi-24P Hind in Enigma's Cold War Server

Hunter Alligator: Flying the DCS Mi-24P Hind in Enigma's Cold War Server

MINOR EDITS: 3/30/2024 - ORIGINAL POST: 10/01/2022 I think it is fair to say that the Cold War scene has been on the rise as of late. It is a very interesting development, like we already mentioned in one of our previous articles , seeing as this era is much more driven by old school techniques rather than relying on sensors to do most of the work for you when you enter combat with someone else. This feeling of complete analog combat is what drove me to test Enigma. I have not been the most successful pilot, but I had a couple of interesting sorties. But none of those compare to the feeling that I had when I decided to finally go on a sortie with the Hind.

To say that I had fun would be an understatement. I found myself in situations where I had not found myself in before, situations which forced me to use the Hind in ways I just hadn't before. I took off from one of the FOBs and went straight to the frontline with four AT-6s, two R-60s and two rocket pods. In order to carry all of that, I had to reduce my fuel load, which is fine. The fly from the FOB to the frontline was uneventful, at least for me. Over me, an aerial battle was being fought between a Mirage F1 and a pair of MiG-21s. It was kind of terrifying, because I was just a couple of hundred feet from the furball: hiding at tree top level. I flew as fast as I could, with my R-60s prepped and my left thumb over the countermeasures button. Thankfully, the pair of Fishbeds won, and the Mirage went down in a ball of flames.

At this point I had already reached the frontline. Since I had already vectored myself thanks to a friendly recon flight, I went for a quick attack on an enemy FOB with my rockets. I was not the most successful, but you can't ask much from ED's standard damage model. Splash damage feels very much nonexistent, depending on the circumstances. It was during one of these rocket passes that I saw a small dot in the distance: an aircraft. It was flying at treetop level and going slow, so it had to be another helicopter. Judging by its direction, it had to be an enemy one! I called off my last rocket pass and armed my R-60s. The hunt had begun! THE HUNT I continued closing distance with the enemy helicopter, which I now confirmed to be an enemy Gazelle. I chose to approach it from the side and then proceeded to place myself at its six o-clock. Not only that, but I got tone and the missile flew off my rail. It took it a bit to make contact but, when it did, that Gazelle's tail assembly had a different zip code. That tail flew off the Gazelle, and it came tumbling down, crashing in a ball of fire. That was the first kill. I had no time to celebrate, though. In the distance, I managed to see what looked to be flares from a recce team. That meant that another helicopter was nearby. I looked in that direction and found another dot, one that belonged to a Huey. I did the same, went in for the kill. That was the second one. Unexpectedly, just a kilometer away, two other Hueys were strafing one of our positions. It was at that moment that I heard a jet engine roaring past me. A Mirage had flown over me. I tried to line up a shot, but by the time I had turned around, it was long gone. With the Mirage gone, I prayed I wasn't in any immediate danger as I vectored towards the Hueys. I was joined by an allied Hind and a Hip, both which seemed to have been operating around the same area as me. The Hueys strafed the Hip, hitting it a couple of times. I rushed in, getting into what was my first helicopter dogfight. The Hueys and I danced around, trying to get a proper shooting position. The Huey hit me a couple of times with the miniguns, but nothing important was hit. At least to my knowledge. It wasn't until one of the Hueys extended a turn that I whipped myself around, took aim and fired at him with my 30mm. His main rotor shattered, sending him to a painful death. That being said, I never knew what became of that second Huey. Sadly, even after 3 kills, my flight did not end in the best of ways. I landed in the middle of a field close to the Huey's wreck to unload a recon team I had loaded. I let them do their thing, and then I got the prompt to pick them back up. That is when I got overconfident and, while trying to do an expedited descent, entered DCS' exaggerated VRS (Vortex Ring State) and crashed right next to my team. IF YOU LIKE HELOS, GIVE ENIGMA'S A TRY If you find yourself wanting a place to go on helicopter sorties with your friend to have what has got to be an unparalleled Cold War experience with helicopters, Enigma is the place to go. Helicopters play a crucial role in the mission and fit perfectly in it. This is not common in popular servers, which are usually much more focused on the experience that supersonic fixed-wing fighters will have, not the slow rotary-wing aircraft. 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 2000s, 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 2010s. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord : Cubeboy

Skyward's 4th Anniversary!

Skyward's 4th Anniversary!

We are celebrating our 4th anniversary here at Skyward Flight Media, so we are taking a look back with both co-founders to reminisce about how we started as a media organization, our goals and even a bit about where we are going. Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza A little over four years ago, I almost decided I was completely done with writing like this. After a decade of random projects and websites starting and ending in various states, I began to wonder if anything would keep me engaged in writing about flight games and sims. Truth be told, if it was not for the persistence of Skyward Flight Media co-founder Santiago Cuberos, I would have stopped all of my creative efforts after the sudden halt of our previous project in December 2019. With some serious support that renewed my drive, the initial talks about the concept of Skyward Flight Media began in January 2020. Prep work was completed within two months and the public opening of Skyward Flight Media happened on March 24th, 2020.  Four years later, I find myself deeper and deeper into the content creation merry-go-round that I proudly conduct for Skyward. Even as I write this I am conducting an ongoing interview, preparing two more, looking for up and flight games. Though there is also plenty of life in games and simulators that have already been released. Even titles that are decades old, made before I was even born, are still valid pieces of media for us. When I write down every potential article idea, sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed by the number of choices. Not a bad problem to have! The variety and flexibility of content that Skyward can produce without absolutely falling off with our readership is something I will always be grateful for.  During times of reflection like this, I look back at the things I’ve written  and the array of flight related content is unique to say the least. From interviews  with indie developers making their own marks on the flight game scene, two of my most in-depth game reviews to date for The Brew Barons  and Thunder Helix , to Skyward’s first serious hardware reviews with Heads Up View  and Yawman , starting a completely unplanned mission editor series  for Digital Combat Simulator world with fellow staff member Caio D. "Hueman" Barreto and travelling in person for the first time to Flight Sim Expo 2023 to meet the people and companies pushing flight simulation forward.  If I were to list a few personal goals this year, they would be securing more interviews with developers, content creators and companies, giving the website a massive upgrade to make it both more ‘modern’ and flashy in most places and try to reach out to some well established names in the industry to provide a new type of content.  Know that while hanging out with staff and close friends in a Skyward themed virtual reality hangar, complete with an original design jet trainer , I raised a glass to you dear reader! Thank you wholeheartedly for your support thus far. Here is to another year! Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos It is sort of hard to comprehend the passing of time sometimes, isn't it? I never thought I would be writing these words to celebrate our website's fourth anniversary. When I think about it, to even think that it has already been four years since we started kind of boggles my mind and makes me feel a bit lightheaded; but let's take a step back to when I joined this crazy creative effort that I co-founded. I joined what used to be Project Lighthouse back in 2017 as a Spanish translator with no other ambitions. I got assigned a couple of projects that I completed in no time, which left me with a drive to do more. This led me to asking Ribbon-Blue if there was anything else I could do to help him out, since he was the only one in the then leadership that was actively working on the website. He told me I could write an article if I wanted, and so I did. The rest is history. When some internal issues arose and Project Lighthouse disbanded in late 2019, this left me wondering where would any of this go. I knew that Aaron was already a veteran of content creation on the internet, and at that time we were already very good friends, so I proposed a rebranding for Project Lighthouse. A fresh start is what we needed to get back into the groove, and I was right. It took us a couple of months, but after that we had Skyward Flight Media up running in March 2020. In these four years, I have done things I never thought I would have had the possibility to do. I have been able to speak with developers, connect with fellow creators, get press access to games and DCS modules, among many things. It is just unbelievable to be in the position that I am and to have this platform that Aaron, Caio and I have built together. But there is someone that I have yet to thank or mention, you. I genuinely love the community that has built around our articles and the general positivity that it has. We just broke 5,000 followers on Twitter/X and I couldn't be more grateful. Thanks for reading our articles, really, it does mean the world to me.

Winners! Heatblur DCS F-4E Phantom II Giveaway

Winners! Heatblur DCS F-4E Phantom II Giveaway

The time has arrived! The winners of our giveaway for the Heatblur Simulations F-4E Phantom II for Digital Combat Simulator have been announced. For those that do not know, we take the names of all contestants that applied on the website and social media, put their names into a list, randomize the order of that list and use Google Random Number Generator  to select the winners for our giveaways. This is about as randomized as we can make it. The winners for this giveaway are: FighterTales webber_ita
Congratulations to the winners! We will be contacting them in the next few days to get their prizes to them. As a side note, one of these two winners was someone that submitted their entry via the contact form on our website. There was also a website entry winner for our third anniversary giveaway. We are pointing this out to let people know those website entries are just as effective as the social media entries. Be sure to utilize those if you do not have an X.com account to still get in on the action!

Review: Thunder Helix (Pre-Release)

Review: Thunder Helix (Pre-Release)

A Nostalgic Lens Over a Modern Flight Shooter The power of nostalgia cannot be denied. Whether it is tied to a life experience from long ago or a faux memory of a past we barely knew, utilizing that feeling of personal connection can be compelling. Since October 2020, Thunder Helix has drawn a steady stream of nostalgia lensed praise for its looks, but it has more going for it than that. On March 5th, 2024, Skyward Flight Media received a Steam Key for Thunder Helix from its developer, David Walters . Our review is of the pre-early access release version of the game, which is not representative of the game months from now. We will be sure to update this review or create a new review when the time is right. This review was made without direction from the developer. The Vibe From the outside looking in, much of the anticipation around Thunder Helix has been from its visual likeness to a pair of games from the early 1990s. Over the past three years, it has fairly consistently been compared to LHX Attack Chopper (1990) and Desert Strike: Return To The Gulf (1992) by Electronic Arts. LHX is more of a flight simulation experience, while Desert Strike is a third person "shoot'em up" with plenty of smaller strategic elements; like resource management and using the in-game mission map to plan out attacks instead of running in guns blazing all the time. From the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, Electronic Arts was a pretty reliable source for flight focused games and simulators such as these. Delving into the nostalgic memory sentiment personally, I've got fond memories of my oldest brother introducing me to F-22 Interceptor, U.S. Navy Fighters, F-117 Night Storm and many others. LHX and Desert Strike among them. Because of this, it is hard for me to not also see Thunder Helix and tie its identity and what it "could be" to those retro titles. To summarize what "the vibe" of this game is, you could say: Thunder Helix plays the way we think the games in our memories were played. Like a hands-on evocation. Rotary-Wing Vehicles The three steads of battle in this game represent three concepts of attack helicopters. The UH-85 "Lewis" is a heavy utility transport helicopter, inspired by the UH-1 Huey. The Lewis represents what could be considered the first attack helicopters: heavily armed transport helicopters. It has the highest armor count and crew capacity, though it lacks medium range precision weapons. Players flying the Lewis must be prepared to rely on long range rocket tossing onto groups of enemy units and its pair of straight shooting miniguns. The Lewis is the slowest, lease maneuverable aircraft in Thunder Helix. The RH-2K "Raven" advanced scout/recon helicopter seems to be inspired by the cancelled RAH-66 Comanche; a product of the Light Helicopter Experimental project of the 1980s. This high speed, highly maneuverable helicopter features weapon bays that are toggled opened and closed to deploy four Hellgate guided air-to-ground missiles. Its 20mm cannon has an especially high rate of fire, but its a fixed weapon system that must be aimed by maneuvering the Raven itself. The RH-2K may have some stealth properties to it while the weapons bay is closed, but I do not have hard evidence to back that up. Finally, the AH-92 Avenger tactical gunship is inspired by the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. With ample amounts of guided anti-tank missiles, rocket pods, chin mounted 30mm chain gun and the second most armor available for a helicopter, the Avenger is easily a go-to choice for any mission in the game. Its standoff attack ability is substantial with its eight Hellgate anti-tank missiles and the ability to maneuver while firing the chain gun. It is not as fast as the Raven, but with its long-reach it does not have to be. Cold Start, Hot Start You may have noticed the option for Cold Start and Hot Start in the previous section's screenshots. Before you gather tutorials for starting up an attack helicopter, I need to bring you back down a bit. The Cold Start process in Thunder Helix does not include clicking on screen switches. Instead, the cold and dark aircraft is brought to life with a minor throttle increase. An automated cold start process runs, the helicopter powers up, and it is ready to fly within 30 seconds or so. I personally do not believe this is a negative thing, but I wanted to clarify that for players that are more flight simulation leaning. Controller Support In a way the wide controller support Thunder Helix has is funny because the look of Thunder Helix would place it in an era where there were so many proprietary controllers for specific games or platforms, the idea of a single game accepting any controller you use on it was a pipe dream. You would use one specialized controller for one or two specific games and just be happy it worked as advertised. In the later stages of the Thunder Helix pre-release development, the developer took time to include "out of the box support" for keyboard, keyboard and mouse and multiple common game pads. The supported include the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, PlayStation 4 Dualshock 4, PlayStation 5 DualSense, Xbox X|S Controller and a general Joystick profile. Of note is the joystick profile. To test this, this review of Thunder Helix was made using a joystick not seen in the developer's picture of controllers he used. I used a Thrustmaster T.Flight 4 hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS) on a J-Pein desk mount. It worked perfectly fine. Throttle, roll, pitch and rudder axis were mapped in game with a set of instructional screens that ask users to move their flight stick and throttles to certain positions and press the fire key to confirm their axes. It took me roughly three to five minutes to set up, including remapping a few buttons to positions I preferred, rather than the positions suggested by the game. I did not have to make compromises for the sake of just getting the T.Flight 4 to work. Any extra buttons I did not feel like assigning to the HOTAS I used on the keyboard. Using a more advanced HOTAS with even more buttons and switches built into it would easily allow for all game controls to be mapped. Flight Model Do not expect to enter Vortex Ring State mid-combat or be extra careful because of debilitated engine output in high temperature, high altitude situations. The flight model of Thunder Helix is firmly an arcade style flight shooter with weightiness behind it to make it feel as though it is a bit more simulator like. Engine collective and throttle responses are consistent and always available for rapid power increases and decreases without potentially causing engine damage. Though understanding the different between collective, throttle and adjusting the helicopter's attitude to manage speed without gaining altitude is still a needed skill set to fly and fight as effectively as possible. For example, players can attack and turn away from targets just using cyclic inputs. This results in long, sweeping turns. Players that can coordinate their cyclic inputs with yaw inputs can quickly snap turn their helicopters in much smaller areas, making follow-up attacks or sudden evasive maneuvers more viable and more frequent. It is not possible to roll the helicopters inverted or backflip them, as there is a limiter in place. There is still plenty of pitch and roll authority to fly the helicopters effectively, but this does make me wonder if this is an intentional measure taken to protect the player's experience. I can appreciate this, but it would be nice to have an option to disable this limiter for players that feel confident enough to fly without it. Something in the options menu that needs to be disabled, with text warning people that they are removing the limiter. Or something labeled "Arcade" and "Realistic" that has the same effect. Pulling off maneuvers like side slips and pop up attacks from behind terrain does require good coordination between the cyclic and yaw. Maneuvers like this take a bit of practice to perfect, but in pre-planned attacks against large enemy defensive positions, maneuvers like this can make or break the attack. I appreciate that while Thunder Helix does have some type of flight control limitation, advanced maneuvers like these can still be done. I believe this is what makes Thunder Helix an easy to learn helicopter game. Even for people that are not flight game aficionados. This simplification of the complicated nature of flying helicopters in general makes the game approachable and very easy to learn, while letting players focus on the action. Thoughts on Combat Knowing that this is a flight arcade title, I can say I am pretty satisfied with the combat in Thunder Helix. Circling back to the LHX and Desert Strike comparisions for context, it feels as though David Walters has acknowledged the flaws within those two titles and successfully avoided not repeating their flaws. The most glaring one that comes to mind is targeting. In both of those games from the 1990s, they had well remembered issues with target management. Whether it was LHX targeting system always grabbing random targets at the most inopportune time or Desert Strike's targeting working by proximity to target and the direction of the nose of the aircrat, Thunder Helix's more deliberate and stable targeting system is a positive addition. Players have controls to either select targets directly ahead of them or cycle through them from left to right or right to left on three separate buttons. Once targets are selected, they remain prioritized with obvious indications in the user interface in cockpit view and third person view so long as players keep the target within their weapons envelope. Completely turning away from a target or placing terrain between the player's helicopter and the target will break that lock. Which is fair considering you cannot keep eyes or sensors on the target. But the minimization of auto target selection has helped the Thunder Helix experience. The amount of information displayed in the cockpit is appropriate. All relvanat to the immediate needs of the player without too much extra information purely for the Rule of Cool. By far the two most useful functions are the gun camera which displays an image of the object actively being targeted by the player and the ability to zoom in up to eight times magnification, allowing for visual identification of targets even before the targeting system can start reccommending targets. The three primary weapon systems of the game can be categorized into:
Fire and forget anti-tank missiles that guide onto locked targets. Players have the option to watch them fly onto target in a third person view. They have the most destructive power and largest blast radius. Unguided rockets with high explosive warheads that must be manually aimed by the players. Different flavors of rapid fire machine guns or cannons, with the 30mm chain gun being able to fire at targets indepdent of the aircraft's flight path.
I was concerned that game balance would be heavily reliant on the use of anti-tank missiles to solve a majority of the problems players would face, but I was mistaken. In fact, for non-anti aircraft units, I frequently launch small volleys of unguided rockets from medium distance with a four times camera zoom, saturating them with enough rockets to defeat main battle tanks while retaining missiles for more complicated situations. The guns are capable of defeating armored targets with sustained, accurate gun fire, but the 30mm chain gun is the MVP weapon choice, as it can be used while the aircraft is maneuvering to evade fire. With it packing enough punch to do serious damage to armored targets without the large spalsh damage of the anti-tank missiles, it is the most versatile weapon in the game. Even in the most intense moments where multiple units are firing at the player, not all enemy vehicles are so laser accurate that getting in close range combat is an immediate death sentence. Closing within 200 meters of an aware and angry anti-aircraft position is still not a great decision, but that same anti-aircraft gun is not going to be reliably sniping your helicopter from roughly six kiometers away either. There are gaps between the abilities of the players weapon systems and the enemy's weapon systems that can be taken advantage of. Supplies to rearm, refuel and repair facilities are scattered enough to make players consider their tactics in combat do not solely consist of just running in guns spraying, but also include where to resupply between objectives or the pursuit of extra enemy units for an increased high score. The combat in Thunder Helix is easy to understand with a short learning curve. Even when things do go rather bad for the players, it is not a frustrating loop where a singular unit could be enough to block and only a well timed lucky shot can progress the players forward. Even when dodging surface to air missiles, the option to leave the area and reapproach it from another direction is always there. So far, there are never so many hostiles in a single area it is impossible to egress from a bad situation, which is something smart players will use to their advantage when things go sideways. There is enough breathing room in the combat of Thunder Helix for players to both jump into the action and take time to plan comfortably. The next section of this review highlights exactly why this is possible. Mission Map Management This is most likely the most useful tool players have access to in the entire game. When the map is open, the game pauses and all relevant information about the mission is available to be read without being under constant fire. While in this map view, players can: Scroll through the map and zoom in to plan their next move while looking at terrain. See the locations for known threats. See the locations of supplies like ammo, fuel and friendly landing zones. Review all slides of the mission briefing to make sure they are clear on their objectives. While in the map, they can also open the options menu and adjust controls, graphics and gameplay options as needed without having to go back to the main menu. Scenario Missions and Campaign Missions Thunder Helix is launching into early access with one scenario mission and one campaign mission. The Scenario missions seem to be setup as one-off missions, not tied to a consistent story. A free flight style tutorial mission is available for players to teach themselves the controls in a non-combat setting. Also, with plenty of wooden camels that are definitely not meant for target practice. The campaign missions are exactly what they say they are. Multi-objective, multi-mission campaign with a consistent storyline. The first mission has four objectives, with a possible fifth objective. Threats include squishy, easy to destroy targets like fuel trucks and radio towers, to more formidible foes like surface-to-air missile sites, self propelled anti-aircraft artillery and hostile gunships. Players will need to resupply frequently, manage their finite resources and pick and choose their engagements to survive the entire mission. Players have up to three lives (retrys) to complete the mission before they fail it completely. Content Roadmap As this is an early access release title, it would be unfair to lodge a complaint about lack of content when the point of early access is to support a project long-term as it generates content working towards its full game release. It will take many months for it to reach its "1.0" status. During that time a steady stream of content is planned. A day before the game's release, the developer posted a public roadmap for what early access players can expect. Rather than post the road map here, as it is subject to change on the developer's schedule, I reccommend seeing the roadmap for yourself and keeping track of it if you are interested in this project. Closing In the past couple of years, fixed wing aircraft have recieved multiple modern retro game style releases from various developers. Tiny Combat Arena , Frontiers Reach and Sky Rogue come to mind. Rotary wing aircraft have not recieved nearly as many in comparison and I can only hope that the success of Thunder Helix could inspire others to try the same. I look foward to seeing what Thunder Helix accomplishes in the next four to six months. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, 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 .

Heatblur DCS F-4E Phantom II Giveaway

Heatblur DCS F-4E Phantom II Giveaway

Sign Up From March 18th through March 22nd, 2024 ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY As we near our fourth anniversary this weekend, we have decided to set up a giveaway for the upcoming Heatblur F-4E Phantom II for Digital Combat Simulator World. There will be two (2) winners receiving this module as a gift via Steam or the Digital Combat Simulator E-Shop. The period to sign up for the giveaway is from March 18th, 2024 to March 22nd, 2024 . The winners will be announced on Saturday, March 23rd, 2024 in our fourth anniversary post. HOW TO ENTER This year, we have two ways to enter this giveaway.
Follow SkywardFM on X/Twitter  and like pinned giveaway post . Reposting is not required, but helping spread the word is appreciated.
For those that do not have a Twitter account, they can  contact us on our email: staff@skywardfm.com . Please include your Name and/or Screen Name, email address and mention that you are entering the giveaway, so we can contact you if you win. Email entries count as one (1) entry.
Skyward Flight Media will announce the winner publicly in a post on X.com and blog post on this website. Thanks for joining our giveaway and supporting us.

The Mighty Eighth VR Lives!

The Mighty Eighth VR Lives!

A Well-Timed Signal Flare from a Silent Project I am going to be honest with you, I have not thought of this project for at least a year. My last interaction with it happened back on October 24th, 2022, when Skyward Flight Media received an announcement to journalists about upcoming projects from MicroProse and access to the press kit. The Mighty Eighth VR slipped from my mind, not because it was a boring venture, but because it seemingly went silent almost immediately. The initial attempts to reach out to journalists during that time also did not go anywhere either. So you can imagine my genuine surprise to see a dev blog posted on Steam on January 23rd, 2024. Something I did not notice until I was reminded of this game by an adjacent piece of media just last week. I only remembered this apparently still in development virtual reality game because of my recent near obsession with Masters of the Air . This Apple TV original series follows the story of the United States Army Air Force, 8th Air Force, 100th Bomb Group in World War II from 1943 well into 1945. Its portrayal of air combat with B-17 Flying Fortress crews over occupied Europe pulls no punches. Watching these pitched battles unfold, I vaguely remembered a virtual reality simulator focused on B-17s. With players operating from Thorpe Abbots  RAF base, the home air base seen in Masters of the Air. On a whim, I did a quick search and, to my surprise, saw an update from MicroProse. For those that do not know or do not remember, the description on The Mighty Eighth VR product page is: "The Mighty 8th VR puts you in the shoes of a B-17 Flying Fortress crew member at the height of the Strategic Bombing Campaign over Europe. Partner up with friends and do your part to ensure that the plane reaches the target and returns home safely." It plans to be a virtual reality simulator that places teams of up to 10 human players into a B-17 Flying Fortress. AI crew mates are available as well. The crews must work together to complete and survive combat missions over occupied Europe. All positions can be occupied by the players, with the ability to move through the aircraft mid-flight to take up other positions or attempt to repair battle damage. Listed on the official website, the positions are: Pilot Co-Pilot Navigator Bombardier /Chin Turret Gunner Radio Operator Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Port Waist Gunner Starboard Waist Gunner Ball Gunner Tail Gunner Media from the October 2022 press kit, which I am using throughout this article, focuses on interactions with opening doors, operating .50 caliber machine guns, inspecting the Norden bomb sight and walking through the aircraft. The idea of being as hands on as possible within a virtual reality experience that emphasizes atmosphere could be a winning combination if the attention to detail is there. If pushing for a simulator like experience where a player(s) are spending decently long amounts of time within a restricted space, the portrayal and functionality of the interior of the B-17 is going to be just as important as its flight model. Inspecting the Norden Bombsight (2022 Presskit). It is one thing to make sure an aircraft is accurately modeled in every way possible when it is a single seat or two seat aircraft. But something on the scale of a bomber with an average crew of 10 people that move through its fuselage is an entirely different beast. There are still plenty of unknowns about how players will gather, mission briefings, aerial combat and the depth and quantity of interactions. Though, it seems like the scope of the project has extended from just the aircraft. The January 2024  dev blog  showcases the ability to drive a Jeep on base out to their aircraft as a part of pre-mission preparations. Immersion wise, this certainly adds to the "like you are actually there" atmosphere they are hoping to maintain throughout the game. I have to say that I am happy to see there is some life still left in this project. The timing of the update was well-timed with Masters of the Air releasing new episodes over the past few weeks. I find myself getting somewhat excited over the prospect of working in a coordinated bomber crew with friends and strangers, just hoping to make it to the target and back. This has the potential to be a large-scale cooperative air combat simulator on a scale very, very few developers have attempted. My fingers are crossed for future, hopefully consistent updates. Radio compartment .50 caliber machine gun. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, 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 .

Review: SK60B Mod for DCS World by BAAS Dynamics

Review: SK60B Mod for DCS World by BAAS Dynamics

2022 was quite the year for DCS. Many great modules and mods had been released, some of which have opened new doors and experiences for the player base. However, 2022 was not over yet, and it seemed like the guys at BAAS Dynamics wanted to make sure that we left 2022 with one hell of a present: Their Sk60B! This mod released publicly on the 24th of December 2022 . Which meant we all had access to it just in time for the holidays! The folks over at BAAS were kind enough to give me access to their mod before its official release so that I could give feedback and make some content with it, so, let's use this chance to take a look at what you can expect from it. A couple of days ago as of the 9th of March 2024, the developers released version 1.2 of the Sk.60B, bringing many changes that some of us had been waiting for ever since launch. In this review, we will be taking a look into several different parts of the module and evaluating if this wonderful little jet is for you. These points will be divided in several sections:
External and internal 3D models Flight modelling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Special Features! Is this aircraft for you?
DISCLAIMER 3/9/24: This is an updated version of our preview of the Sk.60B, with changed wording and updated media. This article was originally published 12/17/2022 EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS I am extremely happy to report that the external 3D model for this mod is stunning. The texture work stands out, and the shape seems to have been recreated very accurately. The engine blades are present, gear compression and animations are awesome. The same goes for even smaller details such as the trim tabs on the control surfaces, which have been modeled to work as they would on the real deal.

What caught my attention the most, though, was the gorgeous use of normalmaps as this is an area that can be easily overdone. These normals mark the panel lines and even the smallest rivet, so getting them right is a big deal. I can think of at least a couple of official modules with much inferior texture and modeling work than what BAAS has accomplished.
Here are a couple of examples of what I thought were noteworthy parts of the model:
Now, the best part of this mod by far has to be the internal cockpit model. Everything here is top-notch, and I was astonished that this cockpit looked way better than most official modules. From the subtle scratches of the instrument panel to the absolutely sublime night light lighting, this is my favorite cockpit from any fixed wing mod. It is that good.
This cockpit feels alive at night, it is a spectacle on its own. I have spent so much time looking at it and the more I look, the more I realize that this what many other mods and modules could look like this. It reminds me that this game is one gorgeous piece of software.
I will just let the pictures talk for themselves, since it is a bit hard for me to explain just how good this model is:
One small thing that caught my eye here was this light in the very small center console section. To me, it looks so natural when you compare it to other floodlights or similar lighting implementations in the game. It shows that, even with current tech, this sim can be gorgeous regardless if we are flying a free module or a paid one. It also means that free mods have caught-up to official ones in terms of visuals! FLIGHT MODELING DISCLAIMER: This is always a tough category, as like with any other aircraft, there is a lot to take into consideration other than just the feel of the flight model. This category is the most subjective one in this article, as I do not have any real world experience with this craft. I will only base my opinion on practical experience and knowledge of practical aerodynamics and the theoretical behavior that a SK60B should have under certain scenarios. With that out of the way, I am pretty happy with how the FM was handled in this mod. Like many modern mods, it was made using an External Flight Model (EFM) which usually means that it will feel a lot more natural and accurate in terms of its behavior, specially on the extreme sides of the flight envelope. What we were told by one of its developers, Fredrik "Breadmaker" is that its modeling was "based on both performance measurements from Flight School and also aerodynamical calculations. It’s AWESOME to fly."

I am also happy to report that yes, he was right. It feels awesome to fly. It is an extremely responsive bird that packs quite a lot of power thanks to the dual J85 engines. I have been having a blast throwing it around in every way imaginable, and it has taken it like a champ, now I understand why Team60 used it for so long. It stalls very gently and recovers extremely easily, even from unintended spins and many other situations. This feels "right", if you get what I mean by that. I cannot ascertain its fidelity by the book, but it flies and feels as it should. MISSION CAPABILITIES To not extend this part, I can say that it is a very comprehensive almost-all-weather trainer that is also capable of doing some light attack work on the side. I pretty much appreciate where this aircraft seats in relation to other mods and modules as it fills a niche that has, so far, only been occupied by the T-45C mod by VNAO. It is a free trainer that will allow many, many people to start DCS in a better way than if they had started by using something like the vanilla Su-25T and the TF-51. ARMAMENT ROCKETS You have the ability of carrying two different types of rockets, both of which are extremely big!
13.5cm (135mm) HE rockets in either x6 or x12 configurations. 14.5cm (145mm) HEAT rockets in only a x6 configuration. AKAN GUN PODS These are absolutely fun to use. These 30mm pods can be equipped at the cost of rockets. You cannot have both rockets or gun pods equipped at the same time, which means that you will have to choose between them! EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE The Sk60 is an extremely easy plane to both learn and fly, as it is only natural of a training platform. Everything from start-up to wheels up and landing is extremely easy to learn and proved to be quite an enjoyable learning experience, at least in the time that I have had with the platform. The only systems that require a bit more knowledge might be the GPS and the radios, but those are also simplified and quite straight forward in terms of the way they work. SPECIAL FEATURES This is where the Sk60 gets interesting, since it offers several unique features that I have yet to see in any other mod in DCS as of the time of writing. These include a completely functional and standalone version of the Garmin NS430, a GPS navigation system! It is just insane to think that modders have found a way to include a system like this despite not having access to the official NS430 addon. In fact, this implementation does not need that you own the official one for it to work, it is a standalone system and I love it! The same applies with the "special menu", a head-tracked menu a-lá Heatblur's tomcat. This menu allows you to customize certain aspects of the mod such as gunsight installation, rocket salvo mode and even a pilot wave animation. It is extremely cool and something I thought was completely impossible for modders to implement. Props to the devs for doing this! IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: A lovely trainer. A light attacker that could prove useful in low-threat environments. A mod that looks and feel like a paid module. An excellent platform to fly and train with your trains.
If you don't mind: Not having any air-to-air weapons. The small imperfections that come with mods and early access products. Getting a plane for free with no strings attached.
If all or some of the above is what you want, then BAAS Dyanamics' SK60B is for you! If the button does not work, then click here to go to the GitHub repository! 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 2000s, 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 2010s. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and writer ever since. Twitter | Discord : Cubeboy

Review: The Brew Barons by Lifetap Studios (Launch Day)

Review: The Brew Barons by Lifetap Studios (Launch Day)

Our most extensive review to date Seaplanes, salty pirates, brewing experiments and business management - The Brew Barons is an indie flight game with an identity all of its own. It has been a long journey for this striking blend of entrepreneurial aviation adventure from Lifetap Studios . With two developers working on it consistently for over four years, release day is finally here! As of March 1st, 2024, The Brew Barons is finally available for public purchase on Steam . Lifetap Studios was not contacted about this review ahead of time, this is not being made using a free copy of the game and the points of view expressed here are not controlled in any way. This review does not contain major story spoilers.  REVIEWER NOTE My experience with The Brew Barons starts as early as the closed alpha demo in December 2021. I chose to support the Kickstarter campaign as a mid-high level backer in February 2022 using my personal funds to support the game monetarily. Both because I was personally interested in the project and to secure a close beta copy before the game’s eventual public release for Skyward Flight Media use. While I do strongly support this project, my extended time with it does give me a realistic view of how this game has changed over time and the efforts of the development team and the testers.  DEVELOPMENT Lifetap Studios, the development team behind the game, was formed by a pair of ex-developers from Relic Entertainment . Diccon Yamanaka  and Rob Hartley  worked at Relic from 2012 to 2019, which would see them work on titles like Age of Empires 4, Company of Heroes 2 and Dawn of War 3. During their time at Relic, Diccon and Robert had a growing desire to make their own game. Eventually, work on some side projects would lead to them taking the plunge and establishing their own studio. Of these side projects, a work in progress game called “Drytail Runners”, was briefly made known publicly in September 2018. Though, a Reddit post  from Lifetap Studios does indicate that the concept has been played around with since as early as 2014. Drytail Runners would be a forerunner to The Brew Barons.  The first screenshots and videos of The Brew Barons were posted to Twitter in May 2021, with more detailed discussion about how the game’s looks and flight model happening in online communities, like Reddit. From the beginning, inspirations from Porco Rosso - a movie from the well known Studio Ghibli - were touted by Lifetap Studios. Its aesthetics alone were enough to grab the attention of a wide audience outside the flight focused main demographic.  The February 10th, 2022 launch of the Kickstarter campaign with a public playable demo would become a milestone for the project, with the Kickstarter campaign being fully funded by March 9th, 2022. Since then, Lifetap Studios has been heads down, focused on development and closed beta testing with their backers leading up to the release of the full game on March 1st, 2024.  I’d like to take a moment and say that Lifetap Studios has been rather active with closed beta testers since at least the end of the Kickstarter campaign. Their consistency in listening to suggestions, but mainly addressing bug reports and pushing hotfixes within two days or less, is an impressive example of their willingness to act on feedback. In their Discord server, the developers remain engaged with their customers addressing questions, but most importantly the bug reports. Even now, hours after release, the developers continue to investigate potential rough spots in the game.  WORLD SETTING The events of the game happen in a fictional, but familiar world. The timeline can be equated to the Earth’s 1930s, with plenty of tailoring for the sake of more engaging gameplay and interesting visual designs for vehicles and building architecture. With no paved runways in the islands, naval vessels and seaplanes are the primary means of travel and transport in the region.  The story unfolds in Adly Bay, an archipelago of small islands located south of two large nations on the nearby continent that have a history of conflict with one another. Adly Bay is surrounded by the arm of one of these nations to its east and a large island to its west. The islands in Adly Bay vary in size and have unique geography. Generally, they are scenic locations in their own right. Each island is a potential host to its own unique towns, seaports, monuments from the past and of course ingredients that can be gathered to brew various types of drinks. The islands are surrounded by beautiful clear ocean. In some areas, the ocean is so clear, wrecks from long ago can be spotted from the air and be salvaged for valuables.  The brew barons - the player and their patchwork crew - started a brewing company in Adly Bay, despite the presence of the brew pirates. Described as “backwater bootleggers”, these pirates operate a plethora of armed vehicles. Including dirigibles, warships, submarines, and fighter-sized armed aircraft to maintain indirect control of the islands by always presenting force, while profiting from their intimidation by forcing the inhabitants of Adly Bay to purchase their low-quality alcoholic beverages. These pirates are so well established, it would take a significant effort to dislodge them.  The brew barons start their adventure with two members, a shoddy seaplane that can barely float and a multi-level headquarters building. The first level being a seaplane hangar, the second level being the brewery and the third level being a bar for direct sales to patrons. This building is the core of all player operations in the game.  OPEN WORLD, OPEN STORY  As a game, The Brew Barons truly is an open world experience. There is no predetermined path players must follow, unless players were to choose to play the tutorial at the start of the game. But even after that, it is up to players to define their own path. With no time limits, objectives and a blank map full of islands with no names and no information, players start their game by wandering. Technically, players can completely ignore the starting location and immediately go to the outer islands to see what is happening. The only thing that would slow them down would be the aggressive pirates and some ingredients not being harvestable because of the starter equipment, but that is a fix money can buy.  Random encounters and mini-missions make up the bulk of events between ingredient gathering and delivery. These include quick air battles with pirate gunships, requests from local aviators to knock down pirate signs, save burning boats and interdict other pirate related efforts. There is a lot more than that, but those are good examples. Completing these tasks gives players parts to build more complex equipment in the future, currency and increased notoriety in the public eye. The higher the reputation of the brew barons climbs, the more business comes in and the more new bars and customers are willing to purchase your products.  Though there is an end goal of removing the influence of the brew pirates and there is a presence of “boss” characters that represent different branches of the brew pirates, there is not an order they must be completed in. Players decide their own game path. Whether it is more business focused, exploration based or combat heavy, having this much freedom lets players progress at their own pace. Furthermore, with there being no multiplayer reliance, there is not a danger of the game going stale because the player population went down. Using myself as an example, my strategy is a long-term gameplay style. I spend a few sessions prioritizing contract fulfillment and aircraft upgrades, some sessions on exploring and gathering ingredients and others focused on taking the pirates head on, prepared to repair battle damage. Whether it is over the course of a week or a month, I found my own rhythm to enjoy the game over time without feeling an external pressure to finish my play through in a few days.  WATER BOOST FAST TRAVE L Lifetap Studios has opted to not include traditional fast travel; the type where players select a location on the in-game map and are teleported there within a few seconds. Instead, a game mechanic called Water Boost was implemented. When the boost is activated, the player's aircraft greatly increases in speed while being propelled by a stream of water from the rear of the aircraft. Water capacity can be refilled by flying above the ocean’s surface. Water Boost is designed to be used to shorten travel times between the islands.  I am someone that has very deep, mixed feelings on the concept of fast travel in open world games. I can understand wanting to maximize time in game by not being forced to travel long distances every 30 to 60 minutes. But is that not the point of playing an open world game? To enjoy the scenery and possible encounters of traveling through the world? Personally, I am supportive of this pseudo-fast travel choice as it does not break up the gameplay experience. CHARACTERS In this section, I will be less focused on the non-player characters that run the bars of Adly Bay, but more focused on the characters that can be recruited to join the brew barons. At the start of the full game’s campaign, the player can select two characters. Each character in this game has positive and negative traits while they operate the seaplane, but also have passive abilities that can be utilized in the business aspect of the game.  While a character may have some decent abilities that assist in flight, they may be better suited for helping with accounting, aircraft repairs, investment, brewing or working the bar. Even the best pilots could have valuable non-combat skill sets that benefit the long-term success of the business, which further supports high paced flight operations. My favorite example of this is a military officer from a nation on the mainland using the barons’ operation as a way to gather intelligence on what is happening in Adly Bay. They take note of every customer, every conversation and every purchase as a part of their military job. But at times, reviews of their prowess as an attentive bartender appear in the local newspaper, further bolstering the good reputation of my operation.   The characters that can be recruited to join the barons’ operation are met in bars spread throughout the islands in the bay. They are there as patrons for various personal reasons and can be talked to about their backstory and their interest in joining your business.  Some members of the brew barons can be paired together for story based side quests. These adventures can take players into known places in the islands, secretive locations and places… you would have to experience to believe.  As these characters grow closer by flying together, they can overcome some of their inherent negative traits, which are then turned into positive traits. Their side stories also break up the usual gameplay loop and have dialogue only available during those events.  The characters are voice acted using a combined method of voice acted lines by humans, entirely AI voice trained and AI only lines. During my time with this game, I have yet to experience any deeply awkward or jarring conversations that are too robotic to be believable. I have heard a few iffy voice lines from time to time, but honestly nothing too bad. With a limited budget that Lifetap Studios has mentioned, this sounds like an odd approach to fill the requirement, but overall I think it works fine. THE BUSINESS LOOP The crossover of a business management game combined with a flight arcade action game still buzzes my brain a bit. The exotic seaplanes used for delivery and combat may be the lure that draws players in, but when those aircraft need fuel, repairs and upgrades, it is all about the money.  If you were to break down the business game play loop to its most basic form, it would be: secure customer contracts to gain money for operations, gather ingredients, create contracted drinks, deliver product to customer, reinvest customer payment into operations, perform operations (exploration, gathering, combat, etc.), repeat.  The inclusion of business management is a bit of a double-edged sword. It is both one of the more important parts of this game to help it standout from other flight arcade titles, and one of the bigger hurdles that players must adapt to early on. INGREDIENTS Ingredients can be gathered by using the aircraft itself or equipment on the aircraft. By using the onboard water cannons for example, things like apples, grapes or honey can be shot from spawn points (trees, flowers, etc) then gathered by the aircraft by flying through them or near enough to them. Some ingredients have special gathering conditions, like the ever elusive Whispy Wheat that rides wind currents or harder to gather ingredients that require upgrades to water cannons or water bombs to forcibly remove them from the soil. Remember that harvested ingredients will take time to regrow and ingredients will be used in high counts of 20 to 80 units per brewing attempt, depending on the recipe.  BREWING  The brewing process is most likely the most open-ended part of the business aspect. First, recipes must be created from scratch or gathered. A constant positive side to brewing is that whether it is a failed creation or a successful creation, the recipes are saved for future reference. This is an old data point from July 2023, but since then this game has “over 360 craft-able brew outcomes derived from the 34 collectible ingredients”. Recipes are vital.  The discovery and refinement of recipes can be done in three ways. First, the most straightforward method is to focus on contract brewing. Potential customers give players suggested recipes with their order requests. As the orders are fulfilled, these recipes are kept in the player’s recipe book. Players can then stick to those recipes or experiment using them as a guideline. Second, the free form way (dare I say more traditional?) would be players taking guesses at recipes off of the top of their heads, brewing them up and just seeing what works through trial and error. This method requires the highest amount of ingredients available, as it is highly likely there will be many failures. Finally, it is possible to find recipes out in the world. Whether it is finding them in sunken ships, abandoned cargo or floating in bottles on the ocean surface, there is a decent chance that some of these recipes could be four star or five star quality recipes.  After ingredients and their exact amounts are selected for brewing, the amount of yeast is added manually by the player. Depending on the drink contracted or desired the yeast is adjusted and the type of brewing method, distilling or fermentation, defines what type of drink the final product will become. All of this is explained by the user interface during the brewing process.  Once the product is brewed, its quality, monetary value and the original name of the drink is automatically determined. From here, the decision to throw the product away or package it for sale is made.  PACKAGING, SELLING  Whether it is one-star slop or a five-star signature drink, the product can be packaged with a custom design and a custom name. There are a handful of bottle designs, bottle caps and labels available in different colors. There is also the ability to upload custom labels into the game to represent your 'brand'. This may seem like a minor detail, but being able to do this makes the experience more personalized.  Assuming the product was brewed for a contract, this is where it should be loaded onto the seaplane and carefully delivered to the customer. Though, there is a secondary function that should be considered. There is often overstock created after brews are made. This overstock product can be sold at the player’s bar for passive incoming over time. This is something that is especially important in the beginning of a play through in this game.  BAR  The player’s bar has an obvious primary function and a good secondary function. By keeping the bar stocked with quality drinks, customers come in for service while the player is away flying. This passive income helps offset the need to focus on contract brewing as much. Its secondary function is patron gossip. As customers come in, information about how the customers enjoy the players bar and the happenings in Adly Bay can be learned by talking to them. Some notable customers give more detailed information on pirate operations, warnings to the players and offer money for services - like gathering ingredients and trading them for money.  The bar is customizable in overall bar design, which does affect the sales of certain types of drinks. Some designs are more complimentary to certain types of drinks in the eyes of the customers. This is explained in the user interface beneath the bar design. Chairs, lights, wallpaper, floor design, metal trim and bar name are all customizable. THE FLIGHT MODEL  This is something that was once a bit of a point of contention. Since my time with the 2021 demo, I have noticed a few tweaks and regular discussion about the flight model of The Brew Barons in its Discord channels. With this game both appealing to long-standing flight gaming enthusiasts and wanting to expand its reach beyond that, the flight model had to be tuned correctly. A helpful diagram from the Kickstarter campaign shows where its flight model presents itself. Aircraft in The Brew Barons use physics driven airfoils and buoyancy driven pontoons. While these are not study-level representations you would expect from a dedicated flight simulator, their characteristics are a noticeable part of the gameplay. Players familiar with flight games will notice that some modifications have been made for ease of use for less experienced players. Not a bad thing, but an observation.  In my opinion, in the earlier demos, there was a time when aircraft of The Brew Barons felt slightly more flight sim-lite than arcade. Their overall weightiness was heavier and more concern about how aircraft were maneuvered was taken into account. I think this may have been more of a hurdle for newer players than I understood at the time. After a few years of feedback on Steam and more feedback directly to Lifetap Studios during the closed beta period, an interesting compromise was made.  Even in the starter aircraft, control inputs are snappy, with momentum of movement in roll and pitch inputs stopped almost immediately. This makes an aircraft easier to fly for newer players. Though, mistakes can still happen if players make hard turns or dives that are too ambitious for their aircraft. One of the biggest threats in and out of combat is the aircraft stalling while maneuvering, especially when the average altitude that gameplay takes place in is so low, recovery can be difficult because of lack of altitude. Players experienced with flight can still break out all of their best moves and skill sets during combat or low-speed, low level flying regimes. Though it would be dangerous for someone new to flight to do this, I often find myself at extremely low speeds doing coordinated turns in compact areas to speed up my ingredient gathering. Rather than make multiple high speed passes where I do not collect too much, these lower speed loitering turns allow me to maximize my collection time and burn less fuel.  While it is not possible to destroy the player’s seaplane to the point it will never fly again, it is possible to damage it so badly you will go into debt to repair it. In flight, specific parts of the aircraft can be damaged as well.  The Brew Barons is playable with keyboard-mouse and game pad - admittedly, the game pad seems to be the best experience for me. But in an effort to further appeal to flight simmers, the game is also compatible with more advanced controllers like flight sticks, throttles and rudder pedals. This was a positive decision to keep flight simmers engaged by letting them utilize their hardware investments. COMBAT  While the brew pirates are more than willing to employ machine guns, cannons and smog against the players, Lifetap Studios has maintained the unorthodox choice of having players use non-lethal means to defeat the pirates. Default “weapons” include water cannons and a water bomb, with more advanced weapons being, missiles, torpedoes and water jets - all water based in their nature. The idea is that rather than fatally harming the pirates themselves, the vehicles and their weapons would be disabled, still completing the objective of lessening their combat power. Since they are water based weapons, rather than rely on carrying live ammunition, players can simply fly above the surface of the ocean and gather water to replenish their stocks. That is an unusual choice, but it still works in gameplay.  Unlike combat focused flight arcade games, weapons must be unlocked by purchasing specific equipment and installing them onto the aircraft. You are not able to carry four different weapons at a time to become the one-aircraft-air force some people may be accustomed to. Planning out efforts to combat large groups of pirates will take equipment coordination.  The brew pirates have a range of vehicles they use for combat. They deploy seaplanes, warships, submarines and dirigibles from sizes that are similar to the player’s seaplane to massive vehicles that can be seen looming on the horizon. The large vehicles, which are often considered “boss fights” have unique abilities to deploy smaller enemies to defend themselves or have specific ways they must be disabled to defeat them. While spraying down a smaller seaplane will eventually be enough to disable that, it will take highly upgraded weaponry to even damage the boss vessels.  In The Brew Barons, combat is not just about potential weapons used by the player. Aircraft performance and parts of the aircraft are also a factor. Via aircraft customization, there are some parts that are optimized for combat - with reduction of damage, increased weapon performance, increased armor and even more quirky options like having the aircraft absorb incoming fire reducing their impact damage while adding to the aircraft’s weight the more it is shot. Pontoons that retract do decrease the aircraft’s hit box. There are so many ways to approach making a “combat build” in this game, I’ll stop the explanation here before I get in too deep.  As pirates are defeated, they drop currency and parts that can be used to construct more elaborate equipment, like heavy aircraft designs. Exploits of the brew barons’ victories are also told through Adly Bay, further increasing the player’s notoriety and driving up sales.  Just remember that you may make the pirates “pay” for putting holes in your aircraft, but you will pay out of pocket to repair those holes yourself. Be careful to not remain engaged in combat so often you empty out your bank account. AIRCRAFT CUSTOMIZATION   This is another subject that is easy to overview, but hard to not get lost in the weeds with. You really have to play this part of the game yourself to grasp it well. Customization of the seaplanes in this game look as simple as different wings and canopies that provide changes in aircraft performance and selecting a paint job to make it all look pretty. But, the types of modifications that can be made run deep. It is not as clear-cut as one part being better than the other. Looking at it closely, there are three levels of customization: paint schemes, aircraft parts (wings, fuselage, propellers, etc) and let’s call it aircraft ability tuning (improving the basic abilities of the aircraft).  Building and installing aircraft parts can change the design of the aircraft and add weapons. They also provide highly specialized secondary functions that are useful in some situations and potentially useless in others. It is important to read their effects and plan accordingly. Tuning up basic aircraft abilities can be done without purchasing aircraft parts, but they are vital to everyday operations. These mainly focus on increasing the strength of water cannons, water bombs, propeller strength, maximum winch lift weight and similar abilities.  There is not an ideal set of “the best parts” that can be applied to an airframe to ensure maximum performance in all situations. Also, these parts cost a substantial amount of money. It will take a financial and time investment to create the ideal aircraft for whatever the player’s intention is.  The final layer of customization is being able to build a heavy airframe aircraft that can carry heavier weaponry, larger payloads and has higher armor sets, but those also adhere to a similar set of customizations as the starter light aircraft designs do. AIRCRAFT AS AN ASSET In this game, the player’s seaplane is not just the means to swat pirates from the sky or thwack them out of the sea. Because of the inclusion of business management, I find myself approaching the seaplane I own in a manner I usually do not; even in other flight games and simulators. It is a genuine asset. As the primary means of gathering materials, delivering products and transportation, having it frequently damaged is a financial drain.  Suddenly relying on nothing but flashy, risky maneuvers and running face-first into danger for the sake of pure excitement is not as appealing as it would be in other games. Now I prioritize controlled, well-planned flying outside of combat. During combat, my attacks are more calculated to offset how much damage the seaplane may take over time. There is no type of “game over screen” that pops up when the aircraft takes too much damage. When shot down or crashed, the aircraft will be returned to the headquarters building or nearby dock needing repairs to get it flying again. Two or three consecutive crashes could be enough to set the player back financially for quite some time. Because of this, my mindset has also shifted to more sustainable pilotage instead of the hard, fast thrill seeking approach.  Even when faced with winnable battles, I frequently opt to evade combat, complete my task at hand and return another time to challenge the pirates when I am better prepared for it.  This is an interesting side effect of The Brew Barons concept. PHOTO MODE This game has one of the better photo modes in a flight game in recent memory. Becoming proficient with its many options can even create faux-old time pictures with artificial aging. There are many good screenshots from the photo mode in this game circulating on social media. SOUNDTRACK The soundtrack behind the adventure was composed by Diego Zaldivar , who was worked on the music of at least 40 games. For The Brew Barons, the composer selected string instruments, brass instruments, drums and occasionally other things like chimes, bells. Overall I would describe the soundtrack as heroic and whimsical with the songs seamlessly swelling over one another as the situation in game changes. In certain situations, it does feel like a movie score being played for an audience of one. All songs on the soundtrack are around one minute long, give or take, but they loop well and transition so smoothly it is not something to consciously think about. ACKNOWLEDGING THE RISK Now that this game is out in the wild, I took time to take a hard look at it as a product. The Brew Barons is a flight game has wide appeal to people interested in aviation or its aesthetics in general, but does not fall into what one would consider a “standard” flight arcade game. You know, a familiar and proven formula. Games like Project Wingman, War Thunder or Ace Combat where victory is defined by overwhelming force.  While that may sound like a pat on the back for The Brew Barons, this also means that players used to pure action focus will most likely not immediately engage with this game in the same way. While combat does happen in the game, it is not the primary focus. If anything, solely pursuing combat while neglecting things related to business management will lead to a rather unenjoyable play through.  Players looking to settle everything by force as fast as possible are highly likely to find themselves up to their eyeballs in debt, barely able to keep their aircraft in combat effective condition. The concept of this game only works if players are willing to also change their play style and mindset. If not, there is a real chance of them playing The Brew Barons up to a certain point but not finishing it, since it may not be as incessantly action packed as they had hoped. Looking at it from this perspective, anything business management related - including the repair and refueling of aircraft - is a non-combat task which is not of interest.  I believe that Lifetap Studios took a larger risk in incorporating the business aspect of the game than most people understand at first glance. On one hand, the developers finding a balance to make this concept work is a boon to the identity of The Brew Barons, but on the other hand, the fact that mixing this genre is not standard practice also indicates that it may not be as widely appealing as they hope it may be. Time can only tell on that front. CLOSING THOUGHTS I am genuinely happy that the developers of Lifetap Studios took such a massive risk to not only break away from familiar, established jobs in the game industry at large to pursue what was once a passion project. The Brew Barons is bound to receive a few more tweaks within the next week or two, but the release day version of the game does reflect the culmination of their years worth of dreaming and effort well. I appreciate that they focused on making an unusual concept like this work, as it has produced a flight game with such a memorable premise, I imagine years from now it will continue to be a game within the flight genre that stands on its own with few games it can be likened to.  Because of my play style, I have yet to 100% complete the full version of the game, so you can be sure that I will have more to say about it in the future. Congratulations to Lifetap Studios for releasing their project! About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, 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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