Bomber Crew (PC) Review
Release date: October 19, 2017
Developer: Runner Duck
Publisher: Curve Digital
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS, PlayStation 4
Are you a fan of aviation? Of history? Of watching cute cartoon people struggle against overwhelming odds and ultimately fail leading to their violent and untimely death? If so, Rudder Duck’s Bomber Crew is just the thing to pass the time while you are waiting for Amazon to deliver that new bone saw you’ve been saving up for.
Much like the classic FTL: Faster Than Light, you manage the actions of your crew. Unsurprisingly, in this case, that of a Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster Bomber taking part in missions against German-occupied Europe during the Second World War. The Germans, of course, think your dropping bombs on them is not the best idea they’ve ever heard and go to some trouble to discourage you. Their gentle persuasion includes cannon armed interceptors, crew-served weapons and if you purchase the Secret Weapons DLC guided missiles. Failure to properly equip and manage your crew will lead to death or worse, mission failure. The crew can be injured, killed or captured or just listed as missing during the mission and of course, your aircraft can be destroyed forcing you to start over with a new plane lacking those fancy upgrades you spent ten missions earning and of course brand new cute cartoon people to send to their doom. You can even name the cute doomed people who are a typical 21st-century mix of ethnicities and genders. Presumably, this is done in the name of accessibility, but my bombardier looks like Gandhi, and I’m reasonably sure the radio operator is Oprah.
Bomber Crew’s interface is clean and reasonably clear, but it doesn’t cut you any slack. It won’t warn you that you forgot to put down the landing gear or moved your pilot out of his seat. (Pro-tip, keep someone in the pilot’s seat.) Like FTL this can be a lot of balls to keep in the air, not only do you have to make correct decisions, you must do so in real time as you can’t save or pause the game (Mu-ha-ha!) during a mission. It is allowed to slow time, but this costs you reward money you would otherwise be able to use to upgrade your aircraft or equipment. You can’t forget anything or delay too long with critical tasks without consequences. For example, you can’t drop your bombs without having your bombardier open the bomb bay doors, but he is doubling as the radio operator and will stop that function to take on another. To make matters worse, opening the bay doors too soon causes drag, slowing down your aircraft and wasting fuel. Wait? Fuel? Planes like fuel… I’m going to need that. All this while designating targets for the gunners and having the pilot maintain a proper course. Do you have the navigator give his dying comrade first aid or man the now vacant gun turret? All while repairing damage, lining up bombing runs and wondering if one of the engines is going to explode (yes, yes it is.)
One thing I do take exception to is that all of this gets old after a few missions. You fly out and bomb something while fending off enemy fighters and enduring anti-aircraft fire while freezing to death and dying of hypoxia because I couldn’t afford oxygen bottles for everyone. Yes, the game has some variation and throws harder missions to freshen things up, but it’s a repetitive slog, where you fly out, drop bombs, and fly back over and over. Yes, this is actually what I expected, but I still can’t sit through more than a couple of missions. That said, individual missions are relatively quick, so it's still accessible to the casual gamer.
But wait, that’s not all; there is, of course, downloadable content to keep you going beyond the base game. Bomber Crew: USAAF lets you fly as the crew of a U.S. Army B-17 and Bomber Crew: Secret Weapons adds additional aircraft and weapons, mostly for the Germans adding late war innovations such as the ME-262 jet fighter and the aforementioned guided missiles giving them even more fun ways to earn your cartoon crew a posthumous decoration.
Regarding historical accuracy that’s where the game stumbles a bit. But it’s only a big deal if you are already a student of World War Two. Some missions are based on historical ones, but there's a lot of liberty taken with things armament and equipment. After all, it is a bit harsh to make them buy their parachutes, but let's face it; a game has to be fun or why bother making it? In Rudder Duck’s defense, most of the sacrifices are in the name of playability. So what if you realize that B-17s never carried .303 caliber turrets? If you live, you can upgrade to the .50 cals and really stack bodies. Although I must say having the engineer crawl on the wing to put out fires seems a bit of s stretch but.. well there he went… never mind.
Bottom line? Bomber Crew is an enjoyable, if somewhat repetitive, management sim that is accessible to the casual gamer. It is available on Steam (PC) Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
Easy to learn
Lots to keep track of