It’s Armistice day, 1918. “Our boys return home!” proclaim the newspapers, alongside pictures of troops marching through London. I smile as I imagine Capt. Frank, my Red Baron alter ego sitting back with a pipe & slippers, recounting tales of his exploits to an adoring crowd.
I signed up (as Frank) for Red Baron’s fully dynamic campaign in 1916. Bob and Fred before him had met their untimely deaths over the trenches, but I knew Frank would be different. Mainly because I’d noticed that if you die during a mission you can hit “restart” and so live to fight another day.
You start your Red Baron career as a lowly 2nd lieutenant but as you fly sorties over the front and score victories you are showered with medals and promotions until at the rank of captain you are given your own personal aircraft (which can be painted) and the command of up to four pilots.
In 1916, however, that was all in the future. Only through flying many, many missions was I to have a chance of becoming a captain. Red Baron has a number of different mission types, all of them varieties on 1.) Escorting a scout or bomber, 2.) Dogfighting and 3.) Shooting up enemy balloons. These missions vary wildly in excitement levels with “Balloon busting” missions being the most challenging and thus the most fun, as you must shoot down balloons while dodging flak and, usually, a squadron of enemy fighters. Escort missions, by contrast, are nearly always dull. You fly behind the (incredibly slow) plane you’re escorting before a couple of enemy fighters drop in on you, shoot the escortee down. Every. Single. Time.
Breaking up the monotony of these missions is the occasional challenge you’ll receive from a rival fighter ace to a one on one duel. The aces are, understandably, very much harder to deal with than most opponents you face and this, madly, is exacerbated by what I can only assume to be a bug. Despite the mission brief explicitly saying “one on one duel” your opponent always turns up with a squadron of friends. As such I shied away from such duels in the early game, just to keep poor Frank alive.
Also helping to keep the game fresh is the transfer system. You’ll occasionally be invited to join a different squadron (when you reach the rank of 1st lieutenant you’re able to request transfers) and this is always a welcome change, since the new squadron will invariably be equipped with a different aircraft and usually be given a different combination of missions. Frank was unlucky enough to end up in a squadron that seemed to be entirely dedicated to escort missions, leading to the deaths of many bomber crews and recon aircraft.
Even with transfers, however, the few mission types do begin to grate, simply because they’ve been seen so often before. Dogfights are always entertaining but the endless patrol the front missions, in which you fly around a bit and *might* happen across an enemy plane get very dull very quickly. This rather inconvenient truth will undoubtedly be left out of Frank’s tales, along with the six months he spent in a prison camp after a semi-deliberate crash landing, from May 1918 to November 1918, just to get the war over with.
79% - Great fun, pity about the lack of variety.