The Red Baron wiki last edited by Praxis on 05/09/13 10:05AM View full history

Overview

Released by its publisher Sierra Entertainment on December 19, 1990, Red Baron, which is not to be confused with the 1980 vector-graphics Atari arcade game of the same name, is a combat flight simulator created by Damon Slye and Dynamix, Inc. Set against the backdrop of World War I, Red Baron allows players to pilot a number of early fighter planes, including the German Fokker Eindecker, the British Sopwith Triplane, and the French Nieuport 17, engaging other pilots in combat either as part of the German Air Service or the Royal Flying Corps. Players can fly a variety of missions on an individual basis or alternatively partake in a career mode in which performance is tracked across missions, allowing pilots to gain higher ranks, better stations, and access to more advanced fighter planes.

The Red Baron Title Card

In addition to simulating the handling and performance of several well-known WWI fighter craft, Red Baron also includes a number of "famous aces" within its flight roster, which are essentially A.I. pilots meant to emulate some of the most successful pilots of the First World War. Just like the planes themselves, these aces were researched in order to properly depict their strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. Manfred von Richthofen, for instance, the titular Red Baron, will never perform a loop, as this was in reality a maneuver that Richthofen firmly believed to be useless in a combat situation.

Though released initially as a PC title, Red Baron was later ported to the Mac and the Amiga in 1992, and that same year the PC version received an expansion disk called Red Baron: Mission Builder. The Mission Builder expansion disk augmented the original game by allowing players to create and play custom scenarios; it simultaneously added new gameplay options, six new aces, and five new airplanes. Sierra would later release Red Baron again for the PC as a free download on February 10, 1997, the same year that the Red Baron sequel/remake Red Baron II was released. On October 9, 2009, shortly after Mad Otter Games, a development studio founded by Red Baron series creator Damon Slye, acquired the rights to the franchise, the game was rereleased via GOG as part of the Red Baron Pack, which includes the original game and the Mission Builder expansion as well as Red Baron 3D, an upgraded version of Red Baron II that was first released in 1998.

Gameplay

In Red Baron, players are tasked with successfully piloting various WWI-era fighter planes on a variety of missions along the Western Front of the First World War, with the main activity in most missions being dogfights between two or more aircraft. From the main menu, players can choose one of three play options: one-on-one dogfights against a famous WWI fighter pilot of the player's choice, one-off missions with a large number of adjustable variables, or a career mode which charts players' progress and advancement throughout the war. Provided the appropriate realism settings are enabled, Red Baron players are required to contend with many of the same challenges that actual World War I pilots would have faced, such as machine guns that are prone to jam or the very real threat of serious bodily injury due to the lightly-armored nature of airplanes produced in this period.

Only the most fearsome pilots can tackle the Red Baron and live to tell about it.

Red Baron includes a number of convenience features and special options to make the game more palatable for players who may not be looking for exacting realism. For one, many difficulty and authenticity features can be adjusted or disabled via the game's "Realism Panel"; the settings chosen in this panel govern everything from the overall difficulty of the flight model and air combat to whether or not the player's aircraft can collide with other objects or even take damage at all. During missions, it is also possible to activate a time compression mechanic (by pressing the C button) that accelerates time significantly, allowing large distances to be covered more rapidly. Finally, players can choose before any mission to make a recording for view at a later time, and when watching this recording it is possible to jump into the simulation at any point in order to play out the rest of the mission.

Career Mode

While Red Baron has a wide variety of single-mission options, the career mode is the game's main method of play. At the outset, players create a pilot and choose an alignment: either the German Air Service or the Royal Flying Corps. From here, players begin to take on missions in order to further the war effort and increase their own stature and military rank. Successfully completing missions and shooting down enemy aircraft may result in commendations such as the Allied Victoria Cross or the German Order of Merit, while outstanding performance will result in a promotion. A single promotion allows players to lead their own squadron into combat, while a second promotion will result in the acquisition of a personal aircraft that can be customized with a unique paint job and exchanged for a better plane when available.

The career mode commences in December of 1915 and continues, provided the player survives, until the war's end on November 10, 1918. Over the course of the campaign, it is possible to be transferred to other aerodromes to fly with more prestigious squadrons or even alongside famous flying aces. As a side effect of success, if the player's reputation grows sufficiently, they may be challenged by rival aces to single combat, though it is not necessary to accept these challenges. Players can be taken out of commission for a time by injury or capture, and poor mission performance may result in reprimand or even permanent grounding. Once the player's career ends, their final stats are displayed, allowing them to easily compare their performance over the course of the war to that of history's most decorated aces.

Single Missions

Certain missions call for attacks against zeppelins or observation balloons.

Flying single missions in Red Baron allows players to engage in highly customizable scenarios, which were made all the more customizable by the release of the Mission Builder in 1992. Among other things, players can designate weather conditions, starting location, distance to target, and their starting altitude in relation to their enemy. This also includes choosing what aircraft will be used both by the player and their opposition, in addition to any realism and difficulty settings desired. When a single flight mission is completed, a breakdown screen is displayed, rating the player's performance based on a number of factors.

Mission Types

  • Fly a Historic Mission: Offers missions based on some of the most famous aerial battles of WWI.
  • Dogfight a Famous Ace: Players select a famous fighter pilot and face off in a one-on-one battle.
  • Dogfight a Squadron: Two squadrons of fighters are pitted against each other in aerial combat.
  • Patrol the Front: Pilots must patrol the Front and dispatch any opposition they encounter.
  • Escort a Bombing Raid: An allied bomber requires protection as it proceeds on its mission.
  • Stop a Bombing Raid: An enemy bomber is en route and must be intercepted before it strikes.
  • Hunt a Zeppelin: A dangerous German zeppelin must be shot down before it can spread chaos.
  • Escort Reconnaissance: Recon planes must be protected against attack as they gather intel.
  • Balloon Defense: Observation balloons are under attack and must be defended against the enemy.
  • Balloon Busting!: Enemy observation balloons must be destroyed to cripple enemy intelligence.
  • Build a Custom Mission: Enter the Mission Builder to create a scenario (Requires Mission Builder).
  • Fly a Custom Mission: Fly a mission created through the Mission Builder (Requires Mission Builder).

Adjustable Realism

The Realism Panel

Unlike many flight simulators, in which the realism of the simulation is considered paramount, Red Baron's flight model is intended to strike a balance between historical accuracy and playability. To this end, many of the game's more realistic concerns, such as gun jamming and high-altitude carburetor freezes, can be disabled, and these adjustments can be made at any time, even during a mission. There are Novice, Intermediate, and Expert presets for realism, however fine-tuning of the game's setting is allowed as well if the player has specific tastes.

Realism Settings

  • Realistic Instruments: Disables any instruments in the panel that would not be available during WWI.
  • Sun Blind Spot: Allows the Sun to obscure visibility of aircraft until said aircraft are extremely close.
  • Realistic Weather: When enabled, weather conditions may vary and have an impact on missions.
  • Gun Jams Allowed: Determines whether or not guns will jam, forcing the player to unjam them.
  • Blackouts Allowed: Dictates whether or not a pilot will black out from lack of oxygen at high altitudes.
  • Midair Collisions: When disabled, aircraft can pass through other planes (Requires Mission Builder).
  • Carburetor Freezes: When enabled, a carburetor may freeze at high elevation due to the cold.
  • Limited Ammunition: Decides whether or not the player has a limited supply of machine gun ammo.
  • Limited Fuel: When checked, airplanes will consume fuel over time and eventually run out of it.
  • Real Navigation: Enables or disables navigation assistance, which WWI pilots would not have had.
  • Aircraft May Be Damaged: When not checked, the player's aircraft will not take any damage at all.
  • Combat Level: Specifies the overall combat proficiency of enemy pilots (Requires Mission Builder).
  • Flight Model: Governs the general level of authenticity the game's flight model attempts to emulate.

Planes

Red Baron features a number of WWI aircraft of varying capabilities. During single missions, players can choose any plane native to their chosen side, however when playing the career mode there is the added wrinkle of the plane's creation date, as it is not possible to utilize an aircraft before it has been conceived of and manufactured. On more exacting realism settings, the specific properties of a plane may have a noticeable impact on performance. Planes with rotary engines, for instance, may have more difficulty with turns than others due to the gyroscopic effect produced by their engines' motion, while others may be more susceptible to wing shearing during intense flight maneuvers.

German PlanesStatisticsAllied PlanesStatistics
Fokker Eindecker

Fokker Eindecker

  • Armament: 1x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 88 mph
  • Date Introduced: August 1915
Nieuport 11*

Nieuport 11*

  • Armament: 1x Hotchkiss or Lewis
  • Maximum Speed: 97 mph
  • Date Introduced: January 1916
Halberstadt D. II*

Halberstadt D. II*

  • Armament: 1x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 93 mph
  • Date Introduced: Early 1916
Morane Bullet

Morane Bullet

  • Armament: 1x Vickers or Hotchkiss
  • Maximum Speed: 90 mph
  • Date Introduced: April 1915
Albatros D. II

Albatros D. II

  • Armament: 2x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 109 mph
  • Date Introduced: September 1916
Airco D. H. 2

Airco D. H. 2

  • Armament: 1x Lewis
  • Maximum Speed: 93 mph
  • Date Introduced: February 1916
Albatros D. III

Albatros D. III

  • Armament: 2x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 109 mph
  • Date Introduced: February 1917
Sopwith Pup

Sopwith Pup

  • Armament: 1x Vickers
  • Maximum Speed: 99 mph
  • Date Introduced: April 1916
Albatros D. Va

Albatros D. Va

  • Armament: 2x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 119 mph
  • Date Introduced: June 1917
Nieuport 17

Nieuport 17

  • Armament: 1x Vickers or Lewis
  • Maximum Speed: 110 mph
  • Date Introduced: April 1916
Pfalz D. III

Pfalz D. III

  • Armament: 2x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 102 mph
  • Date Introduced: July 1917
Spad 7

Spad 7

  • Armament: 1x Vickers
  • Maximum Speed: 119 mph
  • Date Introduced: July 1916
Fokker Dr. I

Fokker Dr. I

  • Armament: 2x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 103 mph
  • Date Introduced: August 1917
Sopwith Triplane

Sopwith Triplane

  • Armament: 1x Vickers
  • Maximum Speed: 113 mph
  • Date Introduced: January 1917
Fokker D. VII

Fokker D. VII

  • Armament: 2x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 114 mph
  • Date Introduced: May 1918
S. E. 5a

S. E. 5a

  • Armament: 1x Vickers, 1x Lewis
  • Maximum Speed: 138 mph
  • Date Introduced: May 1917
Siemens Schuckert*

Siemens Schuckert*

  • Armament: 2x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 112 mph
  • Date Introduced: April 1918
Sopwith Camel

Sopwith Camel

  • Armament: 2x Vickers
  • Maximum Speed: 115 mph
  • Date Introduced: June 1917
Fokker D. VIII*

Fokker D. VIII*

  • Armament: 2x Spandau
  • Maximum Speed: 127 mph
  • Date Introduced: May 1918
Spad 13

Spad 13

  • Armament: 2x Vickers
  • Maximum Speed: 133 mph
  • Date Introduced: September 1917
Nieuport 28*

Nieuport 28*

  • Armament: 2x Vickers
  • Maximum Speed: 123 mph
  • Date Introduced: March 1918
Sopwith Snipe

Sopwith Snipe

  • Armament: 2x Vickers
  • Maximum Speed: 121 mph
  • Date Introduced: September 1918

*Available only with Mission Builder installed.

Aces

Flying aces are encountered in Red Baron both in single missions and career mode, and represent some of the most challenging opponents or potent allies a player can encounter. The A.I. for each ace is specifically modeled to closely resemble the historical fighter pilot they represent by incorporating known propensities of their real-world counterparts into their battlefield behaviors. In career mode, a pilot must exhibit significant skill in order to earn the right to fly in an ace's squadron, and likewise players must make a name for themselves before an enemy ace will consider challenging them to an aerial duel.

German AcesStatisticsAllied AcesStatistics
Manfred von Richthofen

Manfred von Richthofen

  • Aerial Victories: 80
  • Planes: Albatros D. III, Albatros D. V, Fokker Dr. I

Rene Fonck

Rene Fonck

  • Aerial Victories: 75
  • Planes: Spad 7, Spad 13
Ernst Udet

Ernst Udet

  • Aerial Victories: 62
  • Planes: Albatros D. III, D. V, Fokker Dr. I, D. VII, E. III
Edward Mannock
Edward Mannock
  • Aerial Victories: 73
  • Planes: Nieuport 17, S. E. 5a
Erich Loewenhardt

Erich Loewenhardt

  • Aerial Victories: 53
  • Planes: Fokker Dr. I, Fokker D. VII
William Bishop

William Bishop

  • Aerial Victories: 72
  • Planes: Nieuport 17, S. E. 5a
Werner Voss

Werner Voss

  • Aerial Victories: 48
  • Planes: Albatros D. II, Albatros D. III, Fokker Dr. I
Raymond Collishaw

Raymond Collishaw

  • Aerial Victories: 60
  • Planes: Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Triplane, Sopwith Camel
Rudolf Berthold*

Rudolf Berthold*

  • Aerial Victories: 44
  • Planes: Fokker D. VII
James McCudden

James McCudden

  • Aerial Victories: 57
  • Planes: S. E. 5a
Lothar von Richthofen

Lothar von Richthofen

  • Aerial Victories: 40
  • Planes: Albatros D. III, D. V, Fokker Dr. I, D. VII
Donald MacLaren*

Donald MacLaren*

  • Aerial Victories: 54
  • Planes: Sopwith Camel
Oswald Boelcke

Oswald Boelcke

  • Aerial Victories: 40
  • Planes: Fokker E. III, Albatros D. II
Georges Guynemer

Georges Guynemer

  • Aerial Victories: 54
  • Planes: Nieuport 17, Spad 7
Ritter von Schleich*

Ritter von Schleich*

  • Aerial Victories: 35
  • Planes: Albatros D. Va
William George Barker*

William George Barker*

  • Aerial Victories: 52
  • Planes: Sopwith Snipe
Karl Degelow*

Karl Degelow*

  • Aerial Victories: 30
  • Planes: Fokker D. VII
Charles Nungesser

Charles Nungesser

  • Aerial Victories: 45
  • Plane: Nieuport 17
Hermann Goering

Herman Goering

  • Aerial Victories: 22
  • Planes: Albatros D. III, Albatros D. V, Fokker D. VII
Albert Ball

Albert Ball

  • Aerial Victories: 44
  • Planes: Nieuport 17, S. E. 5a
Max Immelmann

Max Immelmann

  • Aerial Victories: 17
  • Planes: Fokker E. III
Roderic Stanley Dallas*

Roderic Stanley Dallas*

  • Aerial Victories: 32
  • Planes: Sopwith Camel
Edward Rickenbacker

Edward Rickenbacker

  • Aerial Victories: 26
  • Planes: Spad 13
Frank Luke

Frank Luke

  • Aerial Victories: 21
  • Planes: Spad 13
Lanoe Hawker

Lanoe Hawker

  • Aerial Victories: 9
  • Planes: Airco D. H. 2

*Available only with Mission Builder installed.

Reception

Red Baron was well-regarded by critics at the time of its release and continues to receive mention many years after its release as an exceptional flight simulator. GameSpot's Denny Atkin, speaking of the game in 1998, called it a "true classic," going on to explain that the game "set new standards for graphics, flight modeling, and overall realism." Computer Gaming World named it their 1991 Simulation Game of the Year, and five years later CGW also gave it the #4 slot in their feature of the best PC games ever created. It has also appeared no less than three times on PC Gamer's recurring "Best Games Ever!" feature, being awarded the #12 spot in 1997, #20 in 1998, and #24 in 1999.

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