hughjassman's Bomber Crew (PC) review

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Bomber Crew Review

At first glance Bomber Crew is an easy going point and click game that just happens to be about WW2 Lancaster bomber crews. Upon closer evaluation it becomes apparent just how unforgiving this game can be.

See? Look how cute and happy they are.
See? Look how cute and happy they are.

With cute characters that somewhat resemble your character in Animal Crossing games, it's easy to look at bomber crew and think it would be a roughly calming game. However, it doesn't take long for the games relentless AI fighters and ace pilots to tear holes straight through your favorite plane. It only took two or three missions before I had both scattered my plane all over northern France, and had become hooked on the gameplay.

The best way to describe it is this: damage control. There have been many games like this before, and Bomber Crew is by no means early to the party for this type of game. Both FTL and Darkest Dungeon have achieved this tension through their own means but Bomber Crew forces you to do it all in real-time. You might be lining up for a bombing run and are just about ready to drop the payload when your radio operator informs you of nearby fighters. Do you focus on dropping the bombs? Or do you delay the bombing run and tag the enemy so your gunners can shoot them down? By the end of it all, your plane is nearly ripped in two, the bombs have been dropped, and half of your crew is either slightly injured or severely wounded. A long flight over the English channel tailed by more fighters leaves you landing on the runway with only one of your four engines remaining. Although this does, to some extent, describe nearly every mission in the game, it is still fun to play and I have personally put about 17 hours into it and I'm still enjoying it.

The core gameplay loop starts you at base, buying upgrades and gear for your crew and plane, and has you going to the briefing room to select your next mission. Each mission has a difficulty, described as risk, and the two currencies: intel and money. Difficulty is easy to understand. There are really only three different difficulties: low risk, med risk, and high risk. You make money from each mission that you spend on upgrades and gear but the intel is a little different. So instead of spending intel to unlock new things, each item has a set amount of intel you need to unlock it and you never lose intel. It is more or less an XP number. I've found that occasionally the mission difficulty listed is not always super accurate but for the most part you can trust it. Once you select a mission, you take off, navigate to the objective, complete the objective, then fly back.

As if the two burning engines weren't enough, the oxygen system is failing as well.
As if the two burning engines weren't enough, the oxygen system is failing as well.

It sounds simple and, frankly, it is, but it sure isn't easy. To control the game you select your crew members individually and click where you want them to go. You interact with the world outside of your plane by either middle-mouse clicking or hitting the space bar which pulls up a little targeting scope. When you put the scope over something you can target it will fill up a circle similar to how menu selection in games like No Man's Sky works. Once the circle is full the target will be selected. Unfortunately I've found that it takes slightly longer to target something than I would like. It feels a little slow which can negatively effect the gameplay. This means you can't "quickly" zoom in and target enemy fighters when you need to. It takes approximately one to one and a half seconds to target something. That doesn't sound like much until you take into account the fact that most fighters come in groups of three or more. Adding that up gives you three to four seconds per squadron and if multiple squadrons are attacking you while you are trying to do a bombing run it gets rough, especially considering you can't actually drop bombs while targeting.

Multiple times you will find just as it all seems clear as you approach the bombing site you will get multiple hits on your radar telling you that you are about to be turned into a flaming pile of rubble unless you do something fast. You will have to spread your crew out to where you need them because you have up to four guns but only two gunners. But don't worry about losing your gunners and having no defenses. All crew members can operate all stations at a basic level. Your just might not be able to use incendiary rounds just like how your mechanic can get in the pilot seat but can't perform a corkscrew. Not only that, but when crew mates become a high enough level they can have a secondary skill set of your choice. For example, I would often make my bomber a gunner as a secondary skill because he is always so close to the front guns and his only other job is to press a button to drop bombs. I would also do this with my mechanic so that I would effectively have four gunners instead of two.

This navigator is fully equipped with some of the best armor which, as a result, slows him down significantly.
This navigator is fully equipped with some of the best armor which, as a result, slows him down significantly.

This, along with the customization options for your crew gear and aircraft parts, allows for you to play with your own style. You could sacrifice armor for high altitude operations where almost nobody can touch you. Alternatively, you can go full armor and, if you need to flee at high altitude, risk freezing to death in the cold upper atmosphere. However, at the end of it all it seemed like there were some obvious routes to go with your upgrades. For example, the heaviest flak jacket has the same armor rating as the toughened survival vest but is unlocked much later.

All of that stuff is cool but be prepared to lose it. Bomber Crew expects you to fail. I mean, one of the menu options is "Memorial", which is a memorial wall with all of the names of the crew members who have died on your save. So maybe don't get too attached to the plane that you fully customized. If you do find yourself really caring about your crew, consider adding parachutes and giving them survival vests. Maybe throw a homing pigeon in the plane while you are at it because depending on where they end up, it might be hard to get them back.

Survival is the game's term for chance of recovery from crash landings and bailouts. It is split into two types: sea survival and land survival. Both are separate from each other and are exactly what they sound like. If you crash land in the ocean then you best hope you have good sea survival for your crew. Maybe you bailed out over Belgium. You will need some good land survival for that. As far as I can tell it takes entirely from one or the other and never both. When a mission goes awry, you will report back as normal but when the crew status screen will use an rng to determine who survives and who doesn't. How it does this is it compares your survival rating with a rating that is expressed as a skull. I'll call it danger because skull value doesn't really seem right. It isn't really spelled out completely but here is what I've gathered. Danger rating will increase depending mostly on where you land and the state of the crew member when they land. It seems proximity to the crashed bomber effects it, as well as the distance into enemy territory. I have also noticed that if you crash land near the base, unless they died in the landing, your crew members will return safely.

Determining whether or not Elizabeth Whitworth will be rescued.  It seems unlikely...
Determining whether or not Elizabeth Whitworth will be rescued. It seems unlikely...

Alternatively your characters might be considered either KIA or MIA meaning you will not ever see them again. This will force you to go to the recruitment center, recruit replacements, then gear them up for the next mission. If you saved a little bit of money, or even completed the last objective regardless of whether or not you made it home, you should be fine to do so. On the other hand, you might not have any money and be forced to fly a low risk mission with hand-me-down flak jackets. The biggest flaw in the game arises from this. Once you get halfway through the campaign it starts getting very hard to start from scratch. Pretty soon after losing your most successful plane and crew, you may experience a severe death spiral. It becomes a nonstop loop of completing objectives, dying on the way home, and barely gearing back up for the next mission. Fortunately, the Halloween patch that was recently released has helped to combat the endgame grind. Completing the game is a much more obtainable goal than it was before the patch. The patch also claims to have fixed some bugs, very few of which I have seen. My nearly finished playthrough(I am one critical mission from completion)has seen almost no bugs or glitches whatsoever.

For the price point this game is fantastic. Like I said before, I've put about 17 hours into the game and plan on more in the future. Curve Digital, the publishers of the game, have stated on their site that they will release the game for consoles as well. I personally am looking forward to playing it on the Nintendo switch. The missions can be long but it feels like as excellent of a game for a long flight as it is a fun little 15 dollar PC game.

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