Every now and then a game comes along and puts its own quirky spin on a familiar genre, and that’s exactly what Bomber Crew does, bringing a real-time strategy game wrapped up with adorable aesthetics and unforgiving gameplay.
Off the bat, the best comparison that can be made to provide perspective on Bomber Crew’s gameplay is how similar it is to the hit indie game FTL: Faster Than light, however, I’d argue that Bomber Crew is slightly more stressful. When starting your WWII bomber campaign you’re kindly gifted with a Lancaster Bomber and a back-to-basics crew. Although the game is kind in gifting you everything you need to get started, it isn’t kind with its gameplay – Bomber Crew takes no prisoners.
Once you’ve tinkered and played around with the visuals of your Bomber (let’s be honest, that’s the part we all love) then you’ll set off on the welcoming tutorial, which does a brilliant job of showing you the ropes of what the game has to offer, but don’t get too comfortable, the two tutorial mission do not sit in cannon with the main campaign in terms of difficulty. On my first playthrough, I struggled to complete any of my first 5 missions, I didn’t die, just had to abort. It’s at that moment you can’t help but feel overwhelmed, but this is actually where Bomber Crew really shines, as once you start learning the mechanics and everything starts coming together there’s no better feeling than landing you Bomber after a successful mission.
You’ve probably already got the idea but this game is hard, but not in the cheap ‘we’re going to throw impossible situation and you to force you to fail’. Bomber Crew is a lot more mature than that, every critical situation you’ll experience with your crew while up in the air can be overcome, but how effectively you overcome them is down to you. I found the trick is to not panic, which is hard when you’ve lost 2 engines, 2 crew members are down and 4 enemy planes are raining fire down on you, but trust me, don’t panic, and there’s a good reason not to panic – Bomber Crew give you everything you need to manage just about any situation you’ll find yourself in.
The ability to overcome uncertain fates fall down to your adorable crew. To successfully complete missions you’ll need to fill six positions on the plane; bomber, pilot, navigation, radio, engineer and gunner, more interestingly, you only have 6 members of crew and this is where the simulation style multi-tasking comes in. As your crew level up, they’ll unlock new abilities and these aren’t just any old abilities but genuinely helpful mechanics, for example at level 6 your pilot unlock the ability to perform an emergency dive that’ll extinguish an engine fire, meaning you can assign your engineer to another task rather than fix the engine. Every ability your crew unlock fit together like a perfect jigsaw, putting more ownership on you to succeed.
The attention to detail that developer Runner Duck has delivered is honestly quite staggering, especially when in the air. For so long I couldn’t realise why I was burning up some much fuel when on a mission, then accidentally closing the bomb doors made me realise that by having them open creates drag, the same goes for not bringing up your landing gear after take-off. Now, you might be thinking that sounds obviously and only an idiot would bring up their landing gear after takeoff, which is kind of true, but in the midst of all-out dogfighting combat it’s very easy to forget to do even the simplest of task which leads back to my earlier advice, don’t panic.
Although the attention to detail is amazing and is a big reason in to which the game grabs you into an addictive gameplay loop, there is one area I wish felt a bit more fleshed out, the main campaign. Bomber Crew plays out in a mission-based format, with each mission lasting between 5-15 minutes. The main campaign is made up of eight ‘critical’ mission that vastly differs from the day-to-day mission, mostly in difficulty. This huge jump in difficulty does lead to some grinding in order to kit both your crew and bomber out for the next brutal critical mission you’ll undertake. Now, grinding isn’t something I mind too much in a game when it doesn’t feel too repetitive. The biggest flaw to Bomber Crew is how there’s no difference in reward between ‘easy’ missions and ‘hard’ mission, both offer the same amount of points and funds – so why on earth would you ever choose hard?
Nows a good time to mention that Bomber Crew features full permadeath, for both your crew and plane. So, if you’ve invested 15 hours into a plane and crew, would you really take the ‘hard’ risk when setting out on a filler mission when there’s no extra monetary reward? You can argue that with more enemies on offer in the ‘hard’ missions your crew will earn more Exp, which is true but hardly worth the risk of losing everything. I honestly can’t think of a reason why the developers wouldn’t differ the reward depending on the risk rating of a mission, it brings an unnecessary complaint to a very good game.
Bomber Crew is one of the most original and adventurous games I’ve played this year and I loved most of my 18 hours with the game. The feeling of growing in ability with your plane and crew means you can’t help but get attached and it’s this attachment and lack of tangible reward in the tougher missions that will prevent you from experiencing some of the game best moments. But even in the easier mission, you’ll find the game hard to put down, the feeling of elation when landing a plane with two engines out, a fire on board, literally no fuel in the tank and just your pilot left is what Bomber Crew offers time and time again.