The Flare Path: And The Disappointed Dervish

In the fast-moving world of Flare Path, new games, like Armour Piercing shells and commandant-impersonating stalag escapees, only get one chance to make a good first impression. This week three titles have trooped into the converted Pickett-Hamilton Fort I use as a workspace, only to troop out again a short time later looking like shellshocked Dragons’ Den survivors. The first of those games was shown the door in under 10 minutes.

On November 6, a quartet of elderly MicroProse sims surfaced on Steam. As GOG.com had supplied me with the two Silent Services earlier in the year, and my one abiding memory of the genre-blurring Across The Rhine is the awfulness of its weird windowpaned interface, I made directly for Task Force 1942.

The Pacific naval sim that paved the way for the marvellous Pacific Air War, TF1942 has no modern equivalent so seems like an excellent candidate for resurrection. All that a responsible Jerry Cruncher needs to do to secure the approbation/funds of BB-starved simmers the world over, is remove the manual-reliant name-the-vessel piracy protection that precedes every mission, ensure the 25-year-old veteran works on modern systems, and attach a fair price tag. While Night Dive Studios just about managed the latter (TF1942 is $7/£5) they failed dismally in their other duties. Not only does the Steam version bar you from bridges if you fail to name a warship chosen at random from the recognition section of the original manual (naturally, a pdf of that manual isn’t provided) there’s also a good chance it will refuse to play any sounds outside of the intro video. Poor show Night Dive, poor show.

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My feelings towards Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager have taken longer to crystallize, and are slightly more nuanced, but basically boil down to the same thing. Disappointment.

Polar Motion’s paean to space exploration is packed with carefully researched history and appealing animations. As an interactive encyclopaedia, it’s fascinating. Where it struggles is in converting all that Sputnik slinging and Eagle engineering into compelling play mechanisms.

A turn-based R&D race/man management sim with structural similarities to Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space, it asks you to spend far too much time laboriously assigning training topics to faceless personnel, and watching rocket reliability bars slowly extend. Choosing which of the myriad possible projects to pursue next can be thought-provoking, but the unimaginative way in which skill and reliability stats improve then translate into mission success chances, means the pattern of play rapidly becomes tiresome.

Even technical crises and astronaut-extinguishing disasters don’t accelerate pulse rates. When something goes wrong a vague message appears, dice are rolled (silently, off-stage) and another officious pop-up announces whether your rocket, probe, shuttle etc. has survived the scare. Mini-games, humour, flawed astronauts, acerbic performance assessments from Mr. Aldrin… BASPM needs something to enliven its dry-as-moon-rock proceedings.

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The last of this week’s sigh-coaxers is an Early Access beta so probably deserves a little leniency.
The fact that my first game of Making History: The Great War made Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland seem workaday, doesn’t mean I’ve totally given up on Muzzy Lane’s Paradoxian WeGo TBS.

As tutorials are not yet implemented, and the basics of troop movement and country management aren’t hard to grasp, I thought I’d leap straight in and try my luck as France in 1914. My first one-week turn was spent commissioning army and naval units, choosing R&D projects, switching factory output from civilian goods to weapons and ammo, and rail-transporting combatants to north-western provinces. In the second, third, and fourth turns I watched and waited, cagily cursor-scrutinising the Boche forces milling about in the Ruhr and Alsace-Lorraine.

When war finally arrived, the results of early engagements were so encouraging I decided to go on the offensive. By the second week of October, half of Germany was the same shade of blue as a French Army greatcoat, a British expeditionary force was fighting near Keil, and two of my boldest cavalry units were a short gallop from Berlin. On November 1st, 21 turns in, the Kaiser’s capital fell. On December 6, the on-its-knees Germany declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire and I accidentally spluttered some blackcurrant squash onto my keyboard.

For my second session I thought I’d turn my back on European silliness, and try life as an African minor. In a dervish state I plumped for The Dervish State and almost instantly regretted my decision. Flicking through the various map filters, it was clear I’d selected a tiny, very poor two-province country at war with all of its neighbours. To the west lay a vast and hostile Abyssinia, to the North the small but scary British Somaliland, and to the East and South, the similarly well-connected Italian East Africa. After my hurriedly dispatched peace envoys were all snubbed, I prepared for imminent extinction.

I hadn’t reckoned on the sleepy incompetence of my foes. After seeing off a feeble assault from the west, I left my capital undefended and marched into Abyssinia. By turn 14, the Ethiopian armies were shattered, the handsome Dervish flag was flapping over Addis Ababa, and 433 captured golds were cluttering my treasury. I was rich and conquest of the entire Horn of Africa suddenly seemed perfectly practical.

Soon after that, French Somaliland fell without a whimper, Italian-administered Mogadishu too… By the time I saved and quit, uprisings in occupied lands were starting to cause problems, but there was no sign that the likes of Italy, Britain, and France were about to rain on my dusty parade.

My brief brush with Making History: The Great War suggests Muzzy Lane still have a lot of work to do. Players looking for plausible treatments of The War To End All Wars are not short of choices, and while MHTGW is friendly, reasonably attractive, and packed with playable nations, it doesn’t appear to have the AI strength, military finesse, or finely balanced scenarios necessary to compete with the likes of Commander: The Great War, Strategic Command WWI and To End All Wars.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s collage had impresario implications – impresario implications impressively intuited by AFKAMC (with assistance from FurryLippedSquid, Napoleon15, foop, deejayem, phlebas, and Rorschach617).

a. Commodore Nutt
b. Sherman Jumbo
c. K3 EX-135 ‘Humbug’
d. Beriev A-40 ‘Mermaid
e. Sea area ‘Bailey’
f. Triumph Herald
g. Interface detail from P.T.B
h. The Missing Link
i. Jenny Lind locomotive

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Five things you probably didn’t know about Roman, the wizened wikipede who composes the picture puzzles for this column:

1. On June 18, 2010 he gave up fear, tact, and dairy.
2. In 1975 he was knocked down and almost killed by this mobile library.
3. His aquarium features a 1/72 scale model of a Rettungsboje.
4. His vivarium features a 1/72 scale model of a crashed Caproni Ca.133.
5. His formicarium features a 1/72 scale model of Professor George Edward Challenger.

All answers in one thread, please.

61 Comments

  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Is that a youngish Marty Feldman?

    (probably not, it’s someone dead obvious I should know right away)

    • deejayem says:

      I think it’s Alec Guinness as George Smiley.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Told you!

        I was just about to post wot Matchstick posted, the fiend.

        • deejayem says:

          Oops – actually it’s the Lavender Hill Mob! (Too young for Smiley.)
          Edit – Matchstick beat me by a minute! :)

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        Matchstick says:

        Definitely agree it could be Alec Guiness but it looks too young to be Smiley and looks more like his Ealing Comedy period
        Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts & Coronets, Man in a White Suit etc

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      Matchstick says:

      Bottom left

      2014 Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W05 Hybrid Car with driver Lewis Hamilton
      link to data1.ibtimes.co.in

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Can’t pin that airline logo (I’m assuming it’s commercial). Looks Asian, maybe Caribbean..?

    • Rorschach617 says:

      MG Bottom Right. Looks like a BREN to me.

    • Artiforg says:

      Is the shooter a Bren

      Bren

      Duh! Beaten by Rorschach617

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Train looks like a very modern shunting engine (only they seem to have railings around) if that’s any help.

    • deejayem says:

      I think the link might be London boroughs:
      Lewis Hamilton – Lewisham
      Bren – Enfield
      Lavender Hill Mob – Ealing

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Very tentative ID. Is the warship at centre one of the Maine class battleships? Has similarities, but I cannot find that particular photo, and pre-war naval design is not my best subject.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        I thought it looked more like the HMS Belfast sort of type.

        I’m not good with ships.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Going with a possible London theme, there is a pre-dreadnought HMS London that has a similar bow, and the funnels look right, but it only has 2 of them.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            As to ships, my knowledge goes as far as;

            Has it got missiles?
            Has it got guns?
            If the bow is vertical, a late 19th-early 20th design.
            And can I see the name anywhere on the photo (this is the best indicator for me).

            :)

      • Stugle says:

        It’s not the Maine (which has two smoke stacks) and it’s not the Belfast (which has angled smoke stacks and a different mast). What it IS, however… Let me get back to you on that.

      • Beowulf says:

        Greek cruiser Georgios Averof.

        • BryanTrysers says:

          Excellent! A Pisa class ship (thanks to Wikipedia again), which goes with the whole tower business nicely.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Nice one

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      Matchstick says:

      Is the plane top centre the Saunders Roe (SARO) A.27 London ?
      (Yay for wikipedia’s list of WW2 Seaplanes)

    • SpiceTheCat says:

      Stab du jour is “towers”

      Petronas Towers
      Enfield Tower (ok, not a building, but still)
      CN Tower
      Sky Tower (lots, but a notable one in Auckland)
      The Shard, formally, is the London Bridge Tower.

      • Shiloh says:

        The Guinness Tower in Dublin as well… and rather than The London Bridge Tower, how’s about the Tower of London?

        • SpiceTheCat says:

          …er. yes, that would be a more logical alternative. *wonders how he forgot the Tower of London*. And at least the Guiness Tower is an actual building.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        The tall structures on the ship are conning towers…

        Tenuous.

      • BryanTrysers says:

        There is a BREN tower according to wiki. It’s a mast at the Nevada test site “Bare Reactor Experiment, Nevada.”

      • Rorschach617 says:

        My hat is off to Spicethecat, looks like he has it.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    -Moved to thread-

  3. Synesthesia says:

    Tim, will you do an IL-2Battle of Stalingrad WIT? I’m strongly on the fence on that one, still don´t know what to do.

    • Tim Stone says:

      I was planning to do one, but HeinKill’s over at SimHQ…

      link to simhq.com

      is so good, I’m not sure there’s much point now.

      • Beowulf says:

        I’ve read it and so far it reinforces the impression I got by browsing other flight sim-related forums and review sites. That means I’m still on the fence, and still looking for more opinions from reviewers I hold in high regard in this field.

        Guess it’s high time to properly learn how to land a Spitfire before Team Fusion strikes hard with 5.0 (There is a trailer with Gloster Gladiator somewhere around the web).

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Only 3/10 for the campaign?

        :(

  4. Premium User Badge

    FhnuZoag says:

    Tim, that’s the heavy cruiser Mogami in the ship recognition screenshot. So now you can play some Task Force 1942!

  5. amateurviking says:

    Initially missed the ‘s’ in ‘GamersGate’ and well…you know.

    • Tssha says:

      I must admit, when the GamerGate thing became a thing, I thought of that too, and how I’d never be able to think of GamersGate without thinking of GamerGate.

      What cruel fate life holds.

  6. SuicideKing says:

    Something called Global ATC Simulator popped up on my Steam feed a few days ago. Has anyone been able to have a go at it, yet?

    • Flying Penguin says:

      There’s a demo* available in the Aerosoft forum:

      link to forum.aerosoft.com

      If I had to sum it up in one word, I’d choose… “Unintuitive”

      Now I’m no stranger to SIDs, STARs, sequencing etc and so I thought I’d try jump straight in. Big mistake. If ever there was a sim that needed an interactive interface tutorial, this is it. The manual isn’t that much help either, lacking a worked example.

      On the positive side, it seems to do what it says on the tin and to be relatively glitch free*. I intend to spend more time with it, as it’s rewarding in the same “hard-core” (god, what an awful term…), realism and process heavy, graphics free way that Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations is, and that’s a very good thing in my eyes.

      *IMPORTANT There is a demo-specific glitch in the current version that will crash the sim every time you start a scenario, this can be fixed by creating a directory called “Autosaves” in the main game directory.

  7. LionsPhil says:

    naturally, a pdf of that manual isn’t provided

    So they’re selling a copy-protected game without the actual copy protection “key” you need to play it?

  8. Alice O'Connor says:

    I will never understand why so many posts discussing Foxer solutions get marked as spam by the filter. I think I’ve sorted the mess out.

    • JB says:

      Clearly it’s Roman’s cunning plan to keep his precious Foxers unfoxed!

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      I think that was me, no idea what was going on, sorry!

      • Beowulf says:

        You are not alone in this pit. It happened to me a few times, mostly when I try to edit my posts with additional information, like a proper link and wider explanation (Barcelona metro map, Wiki link to this week Greek cruiser etc.). And then I cannot paste another comment, because I get a message that I already posted this :). What’s more – clicking “tell us about it” link in the pop-up brings me to “code error” page.

    • foop says:

      Thank you, Alice. There’s nothing worse than trying to show off one’s pointless knowledge only to be stymied by the spam filter.

      Well, there are worse things.

  9. Ranger33 says:

    I watched the Buzz Aldrin game for a long time, wanted it to be good, but your review confirms the vibe I got from it. A nice idea without enough interesting parts to make it fun. Especially when I can hop into Kerbal Space Program which essentially lets one do themselves what those abstracted progress bars are trying to convey in SPM. (ie designing basic rockets, then orbits, missions to the moon, spacestations, and so on).