Have You Played… Secret Weapons Of The Luftwaffe?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

SWOTL is as ambitious as the futuristic flying wings that inspired its title and adorned its box. Today sim devs tend to demonstrate their dedication by spending lavish amounts on flight model development and cockpit recreation. A quarter of a century ago, they did it by fashioning dazzlingly deep and dynamic sortie backdrops.

LucasArts’ Lawrence Holland tried to squeeze the USAAF’s strategic bombing effort in Europe in WW2 on to four floppies and basically succeeded. The beautifully pitched and impressively equipped SWOTL is a Flying Fortress sim with player-accessible gunner and bombardier positions. It’s an invitation to tear about in Mustangs, Thunderbolts, Bf 109s, Fw 190s, Me 262s, Komets and Go 229s. Above all though, it’s a game in which every bomb-blast and crashing plane shockwaves the future.

Playing as the USAAF you’re out to cripple Germany’s industrial base, reducing its fuel, munitions, and ball bearing stocks to calamitous levels. If you can ravage its aircraft production plants and research facilities while you’re at it, all the better. Damage to firms like Messerschmitt eventually manifests itself in a very tangible way. You begin to encounter fewer of that company’s products in the air.

Axis campaigners get to juggle squadrons, set alert levels, and influence industrial sites linked to the Luftwaffe. Do you want to concentrate on Fw 190 production, try to accelerate the Me-262 programme, or maybe put more eggs in the V weapon basket (hit England with enough doodlebugs and V2s and the victory screen will appear)? A few clicks on the campaign map, and the deed is done.

The version of SWOTL that’s easily obtained today via abandonware sites, is missing two key components – a splendid spiral-bound manual and a wonderfully low-tech anti-piracy device. If , like me, you sold your boxed edition in a weak moment, chances are you now bitterly regret it.

From this site

20 Comments

  1. Aerothorn says:

    I actually picked up a complete-in-box copy on a trip to Chicago two years ago for $14. The manual truly is a thing of beauty.

    But it also, as this article is teaching me, is *not* actually complete-in-box, since it doesn’t have the anti-piracy spinner thing! What a shame.

    On the other hand, it had a copy of the Lucasarts Adventurer, which is a hard-to-find collectable in its own right.

  2. CurseYouAll says:

    I have, actually, and it blew my mind back in the early 90es.

  3. aircool says:

    The precursor to X-Wing.

  4. ohminus says:

    Now I feel old…

  5. harcalion says:

    I have logged in just to cry about Larry Holland disbanding Totally Games recently. You know, there was always the small chance that they could get some more flight/space sims out, even if Secret Weapons over Normandy was not very good (reportedly, I haven’t played it). So, a respectful goodbye to Mr. Holland and his company.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      I owe a lot of my childhood to Lawrence Holland and Totally Games, I was incredibly sad when TG closed down.

  6. Silent Otto says:

    I didn’t play this one – but a seem to remember s Battle Of Britain game find by the same people. i played it on the Amiga1200 – as PCs didn’t work in those days :-)

  7. Kolyarut says:

    This game may actually be my first memory, ever. I definitely recall a flight sim where you moved between different gunnery positions (which matches up with some of the footage on Youtube), specifically the tail gunner on one of the heavy bombers.

    Looking back I figured that was improbable considering the time the game must have come out… improbable but not impossible, I guess!

  8. Zenicetus says:

    Played it and loved it. It was a shock to see the screenshot in the article header, because in my memory it looked much better than that.

    I don’t remember it being that heavily aliased, but then I was probably too busy enjoying the color palette since I started on monochrome and then CGA 4-color PC flight sims. SWOTL was the era when there were finally (barely) enough colors to show gradations on surfaces like this cockpit.

    Good times. And why the hell can’t any of the modern combat flight sims make a decent campaign?

  9. schurem says:

    I wonder what became of Lawrence Holland. Such an awesome resume that guy; SWOTL,x-wing, tie fighter, star trek bridge commander….

  10. Frog says:

    I loved this game on the PC. I still remember peering at the screen trying to decide whether one of those 320×200 pixels was an incoming enemy fighter.
    The various positions in the B17 were great, trying to nurse one of those back with two engines out was just fun.
    The Komet was a little flying coffin as I remember.
    Great stuff.

  11. Spakkenkhrist says:

    This reminded me to check one of my favourite sites out: link to luft46.com

  12. geldonyetich says:

    I played the heck out of SWOTL when I was younger. Great little flight sim, though I’d hesitate to call it realistic beyond the detail they put on the cockpits.

  13. Config.sys says:

    Sure have. First game I ever bought. Battle of Britain and SWOTL were truly great games at the time.

    The manual is still excellent, full of interesting facts about WW2 in Europe. Luckily, I have nothing to regret. ;-)

  14. aksen says:

    still got my box and manual from when i bought it when it was released. that manual is a work of art.

  15. Rob_Heinlein says:

    This was such a great game and the manual was indeed a piece of art.

    Very fond memories of SWOTL (and BoB, by the way!)

    …and its Ho 229 ;-)

  16. KastaRules says:

    Good ol’ times!