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.