I am so bad at Bomber Crew I failed to drop any bombs

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I’m going to tell you about the time my Bomber Crew accidentally dropped a food parcel on Birmingham. But first, a tragic tale.

A spitfire has gone down somewhere in the English Channel and it falls to my crew to rescue the pilot who is bobbing around in the water. We’ll need to fend off enemy fighters while dumping survival packs into the water in the pilot’s vicinity, but I’m new to this Bomber Crew lark and oh no one of our wings is on fire, and I think our plane is going into the drink. At least the spitfire pilot has some wreckage to cling to. Job done, I guess?

Bomber Crew is a bit like FTL. Not a great deal, but a bit.

If you’ve played FTL, you’ll know how stressful it can be when a bit of your spaceship bursts into flames. It’s a bad thing on several levels. Primarily, that ship is the only thing between your crew and the big horrible deathzone that scientists call “the great big vacuum in the sky”. Bomber Crew looks as cute as a button, with its bobble-headed people and colourful liveries. It’s war by way of Nintendo’s Mii characters and I spent enough time in the two tutorial missions and poking around my airbase that I’d been lulled into a false sense of security by the time everything burst into flames.

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As the bullets shredded the paintwork of my plane and the first bouquet of flames bloomed into life, I felt like I was watching Sesame Street burn down or seeing a pile-up involving the Magic School Bus. It was like the time my sister convinced me to throw some of my Lego figures onto the bonfire when I was a few years old, just to watch them burn. I regretted it immediately but couldn’t look away as Luke Skywalker bubbled down into a puddle of yellow pus. Bomber Crew convinced me I was playing with childish things and then it tore my wings off and sent my jolly little crew spiralling into the sea.

Lesson learned, I restarted the mission prepared for the chaos of conflict. We didn’t end up in the water on the second attempt; we ended up somewhere far worse – Birmingham.

I’ve only played for a couple of hours, but as far as I can tell Bomber Crew requires two distinct skills. You need to be able to multi-task, paying attention to what’s happening outside the plane as well as what’s happening inside the plane, and you need to be good at prioritising. Is it more important to tag the incoming fighter planes or to correct your course? Can you afford to keep your bombs in the bay on this particular run while you concentrate your attention elsewhere, or would it be better to take a few hits while ensuring you dump your load?

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None of the things that you have to do are very complicated. Sure, flying a plane and navigating said plane while also operating the radar and repairing any damange might seem like complicated tasks, but as the all-seeing overlord of your bomber crew, you just need to click on a person and then click on the area you’d like them to attend to. If the area is on fire, they’ll try to extinguish that fire, if it’s a gun and they’re a gunner, they’ll hop into position and fire on any fighters that you’ve spotted and tagged.

It should be simple, but it isn’t because fighters come from every direction and you need to click into spotting view to tag them, and then you get a message telling you that the electrical systems have been knocked out so you need to click into the other view and zoom in to direct somebody to carry out repairs. I’ve only played the first few missions of what looks like a fairly brief but replayable campaign, and things aren’t horrifically hectic just yet, but I still managed to visit Birmingham by mistake.

I can explain. We’d reached the pilot and as we prepared to drop supplies nearby, six fighters came swooping in from the clouds above. There are three guns on the bomber and I had two gunners in place, so we had coverage everywhere except to the front. That’s because the person responsible for peering out of the plane’s bottom as you target bombing sites is also the person who controls the front gun. I’d ordered her into bombing position, in readiness to drop the supplies, but I quickly reassigned her to the gun as the fighters approached.

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That meant we passed over the stranded pilot without dropping any supplies because nobody was in position to do so. But it also meant we were unleashing hell on the fighters swarming around us. Imagine my surprise, then, when our entire plane fell apart. The radar broke, then two of the guns ran out of ammo, and then I had to send someone out onto the wing with a fire extinguisher. I say had to but I’m not entirely sure it was necessary or even useful, but I did it nonetheless.

During the chaos of fire-fighting and fighter-firing, I made a fundamental error and I hope that you will learn from my mistake. Here is the lesson and pay very close attention: if a plane is pointing in one direction it will continue to travel in that direction until somebody deliberately tells it to do otherwise. Planes are not intelligent creatures in their own right and they do not know where you want them to be.

I knew where I wanted the plane to be. I wanted it to be circling around the drowning pilot. I wanted it to be in the vicinity of that pilot for the forseeable future, while I tended to the small matter of ensuring the entire apparatus didn’t fall out of the sky. The plane did not know that I wanted it to do anything except to fly forward forever though, and the reason it didn’t know is because my navigator was the person trying to extinguish the fire on the wing.

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Without a navigator in position, Bomber Crew does not allow you to redirect your plane. You never have direct control, simply tagging new waypoints as the navigator plots a course. Nobody was plotting a course for our bomber though, so we flew far away from the pilot, with enemy fighters still in pursuit.

As soon as I realised what was happening, I sent the navigator back to his seat and a chirpy moustached chap informed us that we were approaching Birmingham. I hadn’t realised we’d left the Channel. Truth be told, I thought we were a few metres away from our objective at most. More like a couple of hundred miles.

The enemy fighters were still following, though we’d shot most of them down which seemed like a small victory. I don’t feel fantastic about leading the rest toward one of the biggest cities in England, but they’re fighters, not bombers, so I doubt they can do a great deal of damage.

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As an apology of sorts for leading baddies to their city, I dropped the supplies intended for the pilot onto the streets of Birmingham. I hope there’s some chocolate and spam rather than a flare pistol and some inflatable armbands.

I’ll return to Bomber Crew, partly to prove to myself that I’m not the worst planesman in all of history, but also because it seems like a splendid game. There’s serious business beneath the playful paintjob, but not so serious that I can’t enjoy my mistakes. If you’d like to deliver much-needed supplies to the good people of Birmingham, Bomber Crew is available right now on that there Steam.

24 Comments

  1. sagredo1632 says:

    “I can explain.” Never, in the history of mankind, has anything good ever followed those three fateful words.

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  2. Kemuel says:

    I played a bunch of games at EGX last month, but for some reason it’s Bomber Crew that sticks in my mind most from the show. FTL meets Cannon Fodder Great stuff.

  3. palhanow says:

    Bomber Crew is a good game indeed, don’t get fooled by cartoon graphics.

    The problem is: the game needs some polishing. And is sad to think in beta the devs don’t see some problems.

    I started a thread in the official Steam Forum pointing this things:
    link to steamcommunity.com

    It’s the biggest thread in the Forum now.

    The summary:
    – We need a pause system, ASAP. Slow down time with a pseudo-pause, real ingame pause, whatever.

    – The game really need some rebalance on skills, fixing speed, walking speed (WHO DA FUC WALK LIKE THAT IN A MID OF A WAR INSIDE A GIANT STEEL FLYING FORTRESS??)

    – Some macro options like, press a button on keyboard and the mechanic automatically take out the fire;

    – AND PLEASE, some way of creating a route in the minimap. This going forward forever is not working.

    • Shadow says:

      If those are the main complaints, then the game’s in pretty good shape: they’re mostly related to people being new to the game.

      – The lack of pause is most likely by design, and while the hectic nature of missions might seem overwhelming at first, it’s just a matter of getting the hang of it. Adding pause and/or slowdown options would severely diminish the game’s difficulty.

      – Walking speed is a trade-off versus protection. Again working as designed. It’s not all negative forever, though: I’m around the second critical mission, and just unlocked a fancy beret which drastically increases speed without a similarly massive protection penalty. Immediately bought it for my engineer.

      – About the alleged need for macro options, again part of the challenge. But you can at least select crewmen using the number keys. That’s plenty.

      – Regarding the minimap route, fourth level navigators can set a custom waypoint, allowing more manual flight and less reliance on flying low to get speedy course corrections.

      • Premium User Badge

        Phasma Felis says:

        > The lack of pause is most likely by design

        There is no excuse, ever, for not having pause in a single-player game. If you’re worried about people taking a break to leisurely evaluate the tactical situation, then don’t let them do that: block out the screen while paused.

        A game where you’re flying an airplane is even worse. At least in Dark Souls it’s theoretically possible to finish off the zombie in front of you and then hide in a corner indefinitely while you answer the door or whatever.

        • Chris_CHA says:

          But wait, there is a pause… it’s called pressing escape. It pauses the game but you can only access the options, not make decisions.

          I’m frustrated with the lack of correct information and the fact that so many people want this EASIER. Are you kidding me? A driving part of the gameplay is split-second decision making. You want a slowdown? Perhaps Cuphead falsely reinvigorated my belief that the game market was back in the swing of not having trivially easy games.

          • jonahcutter says:

            There’s no reason the devs couldn’t give it an active pause functionality and then make that optional. Hell players could do that on their own. Playing FTL without using the pause function is a regular challenge players attempt.

            The simple addition of two different modes, with and without active pause, would ensure both play styles are catered to.

            No resource-consuming rebalancing would be necessary. The active pause mode would be “as is”.

          • Premium User Badge

            Phasma Felis says:

            Ah, well, that’s fine, then! Yeah, it’s silly if people are complaining that that’s not “really” pause.

        • EvilMonkeyPL says:

          I agree, FTL is plenty hard and it has active pause. It’s not a twitch shooter. Even goddamn TWARHAMMER has slowdown and pause. If the difficulty in the game comes from UI and not from interesting decisions you get to make, the game is close to being broken.
          But then again I mostly play PDX games and may be biased on that particular subject.

          • Chris_CHA says:

            I was an active member of the Napoleon: Total War, Shogun II: Total War, and Rome II: Total War, PvP communities. Slowing down time is not a luxury you have when you’re thrust against other players, and as such, your split-second decisions and prior planning will take the spotlight.

        • ColonelFailure says:

          I’m in the “mayhem makes life better” camp.

          Adding active pause so you can address more than one issue at a time would radically change the game – do you stay eyes on the target for your bombing run, or do you target the incoming fighters, maybe you assign your engineer to fix the electronics AGAIN. You can’t do them all at once, that’s the point.

          The lack of active pause means you have to hold your nerve and make the right prioritisation, for better or worse.

          (If you need to pause to go answer the door, escape is your friend.)

        • tehfish says:

          I have to agree.

          Without a pause function, FTL would go from difficult to just frustrating, from what i’ve seen of YT videos, this game has the latter. It seems built around a pause function like FTL without actually implementing the pause function. So frustrating to watch and likely frustrating to play.

          Some games work well for quick reactions, this genre isn’t one IMHO.

      • Sirius1 says:

        “Adding pause and/or slowdown options would severely diminish the game’s difficulty”

        It doesn’t have to (it certainly doesn’t in FTL, for example.) If that’s what it relies in to achieve difficulty, then I’ll have no difficulty in keeping it on my avoid list.

        • Shadow says:

          Juggling things, prioritizing and making split-second decisions is part of the game, probably inspired in real bomber crew management. It’s not a twitch-shooter, but it’s not meant to be a pseudo-turn-based game in which you’re supposed to carefully ponder every decision, either.

          And again, it may seem overwhelming at first, but adapting to the franticness is also part of the game and honing your skill at it.

    • geldonyetich says:

      Yeah, the steam reviews are mixed and pretty discouraging. The one by WarlordWMD with the second-by-second breakdown in particular really communicated to me the difficulty the UI places on the user.

      Still, if the developer is willing to tackle these issues, it looks like it could be a real gem.

      • Shadow says:

        Mixed? They’re 89% positive.

        • Lomaxx says:

          Just want to note here that this value is easily misinterpretable. 89% of the people gave it a positive review doesnt mean that the game is 89% of a perfectly good game. It just means (in theory) that 89% of the reviewers think it’s average or better ( 50% or more of a perfect game).
          Of course this is also not entirely correct, but at least closer to reality imho.
          Just wanted to mention this because i hate how steam tries to fool people with this value probably intentionally.

          • Shadow says:

            Steam’s intentions aside, “89% positive” is fine. It doesn’t mean it’s 89% perfect, but rather than 89% of reviewers think it’s a good game.

            It doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flaws, but such consensus is a pretty damn good indicator it’s worth your time and money.

            Even if it doesn’t technically mean it’s 89/100, how’s that anything but arbitrary, anyway?

        • geldonyetich says:

          It was mixed when I last saw it. I think there must have been a deluge of upvotes after that. If you scan down the top most helpful rated, that’s more of the mix I saw.

          Are we entering a scenario where I must screenshot my Steam review pages to establish a vote ratio was, at one point, different?

  4. JimDiGritz says:

    I was quite interested in this until I read that it was 100% scripted and every play-through had the exact same AI decisions etc….

    I’ll wait until it’s £1 on Steam sales… sounds like zero replayability.

    • Shadow says:

      What? Every stage of the campaign (there’s 10) has a fixed critical mission, but the secondary missions, the bulk of the total, are infinite and largely randomly generated. Might want to check your sources.

  5. poomanchu says:

    A bit of advice – never do maneuvers, like trying to land, while someone is on the wing trying to put out a fire/fix an engine. (they will fall off and die)

  6. jeppic says:

    But did you manage to drop an F-bomb?

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