The Flare Path: Defects

The dystopia at the heart of singular RPG Way of Defector is a truly grim place. It’s a country where you can be imprisoned or killed for criticising the government or for being related to someone who has criticised the government. A land where the state routinely uses detention without trial, torture, and sexual violence against the people, and many go to bed hungry every night. Developers Dev Arc call this repressive totalitarian hellhole ‘North Korea’.

My first Way of Defector play session lasted barely ten minutes. Foolishly I lingered in a town lousy with Public Security Officers and before I knew it I was back in my homeland facing a firing squad.

My second run lasted a little longer. It was only when I fell out of a tree while scrumping fruit and hurt my leg that things started to go pear shaped. The last thing I remember is passing out from lack of food in the mountains near Yanbian.

In game number three I got as far as Donggang. When the government goons bundled me into the back of a Black Maria, the scent of the sea – of freedom – was in my nostrils.

The constant pressure to make money, obtain food, and elude the authorities means repetition is part and parcel of this engrossing turnbased defect-em-up. What’s pleasing is the way the repetition never seems to whelp boredom. Leavened by random encounters and skill-test dice rolls, no two escape epics are the same. Drawn from one day-long turn to the next by a goal that’s both horribly distant and incredibly magnetic, you push across a nodal map crawling with men keen to send you back to a land of re-education camps and extra-judicial executions.

That map depicts north-eastern China because no-one but the suicidal attempts to get into South Korea via the DMZ. Most aspiring defectors start their perilous journeys in China. WoD illustrates the classic method of escape beautifully. First-off you need to find and make contact with a so-called ‘broker’. Next a deal must be negotiated, astronomical fees found, and the dangerous escape executed. There are risks at every stage of the process because the Chinese authorities regard NK refugees as illegal economic migrants and frequently send them home. Deportation often means incarceration and hard labour in the Democratic People’s Republic. Sometimes it means death.

There’s a strong behind-the-lines feel to WoD odysseys WoDysseys. Every day is split into four periods, three of which can be used for movement, rest, work, shopping, inquiries, quest-related tasks, or self-improvement (Assuming you’re in a city. Rural locations tend to be more restrictive). Public Security Officers roam the map complicating activities and encouraging relocation. The outcomes of most tasks and unplanned encounters are determined by a dice roll linked to one of your character’s four core stats – strength, agility, talent and focus.

A single unlucky skill roll can fling your avatar into a cell, but sensible game rules and careful balancing mean you shouldn’t find yourself dicing with doom too often. One of the game’s more abstract mechanisms is ‘crackdown’ a police activity indicator which steadily advances and can be reduced through certain player actions. On occasions when you do find yourself behind bars Dev Arc often keep the candle flame of hope faintly flickering with slim escape opportunities.

In my most successful defection attempt thus far, I remained at large for around two months, reached the west coast, and was busy trying to rustle up the cash to pay my broker, when a mix of poor planning and bad luck ended my dream. The defeat felt like a small victory and was treated as such by WoD. When I returned to the main menu I discovered that Park Ryung-eun, the first of five unlockable characters, was available for play.

With their different start locations, stats, and abilities, the extra defectors should mean Way of Defector is no weekend wonder. I’m a little concerned the cache of random encounters may not be large enough to sustain dozens of playthroughs (I’ve already lost count of the times I’ve scrumped fruit from wayside trees and been given dumplings by kind old ladies) but assuming the price (TBA) reflects the game’s modest dimensions, Way of Defector shouldn’t have trouble making friends when it slips across the border on December 12.

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1945 started expensively for the Jagdwaffe, the Luftwaffe’s fighter arm. Operation Bodenplatte, a bid to support Hitler’s last-ditch offensive in Alsace-Lorraine by raiding tactical air force bases in Belgium and the Netherlands en masse, backfired like a Group B rally car. Although hundreds of British and American aircraft were destroyed on the ground, AA fire and hastily scrambled Allied warbirds exacted a terrible price in return. The Germans lost over 200 pilots including many of their most experienced combat leaders.

Recently diagnosed with an acute flak allergy, I fear I’ll have to play the just announced IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Bodenplatte exclusively from an Allied perspective. Either that or restrict myself to the sim’s Me 262 – a machine surely too swift to regularly succumb to Death by Bofors – when flying for the Führer.

Scheduled for a 2018 release and already available for preorder, IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Bodenplatte will offer an octet of late-war ETO fighters (Premium Edition purchasers get the Dora and P-38L in addition to the Bf 109 G-14, Bf 109 K-4, Fw 190 A-8, Me 262, P-51D, P-47D, Spitfire Mk.IX, Tempest Mk.V), a map incorporating portions of the Low Countries and Germany, and a Rise of Flight-style career mode.

Talking of The 16th Best Simulation of all Time, also underway at 1CGS/777 is Flying Circus: Volume I, the first step in a plan to “re-build RoF inside of the Sturmovik universe and give WWI all the latest technology like VR, 64bit, DX11 and improved visuals”. Initially the tumult in the clouds will involve ten flyables (SPAD, Dolphin, Camel, S.E.5a, Brisfit, Albatros, Fokker Dr.1, Fokker DVII, Pfalz D.IIIa and Halberstadt CL.II) and take place over a single 100km x 100km French map. Any simmer that likes their biplanes behemothic or their sorties interlinked may want to wait for subsequent volumes before throwing their 94th Fighter Squadron. It sounds like multiplayer and singleplayer skirmishing will be the focus at the start.

And 1CGS/777’s industry doesn’t stop there. Amazingly the Muscovites have an armour sim on their assembly line too. My enthusiasm for Tank Crew: Clash at Prokhorovka would be a little more pronounced if the devs were promising a strong singleplayer experience from the outset rather than “a ground combat component that can be integrated into single-player content and multiplayer servers” but no red-blooded Panzer Elitist could possibly survey this tentative list of playable AFVs with total equanimity.

  • T-34-76 STZ
  • KV-1s
  • Sherman
  • SU-122
  • SU-152
  • GAZ-MM + 72K
  • PzKpfw III Ausf.L
  • PzKpfw IV Ausf.G
  • Panther
  • Tiger
  • Elefant
  • Sd. Kfz. 10 + Flak38

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While I’ve never understood why the world chooses to commemorate the tragic loss of nine Coastal Command Beaufighters in November rather than February and to do it with price reductions not poppies, I am prepared to make a small concession to Black Friday madness by linking to Just Flight’s ongoing sale. If you like your FSX addons quirky and well-engineered, this shop window might be of interest.

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This way to the foxer

17 Comments

  1. corinoco says:

    ” A land where the state routinely uses detention without trial, torture, and sexual violence against the people, and many go to bed hungry every night.”

    Are you sure that’s not Australia; with the way it treats it’s indigenous population, or the even worse (if that’s possible) treatment given to refugees in the Manus Island concentration camp? Yes, a modern state has been running a concentration camp for 10 years or more, with the UN barely saying a word. The Manus Island detention camp was never intended to process refugees, it was made to kill them through simple letting the ‘processing’ last longer than their lives.

    Not many people overseas seems to have heard of these recent Australian atrocities; a shame, because Australia deserves international ridicule and ostracism.

    Disclaimer – I live in Australia.

    • Kommissar Hedgehog says:

      Amen – from Australia

      • Cian says:

        Just a note to say that the Manus camp was shut down (meaning that the Australian state pulled out, abandoning the people who they had interned there) and the inmates brutally evicted by the local police earlier this week.

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      Corinoco you’re a reminder of why I love this site, great comment.

    • pekingduckman says:

      Hell, I’m from Australia too, and since 2007 the government placed the indigenous population in NT under an governmental intervention, allegedly to stamp out sex abuse in the community, but in reality suspended the racial discrimination act, placed them under a strict curfew, closed several communities deemed too remote, forced aborigines onto a welfare card system which can only be used at certain stores at inflated prices. And that’s not mentioning the numerous black deaths in custody cases, and to date not one police officer were ever charged.

      The narrative of human rights by world governments are completely one sided and shifts all the time. We are lead to believe that NK is a hellhole ran by a cartoon villain who wants to nuke the world, and needs to be punished with sanctions. But Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy which finances regional terror groups, and still places harsh limits on the rights of women, LGBT, and non Sunni Muslims is seen as the Western world’s best friend thanks to oil, and still receives regular shipments of the latest military toys.

  2. peterako1989 says:

    I’ll just wait for IL-2 sturmovik 1947, thank you.

  3. Questionable says:

    “That map depicts southern China”
    I expect you mean “That map depicts north eastern China”. Southern China would be a long, long walk.

  4. Michael Fogg says:

    A bit ironic that a week after a guy made a rush through the DMZ checkpoint and ended up full of bullet holes but alive on the other side they release a game about doing it the ‘safe’ way through China.

  5. JagdFlanker says:

    Was an article on NK defectors in the paper yesterday. lots of crazy crap going on inside – surprisingly supposedly meth is pretty big

    link to thestar.com

  6. heretic says:

    Thanks for sharing Way of Defector – reminder of the craziness North Koreans have to go through…

  7. pekingduckman says:

    link to theguardian.com

    And yet often the stories of NK defectors fall apart upon close scrutiny. In SK, both governmental agencies and religious groups pay defectors for their stories, the more sensational it gets, the more they get paid. It serves the narrative of the Western world to paint NK as a hellhole, while completely ignoring other factors which made NK what it is today, including economic sanctions and the continuing legacy of the Korean War.

    • Tim Stone says:

      While I agree that demonising NK isn’t helpful, the demonisers have an awful lot of sound material to work with. Organisations like Amnesty International and publications like New Internationalist aren’t well known for promulgating “the narrative of the Western World” yet their assessments of the country…

      link to amnesty.org

      link to newint.org

      ..basically boil down to “it’s a hellhole”.

  8. Chaz says:

    Liking the news about Flying Circus. Been really looking forward to a RoF update of sorts that works in VR.

  9. D88M says:

    “Developers Dev Arc call this repressive totalitarian hellhole ‘North Korea’.”

    Stopped reading right there, ridiculous to put political and uninformed bias into a video game review

    Edit: you need to take a look at the mirror of your own country before even thinking about making a comment like that

    • Tim Stone says:

      Sorry for causing offence, D88M. To redress the balance here are some truths from the official North Korea website:

      “Fundamental Rights of Citizen

      The DPRK practically guarantees the people genuine political freedom and rights according to the fundamental requirement of the Juche idea for enhancing man’s independence and creativity in every way.

      In the DPRK the rights and duties of citizens are based on the collectivist principle, “One for all and all for one.” The Socialist Constitution of the DPRK specifies that the state effectively guarantees all the conditions for the democratic rights and liberties as well as the material and cultural well-being of the citizens.

      All the citizens who have reached 17 years of age have the right to elect and to be elected, irrespective of sex, race, occupation, length of residence, property status, education, party affiliation, political views and religion. They also have freedom of speech, the press, assembly, demonstration and association, freedom of religious beliefs and they are entitled to submit complaints and petitions”

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