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The Flare Path: A2Z

Alphabetised sim and wargaming news

A is for Another Automobilista. Automobilista, the sim that stormed to victory in the single-player portion of the inaugural Flare Path Grand Prix (a popularity contest for race sims) is to get a sequel in December and interestingly the sequel will rely on an engine last seen in Project CARS 2. As Reiza explained to www.racedepartment.com, the graphical prowess and “smooth as butter” fluency of Slightly Mad's engine were a major attraction, as was the prospect of unrestricted code access. From statements like "We didn´t actually have access to the rF2 code beyond information that Studio-397 would supply to us on a need-to-know basis to get our content to work in their engine." it sounds like the Brazilian devs weren't completely happy with their previous engine provider.


B is for Barbarroja bolstered

Using a combination of barbecue tongs and a turkey baster MCD has succeeded in inserting AI into Eastern Front TBS, Barbarroja. This bodes well for the studio's Spanish Civil War game which is due out around Christmas.

C is for Capacious craters

July is the latest ETA for the long-awaited Steel Beasts Pro PE terrain engine switch. The major resolution increase at the heart of the 4.1 update will allow much more realistic earth-moving and add an interesting double-edge to artillery. Why bother laboriously digging tank scrapes with your Bergepanzers when the enemy is happy to do the job for you in a jiffy with his big guns.

D is for DLC disinformation

A little amfibian tells me that Assetto Corsa Competizione's first DLC won't add new vehicles to the playable-since-Wednesday car-wot-goes-fast sim. Apparently, Stefano Casillo is a huge Frogger fan and has always wanted to give the arcade classic a realism boost. According to my correspondent, Tadpole Position (working title) will “take full advantage of Unreal Engine 4, blending - sometimes literally - ACC's stunning GT3 cars and laser-scanned circuit surfaces with cutting-sedge player-guided virtual frogs”.

E is for English Electric

I wonder if the latest Train Sim World route warrants a Flare Path Rail Tours outing. A 27-mile long strip of North-Eastern England with Darlington at one end and Saltburn at the other, the DLC comes with a Class 101 DMU, a Class 08 shunter, and a Class 37 maid-of-all-works that, inevitably, fails to measure up to Armstrong Powerhouse's exquisite TS example.

F is for Foxer

This week's co-op brainteaser co-opts album cover art

G is for Generous demo

Dual layer navy nurturing wargame Rule the Waves II is out and trialable. You can play for three whole days in order to discover whether it's for you. True, if you're new to the series, a significant portion of that period will probably be spent ploughing through the pdf manual; RTW2 doesn't do standalone tutorials and is less approachable than its predecessor thanks to new complexities like aircraft and radar.

H is for Hatton Gardening

Can anyone recommend me a good heist game? I'm looking for something tactical. Commandos or Shadow Tactics without the bloodletting, and with much greater emphasis on recruitment and recon. Ideally, a few of the most capable villains will be getting on a bit - decrepit pensioners who bring health issues and old grudges to work.

I is for Interesting idiosyncrasies

According to 1CGS, the Me 262 due to arrive in IL-2 Sturmovik soon is going to be “controversial, unusual and very interesting to fly”. “Very interesting to fly” is doubtless a reference to the type's notoriously unreliable engines (The devs have modelled a late, improved version of the Jumo 004 but even that had a tendency to flame-out or worse if handled roughly),  poor single-engine performance, and lethal tendency to enter an unrecoverable dive when oversped. In its favour, once going flat-out the Me 262 could outstrip anything aloft and sunder bombers in an instant with its underwing R4M rockets.

J is for  Japan '45

If you're the sort of wargamer who winces when friendlies fall and quickly loses patience when the going gets sticky, John Tiller Software's latest may not be for you. Using 44 scenarios and, on occasion, the entirety of an 88,000 hex Kyushu map, Panzer Campaigns - Japan '45 sims a bloody invasion that a Little Boy and a Fat Man rendered unnecessary. Coronet, the operation that would have followed Olympic, will be the subject of a second game, the tellingly titled Japan '46.

K is for Kałuża's K2

Seeing those pics of climbers queueing to summit Everest made me think of Adam Kałuża's wonderfully wiry mountaineering board games both of which model congestion. Mount Everest (2013) doesn't seem to have a Tabletop Simulator workshop module yet, but its expansion-endowed predecessor K2 (2010) does and it's perfectly suited to solo play.

L is for Leather against willow

Console cricketers can combine World Cup watching with Cricket 19 crease time. For unexplained reasons PC owners can't. Big Ant Studios, an Australian outfit with a string of well-regarded cricket sims to their name, have missed a trick by staggering the releases. It will probably be around a month before the Steam-reliant can sample series improvements like smarter AI (“Deep enhancements to the AI engine mean that the opposition is more realistic than ever before. When bowling, the AI will suss out your player and team’s weaknesses, and target that with a concentrated bowling strategy. When batting, the AI will rotate the strike to protect weaker players, and actively look for gaps in the field”) and a new scenario mode (“Recreate the greatest matches in history, and then share them online to challenge other players to achieve difficult run-chases, or play out a draw from a disastrous situation”).

M is for Musical memories

Keen to add new subtleties and discourage dogmatic rock-paper-scissors decision-making, Owned by Gravity won't be using Fantasy General's proven combat system in the sequel. When it comes to music, however, they are happy to pay homage. A familiar recording of Dies irae, a haunting Medieval choral work, will return little altered. Is it too late for GUI gold-plate and precious stones, I wonder.

N is for New chopper sim

Although the four Search and Rescue heli sims InterActive Vision produced between 1997 and 2002 probably wouldn't feature in too many people's Top 20 flying games, the concept was Skycrane strong. What the under-developed landing-in-tricky-spots-in-order-to-medevac-accident-casualties subgenre has always lacked is the kind of top-notch visuals and flight models Airland, an upcoming SAR sim recently revealed by Helisimmer.com, seems to be bringing to the table. Unreal engined, and the brainchild of a chap behind some of the most realistic rotorcraft in MSFS, Airland has been in production for six years and may well spawn a demo in a few months' time.

O is for One small step

At present owners of Early Access orbital sim Reentry can only admire the Moon from afar. However, the day is fast approaching when visits will be possible. This week dev Petri Wilhelmsen added a WIP version of the Lunar Module to a sim already capable of recreating the Mercury, Gemini, and early Apollo missions. By the time users have read and digested the impressive 196-page manual that explains how to operate the new addition, the Eagle may well be landable.

P is for Priceless progress

The fact that it takes one very helpful and admirably succinct Falcon 4.0 expert thirty minutes to explain the myriad ways the sim's F-16 cockpit routines have been up-realismed by Benchmark Sims' latest release, speaks volumes about the effort that has gone into the '4.34' update. Elsewhere, a sim supplement that furnished new dynamic campaigns, and transformed avionics, ATC, and carrier ops, would cost an arm and a leg. BMS expect precisely nothing from the Falcon faithful.

Q is for Quick teabreak

R is for Resolution options

There will be three ways to resolve scraps within Steel Division II's exciting new game-within-a-game dynamic campaigns. The impatient can simply commit battalions and press a key to go straight to a results summary. For more control you can “semi-autoresolve”, choosing which units participate in each of the three phases of an engagement. The most time-consuming and (hopefully) most enticing option will, of course, be a real-time ding-dong fought on one of the game's handsome prefabricated map. Fingers-crossed those maps are numerous, varied and sensitively selected.

S is for Skirmish sequencer

The Flare Path is far too modest to claim credit for post-release game improvements, but the ingenious pick-your-own-battlefields campaign system recently added to top-down tussle title Armored Brigade does sound a little like the one word-sketched in this November 2018 column. Players define a series of battlefields on a master map then attempt to scrap their way from the middle to the enemy end of the chain with a core force. That force can be repaired and replenished inter-mission with the help of Supply Points. The further you progress along the battlefield chain (backwards movement is also possible) the fewer SPs you earn between engagements.

T is for Tramp steamer ahoy!

One of the saltiest games I know, Ports of Call Classic hits Steam in a few hours' time. The release comes a mere 33 years after the nautical novelty, which blends Truck Sim-style commerce and top-down captaincy very nicely, first appeared on shop shelves.

U is for Unexpected gift

Old Brown Dog haven't forgotten the sim they cut their canines on. Owners of Wings Over Flanders Fields got a surprise gift last week, an extensive patch with a free, campaignable Fokker DVI attached.

V is for Viper vim

Eagle Dynamics seem confident they won't get caught in any fallout from the scheduled-for-August Tishchenko trial. Two weeks after we learned that one of their avionics specialists had been extradited to the US to face charges related to the smuggling and redistributing of export-restricted manuals, the studio (who deny any involvement in their employee's doc dealings) announced that they are taking preorders for one of the aircraft that got Tishchenko into trouble, the F-16C.

W is for Wheel woes

Dirt Rally 2's lack-lustre Force Feedback effects are still provoking forum diatribes despite a May 16 patch that improved things for some wheel users. The devs' “there's no easy fix but we'll keep trying to improve things” statement in March raised as many questions as it answered. Perhaps if Codemasters were more open about the problems they were facing, they might get some useful input from third-parties with experience in the FFB field.

X is for Xpansion xcess?

Having a go at Byzantine Games and Slitherine for putting out yet another Field of Glory II add-on (Wolves at the Gate is the 5th in 19 months) would be a lot easier if that add-on wasn't packed with new factions (19), units (55), and campaigns (6), reasonably priced (£12), and timed to coincide with a free patch that, once applied, lets FoG2 players lead multinational armies in custom battles. The 'allied' portion of one of these new cosmopolitan forces is always relatively small, and must be drawn from a faction with historical links to the main faction. Mixing Viking berserkers with Persian camel cavalry probably isn't permitted.

Y and Z can go whistle

I'm off to watch Pakistan demolish West Indies.