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The Flare Path: Curious Rover

Simulation & wargame news

Found the camouflaged pillbox in Proteus yet? Or the crashed G4M Betty? No, me neither. I'm starting to think that white owl is a wind-up merchant. From now on I'm only going to trust the crabs. I know they're honest because they're the ones who pincer-pointed me in the direction of a staggeringly beautiful Mars mod for Vehicle Simulator, a blue-chip flight model overhaul for Take On Helicopters, and a rather unexpected demo for HPS Simulations' Ancient Warfare series.

Olympus Trip

Cover image for YouTube video

Damn you, jafergon! Now I'm aware you're building a stunning Mars scenery and vehicle set for genre-blurring transport playground Vehicle Simulator, I can't get a certain image out of my head. When I close my eyes now and think of VSF, I see T. Stone Esq, EVA suit caked in red dust, planting a Union Jack on the top of Olympus Mons.

I've got it all worked out. The ascent will be painstakingly documented across five consecutive Flare Paths. You, lucky reader, will be spared nothing. Every imaginary blister and unvented fart, every melancholy banana break and strangled rendition of 'Forever Autumn' - it'll all be recounted in forensic detail.

Then again I might just spend my time in Mars Expedition 1 chasing dust devils in a Martian 12WD, or wandering about high plateaux drinking-in the desolation and admiring the views.

Vehicle Simulator, like its predecessors Virtual Sailor and Micro Flight, makes up for sketchy systems modelling and patchy prototypicality, with sound physics, an impressive array of user-made add-ons, and unusually moody environments. This conversion looks to be pushing the engine's aptitude for atmosphere to the giddy limit.

Rather appropriately, the red letter day for Red Planet rovers, is March-the-something.


Ancient Warfare Peltaster

FP's knowledge of military history chariot-skids off a cliff sometime around 1 BC. Without the help of Messrs Wiki and Osprey, frankly, I'd struggle to tell you the difference between a hypaspist and a hip replacement. Phalangites? Weren't they a faction in the Spanish Civil War?

I blame my ignorance on flouridated water, EU bureaucracy, escaped mink and the wargames industry. History digitizers (and, to lesser extent, escaped mink) either ignore tactics-level Classical carnage or consistently fail to let me try before I buy.

The two market-dominating franchises - Slitherine's Field of Glory and HPS Simulations' Ancient Warfare - had, up until this week, gone thirteen releases without a demo. In the circumstances it seems a trifle churlish to castigate HPS for only including two tiny scenarios in their achingly overdue AW trial.

The first of the free WeGo battles is over in the blink of an eye and designed purely to communicate basic principles. The second scrap - a Greek assault on a Macedonian camp - has more room for manoeuvre and more potential for replay.

If you've never encountered an AW title before, the GUI is going to seem almost as dated as the unit fashions. Valuable information on stuff like fatigue levels, combat power, and command structure is spread across various toggleable modes and windows rather than neatly integrated into the main display. It's only once limitations like these are accepted, that the noisy, low-headcount tussles begin to beguile.

Put a few hours into the demo and then go read assessments from antique aggro authorities such as Flash of Steel's Troy Goodfellow and you should, finally, be in a position to confidently buy or bypass the Ancient Warfare series.

I was planning to reconnoitre Slitherine's Field of Glory this week - do a spot of compare-and-contrast - but having learnt that a major refurbishment project is underway (the series, like Close Combat, is being upgraded via the Unity engine) will postpone that visit until the relaunch in March.


For Whom The Bell Rolls

Take On Helicopters needed a longer, stronger story according to the clown who reviewed it for PC Gamer. If you believe Fred Naar, the respected Sikorskian behind hovercontrol.com and FSX physics project Helicopter Total Realism it also needed some substantial flight model tweaks.

Fred has done what he can to address issues in the light and medium FMs (ToH's heavies await attention). The easily installed result of his labours can be found here. Expect crisper stick and collective responses, more naturalistic torque effects, and - if you're accustomed to the default behaviours - a few buckled skids early on as you adjust to a saggier ground effect cushion.


Rainbow Synapse

What do ex-sub sim designers do once they've blown ballast for the final time? If you're Dan Dimitrescu, one of the Romanians behind the rebirth of Silent Hunter, you found a little indie studio called KillHouse Games and start making digital diversions about top-down tango take-downs.

There's scant information available at present, but looking at those screenshots with their echoes of Frozen Synapse and Rainbow Six/Rogue Spear, and knowing Dan's interest in hardcore military matters, I'd be disappointed if breaching charges, baton rounds, and believable ballistics, weren't on the feature list come release day.


The Flare Path Foxer

Using their minds as machetes, corinoco, zabzonk and phlebas hacked a path straight to the heart of last week's 'Things Wot You Find in the Amazonian Rainforest' foxer. En-route they spotted the twitching tail of a SEPECAT Jaguar, the jutting jaw of a Mowag Piranha, a Blowpipe-toting local, a dozing W-3RM Anakonda, a Hitlerian Hummingbird, an ex-Policeman and the mighty Amazon in full spate.

To work-out this week's theme and claim an FP flair point decorated with gaudy Martian canal art, just stare at the seven clues above until your brain starts to steam like an overworked Alpini pack mule.

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Tim Stone