I had a bit of a revelation last night. I was ready for my Thursday night flying session when I decided to take a break from DCS and went on to IL2 Great Battles. I was flying with two others from EAF, Red and Starfire, and we had a great time running strike missions on the Finnish Virtual Pilots server.
We ended up flying Blue in a mix of aircraft, generally on strike missions, starting with the Fw-190A-5 and progressing to the Ju-88. Later on we flew low level, pinpoint, strikes with the Bf-109F-4 for a big of fun, then mocked the AA guns as we picked them off one by one. We even had an instance of flying in Stuka when we were bounced by a Yak. The Yak pilot could not deal with Stukas flying aggressively against him – it wasn’t like we could run away – eventually the Yak one because he called for help and a second one joined the fray!
Doing all of this without precision guided weapons made me realise just how much I enjoy World War Two flight simulators, and how much I wish DCS would get it’s act together with DCS World War Two and make it into a really superb World War Two simulator. As much as I love the Harrier, the F-5, the A-10C, the Mirage etc. there is something about the tight confines of a World War Two single seat fighter, where there is barely room to turn your head. There is no HUD telling you everything you need to know, there is no ‘Bitching Betty’ giving you warnings; it’s just flying by feel and intuition with a dollop of experience thrown in. If I want to aim some air-ground weaponry I have to aim the plane at it and hope, no CCIP/CCRP or bombing cues. There’s a gyro gunsight on the Spitfire Mk IX, but I don’t use it. It’s down to experience and practice to calculate the lead on a ducking and diving target. There is something satisfying about this kind of flying that can be absent from the more modern aircraft.
However, DCS has always given that sense of satisfaction when you’ve learnt how to go through a process and get that bomb right on target after struggling to get it right for a while. Winning your first kill on DCS, in multiplayer, is a real sense of satisfaction as you’ve managed to dodge the missiles that kept getting you before and you’ve managed to get your own one away and on target. It’s a different kind of flying all together and it is hard for me to say which I prefer. The best combination, for me, is DCS WW2. The satisfaction of conducting a proper start-up procedure, handling a beast of an aircraft at close to the pinnacle of piston engined aircraft development and taming it to enable it to perform is great. I don’t get that in IL2, with the one button press engine start and the comparatively straight forward handling. I have no critcism of the flight model in IL2, I like it, it just doesn’t always feel as challenging. Having said that IL2, for obvious reasons, has the multiplayer base that DCS is lacking for WW2.
The ‘wish list’:
I appreciate that aircraft take quite some time to develop for DCS, and that isn’t an issue; the level of detail is second to none. I’d just like to know that there was a series of aircraft being developed. At present we know about the P-47 being next, the Mosquito being developed and research taking place on the Me-262. These are all by ED themselves, but where are the third parties for WW2 aircraft in DCS? I know that it has always been, primarily, as jet air combat simulator but there is meant to be a real commitment to WW2 – as stated by the Fighter Collection. At the moment the only WW2 theatre we have in Normandy. The Normandy map seems to be getting some stick at the moment, not because it is a bad map, but because it is being claimed that there is unlikely to be any more development – as it is finished. In the detailed area of the map it is excellent, outside of this (most of the map) it’s pretty much blank. Although it contains the south coast of England, after a community concern that a Normandy map without it was a bit odd, it has zero detail and only three or four airfields around the Isle of Wight area. Community research is showing that there were not too many Luftwaffe airfields in the area around Normandy but at present there is only one Luftwaffe airfield for on the map that was active at the time at which the map is set (which is very precise in August 1944).
The ‘conspiracy’ theory
All of this leads people to question the commitment of ED to the WW2 side of DCS. It keeps being said that the community is wrong to do this and that new announcements will be made soon, I’m quite happy to be patient with this as I have BoX to fulfill my WW2 needs, but I’d like to be able to focus on just one sim, not have to spend money on modules for two. Flight simming is not a cheap hobby, I’m prepared to spend on things that I think are worthwhile, and both sims are, but at some point I think I’ll need to make a choice as I do not have the time to be able to split between them both and get the most out of both of them. I think it is clear that my preference is for DCS World, overall.
As much as IL2 BoX has grown on me it still has deficiencies that DCS can do better.
- The Mission Editor is nowhere near as good as in DCS World
- when I buy an add-on I’m getting aircraft that I will not be likely to fly
- The pure focus on the Eatern Front, while critically impotant in the war, holds less of an interest to me as someone from the West that really wants to fly RAF aircraft above all else. (This is changing with the Battle of Bodenplatter release, but after that we’re back off to theFar East)
- DCS has a range of third party module makers able to produce detailed models with a level of depth that is not close to being matched by IL2 BoX
- The control set up in DCS is superior to any of the other Flight sims, just the fact that I can press a button and it will take me to the current assignment is a massive help. BoX’s control set up is still a right pain in the neck to find the control that you are looking for. Simple things like being able to asign trim to an axis are missing in BoX, and yet they were in IL2 1946 and Cliffs of Dover.
- There does not seem to be the ability to support a persistent online campaign, such as Storm of War, to the degree that even Cliffs of Dover, it’s predecessor, could.
- The 9km visibility bubble is a turn off for some people, I don’t mind so much as I’m using VR so it kind of helps me.
- I get support for peripherals in DCS that BoX can not work with, such as my Gametrix Jetseat. Both support VR, but BoX has to use Steam VR, which I just find clunky and annoying.
- DCS supports aircraft from a wide time period, I can switch between the Harrier and the Spitfire and not have to change sims or controller profiles using TARGET software or anything like that.
However, there are some big things in IL2s favour:
- one of the key things with BoX is that they have increasingly reliable updates and each stage is well mapped out and customers know what to expect.
- There is only one version released and everyone plays that – not an Open Beta and a Stable Release.
- When a map is released it is available to everyone in multiplayer, regardless of whether they own that update or not.
- The foray into ground battles, Tank Crew, is getting proper support and isn’t gathering dust on a shelf like Combined Arms.
- Expanding into WW1, although a definite niche it’s an interesting idea and one I’ve always wanted to try.
These are things that work really well for the community and it would be good if DCS could do the same, with the maps and communication, but that doesn’t appear to be on the table. I like maps like NTTR but it rarely gets used because people have to own it to use it in Multiplayer, as a result most servers still focus on the free Gerogia map, which is great but isn’t right for those looking to recreat something historical. Add to that the need to pay for the WW2 Assets Pack and there were claims that this would divide the community. I don’t think it has, but it is another expense that is not present with IL2. The multiplayer scene is already split by those that have a certain map and those that don’t, the Assets pack is just another element to factor in if someone wants to take part in a WW2 server.
For the time being I will try to continue with both DCS World and IL2 Great Battles, but with a greater focus on DCS. I should probably commit more time to IL2 and it’s selling points are enticing, I just don’t get the same sense of satisfaction from it; but sometimes I do get more fun from it.
Have I missed WW2? Very much so! Which is why it’s great news that PhilStyle is working on development fo Storm of War in DCS. Fingers crossed it becomes a full-on reality and I’ll get the satisfaction and the fun from DCS WW2.
What would I like to see for DCS?
I’d like to see
- More third party developers commit to WW2 in DCS World.
- A dedication to maps that means they get finished quickly and properly
- DCS WW2 to be on an equal footing to DCS World as a whole, not the illegitimate and unwated love-child of DCS – or at least the ammunition for the community to feel like this being removed!
- Aircraft from comparable time periods so that they’re not completely mismatched in a way that makes multiplayer a nightmare for a particular set of pilots – early Spitfire Mk IX against the Fw190 D9 and Bf109K4 is asking a lot; adding the Me-262 into the mix is a bit mad; from a multiplayer perspective.
- More AI assets (I know they’re on the way but it’s been around two years now!)
- One version of DCS released, and only one version, a stable release so that everyone is on the same version.
- Maps either reduced in price so that people are encouraged to buy them, or subsidised by other modules and free for all so that there is some variety in multi-player.