Bomber Crew: meet the crew

, | Game diaries

The Avro Lancaster had seven crew. The Boeing B-17 had ten. Keep this in mind when anticipating the price point of the inevitable B-17 DLC or standalone expansion. Since I’m flying this crate, I am the pilot (Brooski), but that leaves me with six crewmembers to assign. I am going to randomly choose names from the Quarter to Three thread about the game, entitled “Bomber Crew – FTL + WWII,” even though it is totally not like FTL in any way except that in both games you are running from the Galactic Federation. RichVR was kind enough to gift me the game, so he gets to be the next crew member on the list, which is the engineer. Going down the list of crew members from there, we get fishpockets as the navigator, Eric_Majkut as my radioman, Mr_Bismarck as the tail gunner, Dan_Theman as the top turret gunner, and Left_Empty as the bombardier. Crewmembers who don’t, er… progress through a mission will be, um…subbed for by another random selection from the thread.

Bomber Crew is one of the biggest missed opportunities I have seen for a developer to get me to really like a game. Which I’m sure doesn’t bother the developer, Runner Duck, nor their publisher, Curve Digital, one bit: the game sold a million bucks worth of merch in two weeks. It’s the best-selling game Curve Digital has ever done, I think, and designers Dave Miller and Jon Wingrove couldn’t care less what some guy like me on the Internet thinks. And, honestly, good for them. I love success — unless it happens directly or indirectly due to communism — and I really appreciate good game design. So while I don’t actually like the game itself very much, I can appreciate it as a well-crafted expression of a clear design goal: get in your bomber and makey the clicky.

Actually, this more than a clicky clickfest clickerator: it’s a carefully designed combination of historically themed mechanics that all fit together and advance a narrative about how adorable little kids would have been if they had slaughtered 400,000 innocent German civilians with firebombs. Whoops! There is none of that in here. Despite the fact that the RAF’s Bomber Command spent the better part of five years specifically targeting German cities in night raids designed to inflict the maximum amount of damage to anyone who happened to be under its one million (roughly) tons of bombs, that’s not your job here. Instead, you fly a single Avro Lancaster four-engined bomber on a series of very militarily focused missions against strictly military targets, and one dam. I mean, ok, so you probably kill some fish. Not shown.

I’m serious about the mechanics, though. How often do you get to choose between outfitting your engineer in not just woolen gloves, but fingerless woolen gloves, so he can move faster. Or she. There are girls in this. Nine year old English girls did fly bombers in World War II and kill nine-year-old German girls asleep in their beds and didn’t even think about it. It’s just how it was. Nine-year-old German girls also flew fighter planes and had obscenely Teutonic names and taunted you in English while dying. Historical accuracy.

The first objective in any game where you are flying a bomber is to get to your objective. Bomber Crew has a clever little system in which you need to “spot” things in a scope-view, whether they are enemy planes or bombing targets or navigation waypoints. As you fly, your navigator will find successive waypoints and you then ”spot” them and fly there. But because the Bomber Crew designers are good at their jobs, they incorporated their navigation system into their altitude system into their weather system. Er, they actually incorporated most of their stuff into most of their other stuff. Like I said, good design. The game operates at three altitudes, and at the interfaces of the altitude levels are clouds. To be be able to navigate effectively, you either have to be able to navigate by ground landmarks (as was done historically) or by celestial reckoning (as was done historically). See that astrodome above the radio operator? That’s so you can see the sky. True story. At night only, though. And only above medium altitude.

This gives you a neat little minigame to play as you scootch through the cloud layers: can I see the ground well enough from medium altitude so I can avoid the low-level flak? Until your navigator reaches level 8, he (or she) will not be able to navigate by the heavens. Or go by him/herself to the bathroom. Sorry, it just bugs me.

Next: the first seven missions