Gamer on a Budget #5
Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol
by William LJ Galaini
Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol (PC port recently released)
Developer: Firaxis Studios
NOTE: This review is for the recently published PC port and not the iOS original.
The Great War saw aerial dog fighting like we will never see again. Planes that were little more than motorized gliders drifted, spun, and craned through the air like angry leaves as they pulled off maneuvers that their metal descendants couldn’t possibly. After a day’s worth of battle, these ace pilots would land, sip tea, and write letters to their surviving rivals to earnestly congratulate them. It was a different era and a stark dichotomy to the misery of trench warfare.
Zero of that atmosphere translates into this game. Each ace pilot you have has a portrait with simply the dumbest expression, not unlike Marv Albert in a bondage store. The musical score is a missed opportunity because instead of utilizing tunes from the era that are marvelous and public domain they have very brief original music that is bland and of poor quality. And that is just the music… the game’s sound is badly coded and sometimes flat out lazy. When balloons are shot down they make the same noise as a plane crashing, and sometimes the voice-over from base camp is so slowed down that it sounds like you are getting your orders directly from Satan.
And Satan’s involvement in this game’s development might be expected when we consider the textures and complete lack of PC online multiplayer despite it clearly advertising ‘multiplayer.’ This game is missing functions it promised and it is pig ugly even by pc gaming standards that are 15 years old. That is not an exaggeration.
So, what does Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol have? There is minimal depth here, but lurking in the shadows is some excellent tactical movement. It is a turn based game on a hexagonal board, and each plane’s movements can be at three different altitudes. Certain maneuvers can only be done from certain altitudes, so thinking three moves ahead is a pleasing challenge, and watching your AI controlled enemy do the same is an engrossing guessing game.
But then the game suddenly ends, and your score is all you get without tangible feedback of victory or failure. Your choices on the battlefield mean nothing and in the end, learning to ‘game’ Ace Patrol’s score mechanic is what gives you supposed leader board bragging rights.
Overall, Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol is the lazy, half-baked fast food of turn based strategy and anyone who knows his name expects more from this game than what it cares to deliver.
Why you would buy it:
You are a complete nut for WWI turn based dog fights
You despise pleasing graphics
Quality art design angers you
Satan is your co-pilot
Why you would pass on it:
You remember how good Hex-based gaming can be ala Panzer General
You value money
You’re still holding out for Sid Meier’s Mars
You recently bought the Civ expansion Brave New World
Recommended for: Very young children who like boredom