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Red Baron

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Damon Slye

GAME DEVELOPER:Dynamix

GAME PUBLISHER:Freeware

Copyright 1990, Dynamix

Arguably the best WW1 flight sim ever made, Red Baron is the legendary game from Damon Slye of Dynamix. Offering you the chance to be a pilot in World War One, Red Baron featrures 28 different aircraft from both the Allied and the German sides, a superb career mode, and a diverse array of missions including dogfights, balloon-busting, zeppelin hunting, escort, and more. If my saying “best” multiple times won’t convince you, here is a good review at MobyGames that should:

“I’m a fight sim junkie, I try them all. Technically this one isn’t the best; the physics are only so-so, there isn’t a lot in the world other than the planes, and the missions are all canned. And being on a PC in ’91 you get lousy graphics and sound too (compared to the Mac of the same era). Normally this would result in me trashing the game, but I can’t, it’s probably the best one I’ve ever flown. That’s because of the way the game draws you in.

The campaign system is flawlessly executed and follows you through the war, offering promotions, movement to “expert” squadrons, even personal challenges from pilots on the other side. I had two of these, in one a French pilot challenged me and I won after having to hide out in some clouds for a while. In another I showed up and he brought his entire squad with him – but I was flying a Triplane so they didn’t last long. An example of the depth is the way your plane is handled. Once you’ve done well enough you are allowed to start requesting the newest models from the factories, and even get to paint them the way you like in an editor. I haven’t seen that anywhere else. As to the rest it’s all “good enough”. There’s enough planes in the air at once, enough types of them, enough types of missions, enough AI, enough of a flight model etc. They did just enough to make the engine work, and when combined with the campaign system the whole thing just lit up.

I think the only real flaw was the rather poor “world” outside the planes. Basically there wasn’t one. Dipping below 10000ft put you in this netherworld where nothing happened. Perhaps more annoying is that the missions are completely hard-wired with absolutely no randomness at all. This gets distracting when you re-play them, which you will. Hellcats had this one beat.

Also the AI was good for its day, but didn’t show enough variance for different famous pilots. For instance in one mission the Red Baron (I was now a member of the flying circus) got killed by flying directly onto the nose gun of a British bomber. I was stunned so I tried it again,and the same thing happened. That’s somewhat annoying considering that the Baron was famous for “hanging out” way above the fight and then coming down when planes attempted to leave combat. I suppose this isn’t a trivial issue considering the machines of the day, but I did find it distracting.”

If you like flight sims only a little, Red Baron is a must-have. It is an incredibly atmospheric game that is very accessible – I am no pilot, and yet Red Baron is one of a handful of flight sims I was compelled to finish. Sierra released this game as freeware in 1997 to promote the sequel, but did not also release the rarer Mission Builder add-on disk that allows you to make your own missions – see the screenshot above. You can find both the game and the Mission Builder disk in our download here :) Too bad the sequel Red Baron II that Sierra released in 1997 is nowhere near as much fun as this classic (not least because Damon Slye was no longer involved). A must-have!



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