You could never accuse Games Workshop of wasting their IP when it comes to video games, since they manage to release a shockingly large number of titles based on virtually every table-top game at their disposal. Their latest release, Aeronautica Imperialis: Flight Command, is based on the 2007 spin-off from Warhammer 40,000. You’ll take command of a group of Imperial or Orc aircraft, battling for air supremacy in turn-based combat.
The game’s publicity is focusing on the combination of turn-based strategy and the ability to then watch the action play out in cinematic sections. This means that, in contrast to most other turn-based strategy games, both you and your opponent simultaneously choose how your aircraft will move, and then sit back and see how it plays out. On the surface it adds an interesting tactical dimension of attempting to predict your opponent’s behaviour, but in reality adds a greater element of luck than I like to see in a strategy game. Expect to experience a lot of mid-air collisions to start with, particularly in the larger battles with ten or more aircraft on screen.
Controlling movement can also be tricky. The game is essentially built on a 3D grid, but you can’t see the grid so it’s often difficult to place an aircraft exactly where you want it to go. In particular dragging your aircraft to where you want it to go can be frustrating. Due to the nature of the grid an attempt to make a subtle alteration to the flight path might not be possible, and you’ll be fighting against the game wanting to auto-correct the aircraft onto a particular path.
An additional annoyance is that aircraft disengage as soon as they leave the map area. Since you can’t see the edge of the map without toggling the borders button on, there were a number of occasions when I accidentally disengaged by not realising where I was. This is an important mechanic for aircraft with no ammunition to escape combat unscathed, but disengaging an aircraft that still has ammunition results in bonus points for the enemy. To avoid this, you’ll need to make repeated use of either the tactical view or the borders toggle. It’s not a major problem, but it’s something I felt I shouldn’t need to do if they had instead made the borders permanently visible, or perhaps allowing you a turn to return to the area of play.
Of course the problems above can be circumvented through practice or other means, but I felt there were various quality of life improvements that would have made the game more fun to play.
Training missions and individual story-based scenarios are available if you want to jump straight into the action, with the scenarios available to play online as well as against the CPU. There is also a campaign mode, where you earn or lose points depending on your performance in battle. Once you earn enough points (you can choose 10, 20 or 30 when you start the campaign) you proceed to the final mission against the enemy commander.
Whilst there are a number of different objectives for the missions, they do all tend to boil down to destroying the enemy aircraft before they destroy you. Three different difficulty levels are also available to select if you want to up the challenge.
There are some positives to the game. A lot of thought has gone into the systems, giving a whole range of options on movement and weapons. The cinematics at the end of the turn can be really fun to watch, and I like being able to choose which aircraft to focus on, and to control the camera in the different views. I do hope that they will add an option to view all of the cinematics at the end of the battle. A cool feature would be to edit and save the full film of your battle, and I can envisage some content creators doing really well out of that.
I came across numerous bugs in the game, though none of them game-breaking. The most annoying was being unable to change pilots for a campaign mission because the list of pilots was not displayed properly. Another obvious bug was the statistics not being displayed properly in the campaign mode, with victories missing. Other issues included the deployment screen telling you to place your aircraft on the blue squares, when actually I could only place them on the red, and images and text not lining up properly, so one was obscured by the other. These are all small things that can hopefully be fixed easily enough.
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