Let’s not beat around the bush. When it comes to game releases on Xbox One, last week sucked. There weren’t many new games releasing and the ones that did land didn’t do much to excite. This week, however, things are much more packed. We’ve got Earthfall coming, Vermintide 2 hits Game Pass today and plenty more interesting games besides those. One such game is Runner Duck Games and Curve Digital’s Bomber Crew, a cutesy yet quite sophisticated experience that’s best described as a World War II strategic bombing sim.
I’m going to say right off the bat, if you struggle with management or multitasking, you’re going to find a hefty challenge here. Though, don’t let that put you off. I too struggle whenever I’m doing more than two things at once and I have to say, I came to rather enjoy Bomber Crew. Its learning curve sits quite well with its difficulty curve, producing a tense and atmospheric sim that never truly loses its grip. That’s to say that there’s some patience and perseverance needed, but bear with it, because the end result is well worth that time.
The game largely consists of taking on missions in an attempt to fight back against German forces that are situated within Europe. Players will control an entire crew, each of which plays their own special role aboard your bomber. It’s your job to ensure that they’re doing their job correctly, which ranges from navigation all the way up to gunnery and bombing. I have to commend the game here. Bomber Crew does an excellent job with its pacing, which was something that I was most cautious about before I jumped into the experience at hand.
After all, controlling a group of role-specific characters sounds like busy work. Mercifully, however, Bomber Crew manages to maintain its pace without drastically overbearing the player. Each character has their own unique a special role to oversee; be it manning the radio, neutralizing enemy planes and more. Bomber Crew’s early gameplay doesn’t throw too many of its eggs in one basket and instead will slowly feed you into the basics. For me, who again struggles to multitask, it gave me some confidence to see the journey through.
I think the best way to describe Bomber Crew is to suggest that it’s a management game before it’s a sim. There’s certainly a sim-like theme here, but much of what you’ll be doing is managing an array of options and multi-tiered objectives. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but I think that transparency is important here. The core loop consists of taking on those missions and building up an income that can be spent on bettering your crew, bomber and general capabilities. It’s a fun chase I must point out, and one that never really tires.
When you’re not in the thick of the action, you’ll be back at your air base. Here you can search for new recruits should any of your perish (they will) and kit them out through the use of adding stat-altering gear. Players are also able to customize their bomber planes in a large number of interesting ways. There’s heaps of cosmetic changes that be activated here; base paint, nose art, wing art, waist text and more. Safe to say that you’ll have the ability to create the bomber of your dreams, right down to plastering your very own gamer-pic on it.
Moving on from this, the bomber’s equipment can also be fully upgraded here. That includes the likes of its gun turrets, its systems, its fuselage and so forth. When you’re done toying around here you’ll be moving to the briefing area. Here is where you will select your missions and assignments from a varying pool of tasks. Each task will offer a set amount of income with some bonuses thrown in for better completion and safe returns. There’s no shortage of mission types to hit, such as dropping survival gear and blowing ammo dumps.
Once you’ve selected your mission you’re ready to dive into the action. The UI can take some getting used to and there’s absolutely no denying that this game will be better suited to the mouse and keyboard, but it doesn’t take all that long to gel with. Each character within the bomber will need to handle their own set responsibilities. When controlling the pilot, for example, you’ll have to ensure that you’re handling the bomber well. This means taking off safely, raising the landing gear and if needs be, utilizing emergency landings.
Engineers on the other hand will be responsible for fixing your bomber on the fly, which believe me, is something you’ll spend a lot of time doing. Regardless as to which character you’re overseeing, each of them comes with their own specific capabilities and traits. If one of them becomes injured during the fields of play, you’ll need to send them to the rest-bay to recover their health. This process doesn’t take overly long, though, when you’re in the thick of battle, having just one down can be the difference between losing and winning.
In essence, Bomber Crew plays at its finest when you’ve got a handle on things and are fluidly chaining commands left, right and center, be it refilling an ammo box or manually dropping a crate at the correct time and altitude. There’s no shortage of events that will slam you from all angles, not to mention the enemy jets that will pop up frequently in an effort to put you down. When this happens, you’ll need to switch view-points and manually tag them so that your gunners can lay them to waste. It truly is like juggling with knives.
Furthermore, a single screw up can spell the end for not only your bomber, but your entire crew. Should something as simple as your hydraulics give way and you don’t fix it quickly enough, your gunners will be unable to successfully target incoming enemy jets. This is just one example out of a countless collection of scenarios that players will need to actively keep on top of. It makes for a very tense and action-packed affair that just isn’t like any other game on the market, or at least nothing that I’ve personally played in recent memory.
When everything comes together, Bomber Crew is as rewarding as a game can be. There’s a heavy sense of reward when you’re flying back to base with a bomber and crew intact, following a daunting skill-testing forty-five minute encounter. It can indeed be frustrating when the game takes a heavy hand to you, but persevere and you’ll find a compelling and deep management sim that becomes hard to put down. Between all of the above, the colorful and diverse visuals, and its solid design, Bomber Crew is not one to overlook.
Bomber Crew is tense, exhilarating and often purposely overwhelming. The main drawback here sits with the game’s mouse-suited UI and its, at times, frustrating moments of play. Persevere, however, and you’ll find a deep, complex and engaging experience that’s massively rewarding. Don’t be fooled by its cutesy and colorful design, because if anything, Bomber Crew means business.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.