Spending some time entertaining the crowds on the Steam platform, Bomber Crew has now entered into console territory for some more dogfighting and strategic warfare. And despite the notably indie-looking artstyle, Bomber Crew packs a lot of gameplay punch in a surprisingly in-depth (yet charming) package.
Bomber Crew is a strategy game where you micro-manage an entire crew guiding a warplane to and from the battlefields of 1942. You start out with a training mission that turns into a fight for your life, which accelerated my ability to manage several crew members. Before the training mission turned into an actual mission of survival, I began to study the control scheme and ponder on how much more accessible a mouse and keyboard combo would have been. I didn’t necessarily stay on this thought for as long as I noticed how simple the game mechanics really were and I was just over-analyzing the very first thought that came to mind. When I became aware of my radar and observed it for attacking aircraft, I was able to forget about the control scheme entirely and enjoy the game.
The game mechanics require the player to aim their position over points of interest. Your crew members will do most of the work for you if they are healthy and able, as well as being positioned in their correct job on the plane. For example, you can train a bomber on your plane to also have experience and knowledge to also be an adequate killing machine while on the turrets.
The training of additional skills for all of your crew members takes place after they level up from experience in the field. Hit a certain level and your pilot can also become an engineer or a gunner. Your engineers can be trained to mount the additional turret on the bottom of your war machine when they aren’t guiding the plane or even serve as backup pilots should your chief pilot become injured. A lot of the game’s mechanics build up to one underly point: you need to manage your crew under moments of distress. If you fail at this or your plane gets shot down, you can hope your team is recovered when across enemy lines. To that point, adding a carrier pigeon to your aircraft can help your crew with recovery; meanwhile, adding a dingy can also help should your crew crash in open waters.
Customization of your crew and plane are crucial to staying in the air for further missions. There were quite a few times where my crew members took some damage in the first few missions, along with my plane returning to the base with an engine or two burning by the time I landed. The fire began at the same time as my engineer was taking a lot of damage. I moved him to the sick bay and watched my plane somehow still land successfully while ablaze. Typically, my engineer would have been commanded to put the fire out and fix the engine. But there are times where you will have to improvise after giving secondary skills to your crew members, and this happened a lot more down the road in more profound and dangerous missions.
There is an interesting balance you will need to find when customizing your ship. My plane had weak engines and was too heavy to add the additional turret on its belly, so I took away some necessary cargo in exchange for firepower. Storage units for first aid kits can be expanded, engines can be upgraded to hold more weight, and my PS4 player logo of a Final Fantasy 4 dragoon was plastered across the entirety of my plane (because I found the dragoon to be a perfect metaphor as the mascot for my bomber).
It can be difficult to upgrade your aircraft appropriately without enough money, which in turn causes more damage to ship and crew in further missions. To alleviate these stresses, it can be wise to take part in some tasks on the side for some extra cash, which includes taking photos of military bases between bombing other targets. These opportunities pop up every now and again and are often nearby your main bombing targets. Time isn’t usually too much of an issue of taking on these extra missions, but additional damage to your ship and crew members is. Unfortunately, many times while taking reconnaissance photos I was swarmed by fighter pilots like bees on bear gnawing on their beehive. So choose your battles wisely.
The missions can sometimes become a bit monotonous from the similarity of each battle. It’s pretty much the same thing most times: Take off, redirect a few times, bomb, take pictures, swat away planes, redirect, land. This isn’t always the case in every mission but does seem like a typical formula. Knowing that each mission puts you closer to that new piece of equipment for your plane keeps you focused on the gameplay, even if it might seem a little boring.
At least Challenge mode is refreshing when compared to the campaign. Players will need sharp reflexes in this part as the name-of-the-game is to stay alive in the air. If you have played the campaign, then you already know the amount of fuel and ammunition your plane doesn’t have. In Challenge mode, you can refuel and repair your aircraft and crew with power-ups while completing randomized missions. This mixes up the gameplay and replay value for Bomber Crew, even to the point where I began to prefer Challenge mode over the campaign. Challenge mode is one of the best things the game had to offer and I still go back to it when I have a few minutes to spare.
Bomber Crew surprised me quite a bit, especially after getting accustomed to its odd control scheme. Replay value is somewhat hindered in Campaign mode but is quickly forgotten with the fast gameplay, the obsessions of upgrading your plane, and Challenge mode. Whether you are into the history of World War II, simulations, or just fun gameplay, Bomber Crew could have something you are looking for in a new game.