These days it seems that computer flight simulations are becoming more complicated and more technologically advanced than the aircraft they're supposed to be simulating. Graphics of the highest quality and realistic sound effects place you right in the middle of the action and childhood dreams of becoming an ace fighter pilot are finally fulfilled. Rowan Software are a company that have been at the forefront of computer flight simulation development. Their determination for making the simulation as authentic as possible has been noted and appreciated by true fans of the genre. Rowan's previous efforts. Reach for the Skies and Overlord, have been lusted after and consumed by thousands of flight sim aficionados. This is thanks to Rowan's expertise in getting the right mix between high-class, realistic graphics and solid, addictive gameplay.
Some of the more aware gamers might be wondering what I'm blathering on about as Reach for the Skies and Overlord were not exactly the best flight sims to ever appear on the Amiga. It's because I was talking about the wonderful PC versions which are far superior to their bugged Amiga counterparts. There are probably far too many reasons and not enough space in the magazine to explain why the PC versions are so much better, but as we all know, the Amiga is capable of producing some of the best games in the world.
Rowan Software, in conjunction with Empire, have returned to the Amiga with yet another flight sim in tow. Dawn Patrol takes a trip back to World War 1 when you had to be really skilled to fly an aircraft and cheat death in it at the same time. I've got my fingers crossed that Rowan Software have struck lucky at the third time of asking because I, for one, haven't played a decent flight simulation in a long long time.
ADDITIONAL INFO 1
Seeing Dawn Patrol is a World War 1 flight simulation. I thought I'd give you a bit of background information on the event itself. World War 1 was fought between the Central European Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and their allies) and the Triple Entente (Britain, the British Empire. France. Russia and their allies). It broke out on 28th June 1914 as the heir to the Austrian throne was assassinated in Sarajevo. A month later. Austria declared war on Serbia; as Russia mobilised. Germany declared war on Russia and France, and took a short cut into the west by invading Belgium. On the 4th August Britain declared war on Germany.
Three years of fighting passed and then in April 1917 the United States of America entered the war. On the 3rd March 1918 Soviet Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany, ending Russian participation in the war. Out on the Western front, Germany began a final offensive. In April the Allies appointed the French Marshal Foch supreme commander, but by June (when the first US troops went into battle) the Allies had lost all gains since 1915, and the Germans were on the River Marne.
The battle at Amiens marked the launch of the victorious Allied offensive. German capitulation began with naval mutinies at Kiel, followed by uprisings in the major cities. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated, and on the 11th November the armistice was signed. On the 18th June 1919 the peace treaty of Versailles was completed. The USA signed a separate peace agreement with Germany and Austria in 1921. It's estimated that 10 million lives were lost and twice that number were wounded in the first world war.
Graphically, Dawn Patrol isn't going to be able to match the PC version for sheer quality, but I have to admit that Rowan Software have done a mighty fine job and excelled themselves in the polygon department. The external shots of the dog fighting planes are very impressive and the various planes have been reproduced as accurately as possible. As per usual you can view the action from any angle and get incredibly close to the action, or view it from a distance via the zoom feature.
The high level of detail is also worthy of a mention. The majority of action in Dawn Patrol is fought primarily in the sky so you'd think the ground details would be skipped over Well, you'd be very wrong because even things like field guns are well done, even though you're only going to see them once in a blue moon.
One of Dawn Patrol's more interesting and very useful features is the interactive book which the whole game is structured around. You can select pilots and missions from the book, but it also takes you through the various flying manoeuvres. Normally, moves such as the Immelmann turn would be written down and carefully explained to you in a manual, but thanks to the interactive Dawn Patrol multimedia experience you get, via the same graphics taken from the game, to actually see the move performed from many different angles.
This novel and innovative idea helps beginners and experts alike to improve their flying skills, and for that reason alone it should be applauded from the rooftops and cheered at in the streets. As far as World War 1 flight simulations go, Dawn Patrol has just taken first place in the looks handicap hurdle chase, but remember most of the time you will be, or at least should be looking at blue sky.
This always seems to be one of the most forgotten elements in the history of flight simulations. Sound may not be as important as graphics or gameplay, but without it the whole game can suffer and become a complete flop. Luckily, the person in charge of the noises and tunes department at Rowan Software hasn't got a short memory span as Dawn Patrol contains some of the best sounds I've ever heard in a flight simulation.
The game kicks off with a tune loosely based around 'The Last Post' and then evolves into a sprawling classical piece of music which is more than appropriate for this type of game. There are a couple of instruments within the tune that could get on your nerves after a while, but thankfully you can turn it off via the options screen.
What really gives Dawn Patrol that much-needed boost of atmosphere are the sound effects. The superb droning of the engine doesn't really come into play unless you change the speed of your aircraft, but when you do it's remarkably impressive. For some bizarre reason the noise of your gun firing is twice as loud as everything else and this isn't such a bad thing as it gets your adrenaline pumping that little bit faster - don't ask me why. There you have it, a tune you can either take or leave alone and a whole bunch of superb sound effects that transport you back to 1914.
ADDITIONAL INFO 2
A free limited edition book comes with the Dawn Patrol package. It's titled 'Richthofen: The man and the aircraft he flew' and is all about Germany's top scoring air ace from World War 1. Contained within the pages are superb, specially commissioned, full-colour artwork as well as accurate profiles and detailed technical sketches of all the aircraft from the era. Richthofen, although he flew many different kinds of aircraft, became famous for flying one of the highly distinctive all-red Triplanes.
Richthofen scored his last 17 victories in Triplanes and it was while flying one of these aircraft that he met his end on April 21st, 1918. The Fokker Dr. I Triplane's better qualities were its handling agility and good climbing rate, and this made it very popular with the leading air aces of the day. The craft had very little impact on the air war and if it wasn't for men like Baron Von Richthofen, it wouldn't have even got a mention in the history books.
Back to the present day, and there isn't one Fokker Triplane that exists in a flying condition. Due to the ravages of time and the destruction caused by the second World War, there isn't even one which could be restored to its former flying glory. Fans of World War 1 and anyone who has a love for planes will love the 'Richthofen' book and it's nice to see a company taking the time and trouble to produce a 'free' gift of astounding quality that perfectly complements the game.
I've been waiting for Dawn Patrol for ages, ever since I saw it on the PC, and I'm happy to say that this time Rowan Software have failed to disappoint me and delivered the goods in pristine condition. The first thing that impressed once I'd actually got into the game was just how fast it was. Okay, I was using an A1200, but imagine by surprise when it moved almost as fast on an A500. Everything seems to have been carefully thought about and it certainly looks like Rowan Software have learnt from their, previous two Amiga flight simulations.
Novel ideas like the interactive book of the air war really go some way to making Dawn Patrol a bit of a classic in the simulation stakes. There are over 150 historically accurate missions to fly in and you're going to have to be an astounding pilot to finish them all within a couple of weeks. In the durability stakes, Dawn Patrol isn't going to last longer than a piece of Willy Wonka's everlasting bubble gum, but hey it's pretty damn close.
I've never been amazed by games from this genre, but I've been very impressed by Dawn Patrol and more importantly I've had a lot of fun making my way through the game. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea and I'm sure I've missed things like 'the altimeter not being the right' size and 'the colour of the front of the Sopwith Camel is a couple of shades out', but it plays well and that's the main thing.
Anyone that has a slight interest in planes should make this an essential purchase and as for fans of the aircraft that flew in the first world war, you're going to fall in love with Dawn Patrol.
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