Lunar Flight – Mars Page 2

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Up. Left… Right… No, Left…

Using the descent stage for sustained velocity control instead of altitude management in the less-than-zippy LEM can be tricky, however. Pitch too far over and you’ll lose altitude and crash into the Martian surface which turns out to be just as unforgiving as the surface of the Earth (can’t wait for the Planet Nerf or Bouncy Ball Pit map!). Fail to pitch over enough, however, and you’ll burn all your fuel before you reach your destination. To throw another challenge into the mix, the LEM’s controls and cockpit views just weren’t designed for this style of control, making trans-Martian flight very non-intuitive. My brain gets all wonky trying to get the lander in the right attitude for the most basic of maneuvers: “Shape up man, you’re too steep! Now, not so shallow, we’ll plow into the ground. Bring the nose up…up…yes, that’s right…now, we’re too far to the right. Do I yaw or bank? Or both? Ugh, that’s not right…. oops, overshot the platform, let’s circle around again… uh… yaw or bank?” I’m definitely up to the challenge, however, and am thankful it’s only virtual money, material, and lives that are getting spent in my training process!

Although success is a reward in and of itself, zooming past the very Martian-looking terrain is a hoot, too.

Lunar Flight - Mars: Startup checklist completed, just awaiting clearance for takeoff.

Startup checklist completed, just awaiting clearance for takeoff.

Lunar Flight - Mars: Not far from base, but already down to almost a half tank: time to RTB.

Not far from base, but already down to almost a half tank: time to RTB.

Taking the Scenic Route

While I prefer to use the cockpit view exclusively in Lunar Flight, the detailed Martian terrain demands the use of an external camera to soak in the gorgeous terrain and immersive dust storms. Maintaining control of the LEM while ogling the scenery in said external cam view is dang near impossible at my current skill level, however.

Almost ate Martian dust on this pass.

Lunar Flight - Mars: Would you believe it? There’s no Dairy Queen here, either!

Would you believe it? There’s no Dairy Queen here, either!

I’ve currently settled on a “V-22 Osprey” technique to traverse the Martian expanses: I liftoff in a hover, roll to the desired heading, and then transition to forward flight for the cruise portion of the journey. When I get close to the landing zone (500m or so), I transition back to a hover and try to zero out my attitude errors as a I approach the landing pad.

Lunar Flight - Mars: Actual screenshot from my first successful inter-base flight on Mars.

Actual screenshot from my first successful inter-base flight on Mars.

Lunar Flight - Mars: "LEM 09422 you are number 1 to land, pad 1."

“LEM 09422 you are number 1 to land, pad 1.”

I’m using tanker loads of fuel (thank goodness for the three strap on tanks you can buy!) on each flight, but every completed mission is a bucket of XP and cash towards my next upgrade. I’m having a heck of time with attitude control and I’m betting the high-priced gyro upgrades are worth their weight in Martian unobtainium, or whatever currency floats out here.

Lunar Flight - Mars: Home, sweet Ares.

Home, sweet Ares.

Conclusion

Although the LEM is uniquely un-suited for the Martian environment that Shovsoft has mercilessly thrown the poor bug into, the challenges just make the experience that much more addictive. I can’t say I’m a fan of the limited view cockpit and all the achievement notices that seem to pop up every few minutes, but I see myself playing this game for some time to come. At $9.99 USD from Steam, this little gem is a fun way to lose some time!

Good

  • Upgrade system and increasingly challenging maps keeps things interesting.
  • Easy-learning curve for causal simmers, but increasingly difficult missions and time trials for hardcore simmers looking for a challenge.
  • Soundtrack is great, even if audio clips get to be repetitive.
  • Creative achievements make grinding more enjoyable.

Could Be Better

  • 3D cockpit and Track IR support (6DOF, please!).
  • Intuitive/flexible controller configuration.
  • Additional mission types.
  • Vehicles better suited for Mars environment.

Reviewer’s System Specs

  • Motherboard: Asus P6x58D-E
  • Processor: Intel i7-920
  • RAM: 6GB 1600MHz
  • Video: EVGA GTX 470
  • Hard Drive: Western Digital 300GB Velociraptor
  • Saitek X52 Pro HOTAS
  • Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS
  • CH Pro Rudder Pedals
  • NaturalPoint TrackIR 4 PRO

 


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