The first thing you should know about Desastersoft is they take simming seriously. Air starts are for wimps. So we start on the ground, and not only that, we start in the hangar. So your first challenge is to startup, and taxi out of the hangar without bringing the shed down. You can’t take too long, as your squadron is already rolling out to the takeoff point.
Next challenge, getting into the takeoff taxi queue. There is a war on, this is is a busy airfield!
I just kind of barge in. Luckily the AI pilots dodge around me. The preflight briefing mentioned something about starting after the first two sections, so I assume I am in the third section.
Take a moment to go “oooh” and “aaah” at the beautifully populated Hornchurch RAF airfield.
Now I have to work out where in the squadron take off order I should be. Third section, third section? From my cockpit I can’t see a Heinkill sized gap in the takeoff formation… I panic a little, can’t find my slot, and just ease to the front and off to the side, where I am not in anyone’s way.
The first element roars into the sky. I wait.
The second element takes off, so now I figure it is our turn. I scramble after them, running up alongside the runway as I am still not 100% confident I am in the right section.
Then disaster strikes. Was this me, in my haste to get airborne, screwing things up for those behind me? I don’t know, all I know is as I look to port I see a flamer on the runway — two Spits have collided taking off. I don’t see how this could have been me, as I took off in the long grass, nowhere near anyone else. (My theory by the end of the mission is that one of the Spits stalled on takeoff, and another ran him over. Does Cliffs of Dover model engine failure in AI aircraft? Apparently. Human pilots are not the only ones who can blow their engines, and their machines!)
No one is yelling at me, so I search the sky for my section.
I cannot see them in the sky, so I check the in-game map (yes, hard core simmers, I use the map. And icons. And I don’t use Complex Engine Management). I find my section is most impolitely headed to the first waypoint without me. These guys are cold.
So far, this is shaping up as a 1C style “no action” campaign mission, where we will just follow the waypoints, try to stay in formation, see no enemies, and land without having achieved anything. But this is a Desastersoft mission, not 1C, so I doubt it will be so uneventful. Desastersoft are masters of mission design, using scripting and spawns and triggers to ensure everything possible is done to get the player into the action as planned.
I finally catch-up to the squadron.
I am busily admiring the view… a nice sunny morning in July 1940 when this radio message appears.
Something about “Margate”!? That was in the briefing, right? I check the briefing. Yes, first waypoint coming up. But I translate just to be sure.
Okay, yes. I was correct.
We round another waypoint and suddenly, from the Dover Chain Home radar station, comes an urgent message, “Feindgruppe A”. A vector, a sector, and an altitude. Oh oh. That doesn’t sound good.
The squadron changes course and I try to stay with them. Active RDF vectoring is one of the great added elements Desastersoft has scripted into their missions. During your RAF campaigns, you will see the RDF station alerting you to enemy formations as they build up over France and move toward their targets. The ground controller (in German “FC”) will give your squadron leader a vector to the nearest targets. If you are flying Luftwaffe of course you don’t have this advantage, but Desastersoft uses the same technique to trigger communications from your staffel leader to assign you new waypoints, or targets, while the mission is in progress. A very immersive use of the scripting possibilities in Cliffs of Dover mission building.
Now ground control (FC) chimes in with a new vector. And more hostile groups are announced! There are multiple raids inbound.
My workload increases. I’m trying to tell my wingman to keep more distance (no idea how, none of the supposedly fixed radio commands in the beta patch ever work for me). I’m trying to stay in formation, ask my wingman to get the heck out of my cockpit, listen to the RDF and ground controller reports. A rising sense of panic builds as more hostiles are announced, 4 groups no less, and I am only just able to keep up with my squadron, without really knowing what awaits us — bombers, fighters, alone, together? I can only imagine this is the panic a first time pilot must have felt too.
And this is where the handy map provided by Desastersoft comes in, because you can use the map on your lap to check the vector and RDF plots, without obscuring your cockpit view with the in-game map. Which I do, and it seems the squadron is headed on a reasonable intercept course. I follow.