Wings of Honor
Wings of Honor Title Wings of Honor

Rise Of Flight - Review




Rise Of Flight Release Version - Review


by Gremlin, Wings Of Honor Staff
on 28-Feb-2009



Introduction

Rise Of Flight is a W.W.I flight simulation developed by Russian company neoqb. The former working title 'Knights Of The Sky' had been dropped due to trademark issues with Microprose's classic W.W.I flight simulation from 1990. The new game title 'Rise Of Flight: The First Great Air War' was chosen for Western countries while the Russian release is named 'War In Heaven 1917'. The Western release costs about 40 Euro in Europe and 40 US-$ in USA plus shipping. The simulation comes on a DVD or somewhat cheaper as a digital download. It can be obtained via various online shops and as well via electronic stores.

Rise Of Flight - Flight Of Fokker Dr.I in the morning sun - Screenshot by Gremlin (12-Nov-2009)

This review is done with the German retail DVD version patched to the latest version 1.010 which came out in October 2009. I was part of the initial beta testing team in April 2009 before the sim was released in May 2009 first on the Russian market and several weeks later in the North America. I had not been chosen for the long-term beta test process which is still accompanying the sim's development thus I was very eager to find out what had been changed since. There was a series of patches since the release. Each patch had substantial changes to gameplay, GUI and such. Thus take this review with a grain of salt. Your mileage may vary.

You can get some background information about the developers neoqb in the interview I conducted with them on 13-Aug-2009.






Test System

Gremlin's Rig - Picture by Gremlin (05-Apr-2009)

Some information about the hardware I run RoF on and which I took as a base for this review. My self-built rig looks as follows:

  • Mainboard ASUS Rampage Formula X48
  • CPU Intel Core2Duo E8400 3.0GHz running at 4.15GHz
  • Memory 4GB DDR2-1066MHz RAM running at 1105MHz
  • Graphics card Nvidia GeForce 9800GTX 512MB
  • Sound card Creative Labs X-Fi Gamer
  • LCD screen LG Electronics with S-IPS panel and a screen resolution of 1920x1200
  • Thrustmaster Cougar HOTAS with U2Nxt Mod (Joystick) and Hall Sensors (Joystick and Throttle) and SimPed Vario Rudder Pedals
  • TrackIR 4 plus TrackClip Pro
  • OS Windows XP SP3 32-Bit (German version)
  • Newest drivers for each device installed




Overview

Now some overview of this flight simulation: Rise Of Flight had been in development for about four years and it uses a self-developed game engine titled 'Digital Nature' which was developed with the aim to add a new level of detail in terms of graphics and sounds to the flight sim genre. Also a mix of fluid dynamics physics and table based pre-calculated aerodynamic characteristics of a glider have been implemented to raise the realism level of the flight simulation experience.

Rise Of Flight - Sopwith Camel F.I model in main menu - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010)

Rise Of Flight comes with four flyable planes only: the Albatros D.Va, the Fokker D.VII, the Nieuport N.28 and the Spad X.III. Additional planes can be bought by the RoF store in the internet. There are also two non-flyable reconnaissance planes included: the French Breguet 14 and the German DFW C.V. The developers state that they want to expand the sim content continuously and so far each patch has introduced additional content beside the fixes. The major patches (called updates by the developers) come in a nearly four-weekly pattern. They are always a mixture of bug fixes and new features.

While the basic package for 40 US-$ / 40 Euro may look expensive for the content offered the additional planes for 7.45 US-$/5.45 Euro each are comparatively favourable when one is looking at other flight simulations like Microsoft's Flight Simulator X and its pricey third party add on planes.





Installation, Patching, Setup and System Requirements

Rise Of Flight is available as a boxed DVD version as well as a download copy. I bought the German boxed DVD version of RoF via the European distributor Aerosoft. This German boxed version was released mid-October, nearly half a year later than the Russian one. On 22nd of October the package arrived. Although it is the German version the language can be switched between English, German, Russian, French and Spanish.

Rise Of Flight - German DVD box cover - Picture by Gremlin (22-Oct-2009)

The German box version contains the game on DVD, a thin printed manual in German, a printed keyboard layout for the game commands and a printed map for the area of operations. Additional documentation can be found in the game's main folder linked to from the start menu entries. Additional documentation for the mission editor included in the package is not available.

The installation was straightforward. I inserted the DVD into the drive and invoked the installer which transferred about 5 GByte of data on my harddisk. The installation files were already patched to version 1.006 of the sim. The installation procedure took a couple of minutes but that may vary from system to system.

There is an online requirement for this flight simulation such that you need an internet connection for logging in to neoqb's authentication servers each time you start the game as well as for receiving automatic updates for it. First you need to make sure that certain network ports are open in the Windows firewall software as well as on the router with which you connect to the internet. How this is done is not explained anywhere.


Rise Of Flight - German DVD box content - Picture by Gremlin (22-Oct-2009)

Also an account has to be set up on the official Rise Of Flight Forum which will be used for authentification during the game login process. In the forum user's profile there is a field in which the license printed on a sticker inside the DVD box has to be put in. It will then be stored on neoqb's server alongside with the information about what extra planes have been bought by the user. I will talk about this later.


After those pre-conditions had been taken care off I fired up the sim for the first time and was presented with an update window where the software looked automatically for a new update which was not out at that time. This update window will show up each time the sim is started and makes sure everyone is playing with the same installation and under the same conditions. It seems that neoqb has chosen to update each last Friday of a month most times.

Rise Of Flight - Game update window - Picture by Gremlin (27-Dec-2009)

From the first start up window there is the possibility to set up the game via the settings button. There the graphics and sound settings can be made as well as the control input and keyboard mapping, TrackIR settings, the language setting and the camera settings for cockpit view. Since patch version 1.009 the control input and keyboard mapping can be done from within the game's graphical user interface because it was too big a hassle to do this outside the game then fire it up and test the settings, close the game, rinse and repeat.

Setting the graphics options is straightforward and the setup will tell you in percentage how many resources of your graphics card will be used. It is recommended to set Anti-Aliasing and such within the game and I did stick to it and did not touch the settings in the Nvidia Control Panel. There is also a list of post processing options which can be selected: for example Blur which will blur out the things that are not in the focus of your eye. Post processing effects will impose a lot of load on your graphics adapter thus I just use option 'rain drops' (rain drops on your goggles) and 'Blood' (graphical effects when the player is hit). There is a problem with shimmering landscape in the distance thus the graphics settings are imminent for a good looking environment.

The minimum requirements for the sim have been changed by neoqb from time to time. The minimum specs for Rise Of Flight as of 08-Dec-2009 are the following:

  • Operating System: Windows XP 32/64 SP2 or higher, Windows Vista 32/64 SP1
  • CPU Type: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 Ghz
  • RAM: 2 GByte
  • Free Hard Drive Space: 6 GByte
  • Joystick: Direct X 9.0 compatible joystick
  • Internet Connection: 256 Kb/s (required)
  • Graphics Card: 512 Mb, GeForce 8800GT/Radeon HD3500
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible

These are the minimum specs with which the simulation should be playable on low settings. For running it on higher settings a quad core processor and a decent graphics card are recommended. An overclocked dual core CPU like mine runs both cores on 100% load all the time even when just navigating in the game's menus. But a good performance of the sim is possible with it though.


Rise Of Flight - Game settings - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Feb-2010)

As you can see my system exceeds the minimum requirements a little bit. When I built it in early 2008 it was a top notch system. Oh, well. Anyway, my system runs RoF with about 50 to 70 FPS on a 1920x1200 screen resolution (when vertical sync is disabled) and 2xAF and 2xFSAA settings. I leave vertical sync on and activate triple buffering for the best visual experience. Unfortunately RoF is not stable when I crank up the maximum possible settings for my system. Thus I had to adjust the settings as shown in the screenshot on the left. As you can see the video settings have a corresponding percentage for video memory usage. That is a nice help for getting the most out of the sim. I disabled all post processing effects as they cost too much performance. They are interesting effects nevertheless e.g. the DOF (Depth Of Field) effect simulates real eyesight. If you are looking at the cockpit controls the far distance vision will blur and vice versa.





Game Basics

Graphical User Interface

Starting the sim an update screen will show up first. After the update check has been done by the game the login screen will come up. There you have to put in your account name and also you have to set a password which will be stored locally (in plain text, duh!). The game will then contact the authentification server and compare license keys. If all is well the main screen of the GUI will appear. There you can select between the single player elements Fly Now (introduced in patch 1.008), Missions, Campaigns and Career, and also the Multiplayer part as well as the Flight Records, Profiles, Statistics, Awards and Options.


Rise Of Flight - Login Screen - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Dec-2009)

The game's GUI is held in a dark olive colour which is a little bit too dark for my liking. The GUI background lets you have a look in a museum display with a couple of planes sitting there and with the last plane you have flown in the focus. The camera is continually moving around that plane. All in all a nice idea to present a sim's GUI. I would hav eliked to hear a tune when in the GUI. In fact this is the first W.W.I sim I know of which does not have a smashing main title. Some people turn off the tunes anyway but for me this adds to the feeling of a sim.


Rise Of Flight - Sopwith Camel F.I model in main menu - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010)

For playing the sim a profile has to be created under the menu topic 'Profiles'. There you select a country and a nickname. Three profiles can be created as a maximum and all data (user data and game results) will be stored on neoqb's servers. If the server connection fails your data can not be retrieved and you can not play the sim until the authenticication server can be contacted again. This is a big no-no for me out of the reasons mentioned above.


Rise Of Flight - Game settings: joystick response - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Feb-2010)

The control settings can be made from inside the game now (since patch 1.010) and this eases the process of finding the right settings a lot. The key bindings can be selected to your liking and now there is also a great possibility to fine joystick axis response curves. Before there was no cure for the twitchy behaviour of short joysticks on planes which in reality had long ones and a longer travel in each direction. Now you can set a dead zone or experiment with non-linear characteristic curves which I did before and still do via the programming interface of my Thrustmaster HOTAS Cougar. But for those with less comfortable HOTAS setups this can now be done in the game.


Rise Of Flight - Realism settings - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Feb-2010)

Realism settings are available when starting a fly now or a mission. They offer many possibilites for the novice as for example automatic mixture and radiator control. The sim die-hard is served also: if you switch off all help functions you have the sim on maximum realism settings. Then you could well kill your engine for example with overheating it if you do not know what you do.


Rise Of Flight - Hangar: plane settings - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Feb-2010) In the so-called 'hangar' you can adjust your plane settings such as ammunition and fuel load-out before each mission. Unfortunatley you have to do that every tme before flight as your settings will not be stored. Also if you repeat a mission you need to do this nevertheless you already did it for this mission.



Updates

As I already said before Rise Of Flight is presenting the update screen at first after starting. If there is an update available a download server can be selected (currently only one) and the update will be applied automatically. Without performing the update sequence you will not be able to play. Not even a single player mission as the game requires an internet connection and will only work when updated with the latest patch. Which in turn means if your internet connection is not working you will not be able to play. Also there is no separate download available for the newest update where one could download the patch with a download manager and apply it without the built-in routine. Unfortunately there is no possibility provided to burn the patch files on a CDROM and help out friends with a weak internet connection. At least there is no mention of a working method anywhere.

I think this strategy is user-unfriendly. At least I feel so. My profile is: married with children, a daytime job, a time-consuming website to maintain (this one) and only 2-4 hours of flight sim play time during the week. That means I have to plan my sim playing and with RoF's update model I am grounded when the update occurs during a gaming session or the companies' servers are down for maintenance. I am sure that others have similar issues. It is one of my biggest beefs with RoF that the built-in flexibility to deliver patches automatically leads to a certain inflexibility for a lot of users. At least a separate download location with the always latest patch together with an automated warning via e-mail message from the official RoF Forum could have been set up as part of a friendly customer relationship strategy.




Documentation

There is a small booklet in the DVD box which contains basic information about the simulation. Also there is documentation in the game folder in PDF format. There is no documentation included for the mission builder. If you need some you have to look on the official RoF website. You can find there a tutorial made by the developers. While the game updates come in a nearly monthly pattern the documentation is not updated likewise. If you need information about new or changed features you have to rely on the list of changes published on the official forum and on the friendly users in the offical forums for the game discussing these features.







Gameplay

General

The sim serves both markets singleplayer as well as multiplayer. During the development phase there was a point were the developers made public that they would lean more towards the multiplayer part. But currently both fractions of players have demands that the sim can not fulfil. The game architecture is flexible and the developers have told us to deliver more content but on the other hand they rely on private initiatives to enhance the game.

The most annoying thing is that the simulation does not run very stable. I have to deal very often with the game dropping to desktop (DTD) and an error message 'rof.exe has encountered a problem …' coming up. It involves a file called fmodex.dll and I had already notified the developers about it during the beta test stage back in spring 2009. It seems they have not done anything about it. Also sometimes there are blue screens which cause a complete reboot of the system. Some of them seem to be linked to the screenshot function. I can complete maybe 50% of the single player missions and 50% of the multi player missions until the problem occurs again. It is not a problem of my system and from what I hear from friends it is not only my experience. My system runs all other W.W.I flight simulations I own very stable without any problems - the old ones and also the newer ones - and it runs other games fine like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. whose stability in earlier versions was a story of its own. This is a major problem of the game design and it should have been removed during the last months. The DTDs render the game nearly unplayable for me and this is very annoying. Even reinstalling the sim from DVD and letting it patch up to version 1.010 (downloading about 850 MB files each time) did not cure the problem.




Planes, Objects and AI

Rise Of Flight concentrates on the war years 1917 and 1918. Therefore the selection of the basic planes has been done accordingly. With Albatros D.V, Nieuport 28 and SPAD S.XIII there are three planes from 1917 and with the Fokker D.VII there is one 1918 type. Albatros D.Va and SPAD S.XIII were serving well into the year 1918 too. All four of them are flyable single-seater scouts. Then there are two non-flyables: DFW V and Breguet 14. Both are two-seater reconnaissance craft. That is it for the basic game. Compared to contenders in the W.W.I flight sim genre with comparable market prices the plane content is pretty slim. Initially it was intended to release the game with two flyable planes only. Furthermore the opportunity of offering flyable two- or multi-seat aircraft with usable gunner/observer positions has not been taken on by the developers right now.

Rise Of Flight - Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5a with bombs - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Feb-2010)

The exterior and interior 3D models of the planes are very detailed, the cockpits come with the basic instruments. The controls, gauges and switches are all animated. Each plane has its individual and historically correct set of instruments so there may be some vital instruments missing in some plane models. For example the altimeter in the Albatros D.Va is absent which would be historically correct. You have to make up for the missing gauges with your knowledge and experience. TrackIR functionality is fully included in the game and its use is recommended for every flight sim nut. In fact the development of the sim seems to have been centered around use of TrackIR hence the classic viewing system included in RoF is not on par with market standards. The controls, instruments and control surfaces move all as expected of such high fidelity 3D models. Even the engine valves are animated, also the ammunition belts and the MG shells falling from the plane. The rotary engines cause a slight light grey-blue trailing smoke of burnt castor oil when starting the engine and taking off. Also the lighting on the planes is very realistic and the dynamic shadows going over the airframe while turning the plane around look both great and very realistic. Damage is displayed in a great variety and helps identifying what could be wrong with your opponent's plane - or your own. It is a real joy looking around in the cockpit and see all the moving controls and working gauges. neoqb has done a great job there.

The engine and MG sounds are great. Also there is always the dominant sound of the airflow around the plane and it is changing in intensity according to the flight condition the plane is in. In a near-stall-situation this sound will diminish and this presents a good feedback for those players who do not own a force-feedback joystick. It is a very good idea from the developers to include the sound of the airflow not only as a physically correct parameter of the environment but also as a feedback instrument for the sim pilot. With patch 1.009 this sound has been made louder and all other sounds - engine noise, gun sounds and other planes etc. are now toned down. This is reported from open-cockpit pilots to be technically correct.


All the detailed 3D modeling, animation and lighting as well as the sounds and noises causes a very good audio-visual impression of flying real planes.

Rise Of Flight - Fokker D.VIII 'Flying Razor' - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)

There is a basic set of plane textures for each plane and the textures can be assigned to the player's plane. Other than that you meet the planes in their standard liveries. It happens that you fly with the colourful Jastas and your AI squadmates are not that colurful as they use standard liveries instead their Jasta schemes.

Ground objects and vehicles contain hangars, buildings, trees, machinegun positions, truck convys, trucks with machineguns mounted, artillery, tanks and trains with neatly animated steam puffs. In patch 1.009 barges have been introduced which go along the rivers. They are armed with machinegun positions and trying to attack one could end in a fiasko - for you. The anti-aircraft artillery will pick up planes and fire at them, causing the typical smoke puffs of their exploding shells in the air.

The developers tried to give the Artificial Intelligence (AI) of the planes a different direction. Up to patch 1.008 there was the tendency of boom & zoom fighters like SPAD X.III to approach the enemy and then extend far away, make a turn and then a head-on pass. Which a) was unrealistic regarding the head-on attempt because no real life pilot would be that dumb and b) was boring if you were flying on the German side as German planes are slower than their Entente counterparts and such a situation would go forever if no one would score the lethal hit or run out of ammunition before. The only thing why this situation could not go forever was that the AI was deadly from long-range and a short burst from far away would kill the player more often than not. After patch 1.008 some variance in the plane behaviour had been included as turn & burn planes like Fokker Dr.I and Sopwith Camel F.I were introduced. Now AI planes will also engage in turn fights depending on their plane type. Also the deadly hitrate of the AI had been toned down as a realistic game play was not possible any more with them.

The variance is nice. When the AI is flying a Sopwith Camel F.I it will try to out turn you while when flying a S.E.5a it will boom and zoom. Also the boom and zoom planes will try to escape in a climbing turn when they realize that you will get the upper hand on them. Interestingly they adapt their behaviour not only to their own plane but also to yours. If you fly the Fokker Dr.I and the AI a Sopwith Camel F.I they will try to turn always right-handside because the Camle is better and the Dr.I is weaker in a right-hand turn than in a left-hand one.

Rise Of Flight - Pfalz D.III cockpit - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)

Where there is light there is also shadow: the problem in the AI programming right now is that the AI planes with their different behaviour will always perform the same manoeuvres and therefore are predictable as such. The Sopwith Camel F.I with its turn and burn behaviour will always perform a high yo-yo to make a narrow turn to the right-hand side. And if you wait for it you just can raise the nose of your plane and pepper it with your twin Spandaus. A similar behaviour with different manoeuvres can be observed for other AI planes. Also the observers of two-seater planes will fire right through their plane tail without damaging it when you are right behind them. That is something that should not be possible. And they will not give up easily. It happened to me once that I had shot down an enemy plane which ended upside down on a field and the guy lived and did not surrender: when I passed him very low and crossed his line of fire he pulled the trigger and shot at me despite being flipped upside down. That one made me laugh.

If you expect to shake the enemy AI from your six when flying through the clouds: forget it. They have radar eyes and will find you in there to finish you off. But you can retaliate: sometimes you are able to sneak up on an AI plane and it will not detect you nor will it do any evasive manoeuvres if you start pumping hot lead into it. Instead it will fly straight until it goes down. Another one is that the friendly AI planes of your flight sometimes will crash into you during take-off which is annoying. Also the ground object AI is not very AI-like as truck convoys go ontheir route regardless if you are about to shoot them up. They do not mind. I expected that they get scattered in enemy fire. I hope the philosophy of AI programming especially for the planes can be changed somewhat in a future patch.




Scenery and Environment

Rise Of Flight - Pfalz D.III and French landscape - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)

The scenery is looking very good with a little haze in the distance just as I know it from travels in passenger planes and it is the closest one to reality I have seen in any available W.W.I flight sim so far. There is a small problem with shimmering in the distance and I did not manage to get rid of it fully. No man's land is a broad brown strip with the trenches looking a little bit like zippers stitched into the landscape though. It looks a little bit weird between the normal landscape. Also no-man's land will not change its location during the progress of the war. There are forests, rivers and lakes with surfaces sparkling in the sunlight, towns, cities and aerodromes which raise the immersion factor. The single trees of the forests have a weird effect though as they are two-dimensional bitmaps and while flying low always turn their front towards you creating a sort of a rotating effect. On the other hand the sky and clouds are looking great with puffy cloud groups in which you can loose the orientation easily. What is very positive is the fact that the landscape looks still good with tuned down graphics effects. That suits people with less powerful machines better.

Flying over the landscape you will notice flak bursts when coming closer to the front as well as artillery shells exploding in no man's land here and there. An occasional truck convoy can be met on the roads, also a group of tanks advancing or a steam powered train going along the railroad tracks. That invokes the impression of a living environment altough I wished there would be more of it. But then it may be limited by available CPU resources. All game objects do have their own sounds but they are difficult to notice as your plane's engine and the wind sounds fill your ears already.




Historical Accuracy and Dynamic Campaign

Unfortunately Rise Of Flight is not that much accurate when it comes to historical details. There is a basic set of plane paints and not so much variance if you fly with the colourful German Jastas. In fact I flew with Jasta 15 and selected the only skin for it that was available. This was in career mode. My squadmates did not have the typical red and blue paint schemes instead they had the factory standard grey ones. That kills some of the immersion for me. Also the Fokker D.VII is available for campaigns in 1917 which is a big no-no as the plane type went into service in late spring 1918 at earliest. The simulation was promoted as sort of a historical showcase. It is lacking a lot in this respect. History buffs may be disappointed.

The weather is random and does not resemble the historical weather back then. The landscape simulates the environment of 1914-1918 with big cities and small towns, historical buildings, small roads and the typical European fields. The frontline is static and will not change during the progression of war. For dynamically generated W.W.I environment there is already a standard set by a competitor in the W.W.I flight simulation genre which Rise Of Flight currently does not meet.

There is no dynamic campaign where the tides of war get represented. The career mode consists of a series of canned missions and it often ends after a couple of missions without giving any reason. If you repeat the same mission over and over again you will see that it has no random elements. You will always find the same friendly and enemy units in the same location and their action will be the same. You can join a dogfight always in the same spot. So you will learn from repeating a mission how to perform better each time you repeat it. I had hoped that RoF would exceed in that part the 12 years old classic W.W.I simulation Red Baron II/3D. Sadly it does not.




Flight And Damage Model

Now a highlight of Rise Of Flight: the flight model is superb. Although I am not a pilot in real life I like the way the planes behave and their overall handling is the best I have encountered in a W.W.I flight simulation so far. Their spinning and stalling characteristics are what is reported about the real planes. The rotary powered planes have physics different from the planes with inline engines. This shows up especially at take-off and in turns. neoqb programmed a partially fluid dynamics based flight model complemented by a pre-calculated aerodynamic characteristics system of a glider. Of course this is also only an approximation to the real deal with certain trade-offs. But all overall this flight model has yet to be beaten by the contenders on the W.W.I flight sim market.

The characteristics of the old crates are simulated well. Most of the represented aeroplanes in RoF are not trimmed and need constant input from the stick such as the Fokker Dr.I which needs a constant forward input to keep its nose down. This is technically correct. In W.W.I planes got trimmed by flight mechanics on the ground by changing plane charactersitics via the wing rigging. In RoF this can only be done by changing the response curves of the input controls in the game settings. An individual trim of the controls can not be done. Also changing the joystick axis response curves can not be done for individual plane instead a setting common for all planes only can be applied.

Rise Of Flight - Pfalz D.III with broken lower wing - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)

neoqb tried to catch every planes traits and quirks and strives for modeling those correctly. neoqb can rely on feedback of real pilots who fly actively rebuilt aeroplanes or replica types such as SPAD SX.III, Fokker Dr.I and so on. They got input from real pilots who fly the real thing for example the Memorial Flight Association. Also some of the developers are active pilots too. With the physics system and the feedback from real pilots a high quality flight model could be achieved. Of course the simulated machine and its real counterpart differ from each other more or less. An example for 'more': I have flown quite a bit of W.W.I flight simulations in my life what does not make me an expert but I have experienced the different handling of planes in different sims. My favourite plane is the Fokker Dr.I due to its unique flight characteristics. In RoF it has its limitations. The Fokker Dr.I in RoF while behaving mostly like it was reported from its real counterpart is still somewhat off. It is not as quirky as it should be which can be described as 'balancing a base-ball bat on the end of your finger' (quote by WomenFly2). In fact on some occasions it is too stable. When there is a condition simulated in RoF where there is no wind you can do a left-hand climbing turn without changing rudder and aileron deflection at all. It is almost as if it would go on rails in that state of flight. I hope there will be a cure for this behaviour in one of the next updates. Now to something very nice: the RoF Fokker Dr.I is able to do a flat turn like the real thing. That means if you kick full rudder and apply just enough counter aileron to keep it level it would go around the vertical axis but bleed its energy. This manoeuvre is reported to be performed by Werner Voss. In the 10 years old W.W.I flight sim 'Flying Corps' (which by the way had a partially fluid dynamics based physics engine) a flat turn was possible too. This was the last time a W.W.I flight simulation had this modeled and now it is possible again. In the RoF Fokker Dr.I you can do multiple 360 degree flat turns all day long. I am not sure if this should be possible without blowing energy (there are reports it is not) but nevertheless my congratulations go to neoqb for making a sophisticated flight model.

The behaviour of the other planes is excellent too besides the fact that in my opinion the Pfalz D.III seems to be one of the best turning planes of this sim. I doubt the real plane has been that good in turning manoeuvres. But nonetheless each plane has its characteristics modelled from the very easy to fly Fokker D.VII to the extremely challenging Sopwith Camel F.I. Of course you can not exactly simulate the real thing as you have no three-dimensional visual and physical experience in a flight sim and thus you have to stick to what the simulation presents you as being the reality.


Rise Of Flight - Pfalz D.III with body unharmed and wings destroyed - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)

There is a problem in RoF since the beta stage and its bugging me: Allied AI fighters will always fly with a bomb load-out if they have a device for it. That applies to all kinds of missions. That alone is not a problem per se but the real problem is they will perform better than you with this bomb load-out. They will fly faster, climb better and turn as good as without the added weight. neoqb should address this very soon as it is annoying for the real simulation enthusiast.

The simulated engines also vary a lot from plane to plane and add a new complexity to the simulation. It is reported that the engine is not only a block in front of the pilot but its main parts like pistons and crankshaft are simulated. Also it needs more attention by the user. With the realism setting set to highest realism you will have your hands full keeping your engine in good mood as it can be killed when not warmed before take-off, can overheat when the radiator is closed during full throttle conditions and can get killed by getting too cold when diving on an enemy with throttle on idle and radiators full open. Also fuel mixture on many planes which did not have an automatic mixture control like German Daimler engine types in Albatros D.V and Fokker D.VII will add to the variety. When diving down from great height with lean fuel mixture and having to adjust to rich fuel mixture the element of surprise may not be on your site but on the enemy's when your engine starts to sputter and finally dies because you forgot fuel mixture management. Also the correct use of the radiator willdecide if your engine is happy or is too hot or too cold. Finally the rotary engines can be operated not only by the throttle lever but also historically correct by a blip-switch introduced to the game by patch 1.008. Speaking of rotaries: especially their torque effects change the plane characteristics substantially. Shakes and rattles while firing up the engine ??? The engines in RoF also have realistic cut-outs while applying nose-down input to the plane or doing negative G-manoeuvres in general. The simulation of the engines and the complex engine management are a great achievement of this sim. Although there is a glitch in engine management. When you start moving your mixture control it resets to 'lean' position. This may come unexpected when you start a mission with the plane being in the air already. Do not stall your engine!

Rise Of Flight - Sopwith Camel F.I with wing damage - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Feb-2010)

The damage model in RoF is also very different from that what one is used to. Collision physics have been modeled to implement not only parts braking but also parts deforming. Thus you may end with bent wings when you kiss mother earth gently versus a general tendency to break wings no matter how hard the impact was in other flight simulations. While this works very well on wings the physically correct application to the plane's fuselage seems somewhat off. Fuselages do not break sometimes even after a hard impact. You can see tha tin the screenshot. On the other side it seems to be modelled correctly that not each bullet you pour into an enemy plane hits vital parts but may also go through the canvas without hitting something else. Thus the old rule applies: go very close and go for man or engine. Some collisions may be not physically correct though. It depends on the 'target' what happens to a plane. The Sopwith Camel for example survives collisions with other planes without a scratch. There is something fishy with its damage model as it is used now in multiplayer to raise the personal kill streaks of some players. Also there are more often than not planes which will fly happily without wings. Often a collision leaves your plane with a broken propellor but no other damages. It seems a good approach for a new damage model has not been well thought out yet. What is very nice modeled and helps the immersion is falling debris as whole wings do not look like rocks falling from the sky but insted will rotate and have a very unpredictable flight path like falling leafs besides their general direction: down.


Rise Of Flight - Floating plane in river - Screenshot by Gremlin (26-Dec-2009)

A nice feature is the realistic physics of planes floating on water surfaces. They gradually fill with water and sink deeper until they disappear.

I premiere in W.W.I flight simulations is the use of adjustable convergence of your machine guns. The crossing point can be set from 20 metres to 150 metres which is the game's standard. If you shorten the distance to the point of convergence then you need to go closer to your enemy to have the best impact on his plane. A salvo with gun convergence set to 50 metres when being 50 metres close to your enemy has a deadly impact on him when you hit him right becaus bullet spred is somewhat lesser than on greater distances. But be careful as of not flying through the debris should your target's wings suddenly fold.

The whole range of damage inflicted is simulated. Damage with physical impact on the plane like wings shedding when above critical speeds, engine fires, engine damage from bullet impacts, control surface damages and such as well as damage without physical impact as bullet holes or missing pieces of canvas. More often than not you are searching for a suitable field to make a deadstick landing.

There is even the effect of the gear axis bending while touching hte ground during landing the plane. Also you encounter cockpit vibrations when the engine is running rough.

neoqb surely strived for the most realistic approach while still observing the still limited calculating power of today's computers for complex physics calculations.







Single Player


Fly Now

Fly Now is there for a quick hop into the plane without any scenario. You pick a plane and will be taken to an aerodrome. There you start from the ground and fly around. In the single player mission mode there is also a Fly Now option. I do not know why this is duplicate in Rise Of Flight or what was the developers' thinking behind it. Fly Now was introduced in Patch 1.008 as a quick possibility to test a plane.

Rise Of Flight - Fly Now plane selection screen - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010)



Rise Of Flight - Fly Now: Sopwith Camel cockpit- Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Fly Now: Sopwith Camel in winter - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Fly Now: Sopwith Camel cockpit- Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010)
Rise Of Flight - Fly Now: Sopwith Camel in winter - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Fly Now: Sopwith Camel in winter - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010)



Missions

The single player mode 'Missions' offers different possibilities for flying various mission types with all available planes. There are the types Fly Now, Free Fly and Scenarios available.

Rise Of Flight - Mission menu - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010)

Fly Now is basically the same as in the single player mode 'Fly Now'. It is just a sort of a training mission. Basically you take off form an aerodrome and follow the waypoints until you land your plane again at the same aerodrome. This is the primary objective. You can choose to complete one ore more of the secondary objectives which are: destruction of an enemy car convoy, dogfight against an enemy fighter, destruction of four balloons covered by AA fire or destruction of an enemy artillery position.

Free Fly (no, not the insect; are there any native english speaking beta testers left?) is divided into three sub sections. 1 versus 1, Fast Scenario and Take Off. 1 versus 1 contains a mission called Russian Roulette. There you make an air-start and go aginst random enemies - fighters as well as two-seaters one after another. As soon as you have shot down an enemy plane another one will spawn in your vicinity. Fast Scenario offers missions for balloon attack, balloon defense and bomberescort. These are set up as instant action missions. Means no long distances and nice for an occasional 'quickie'. The right stuff for people like me with little time in the evening. The Take Off sub section finally contains both types Free Flight and Ground Attack. Free flight is just like every civilian flight simulation without enemy contact. You can do your familiarisation flights for each plane with it. Ground attack is a mission where you can attack all types of ground units. From its type it should belong to the Fast Scenario sub section. The motivation for the classification of those missions how it is done by the developers is not clear to me. I think a little better aggregation would help the user.

Scenarios contains different missions for each plane. Means that depending on the plane you find a certain mission type. For example if you choose the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a you can choose between Bombers Intercept and Morning Hunt. If you choose the Nieuport 28 you only can select Scramble. Nothing else. With a maximum of two scenarios per plane the selection is sparse.

All in all the single player Missions mode offers various mission types of shorter and longer durations. It is just that the selection menu is confusing and could be made better by aggregating the missions in an easier but more logical structure.


Rise Of Flight - Missions: Fly Now selection - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Missions: Free Fly selection - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Missions: Scenarios selection - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010)



Campaigns

There are no campaigns included in Rise Of Flight. The only 'campaign' if you want to call it that way is a training campaign where you get introduced to flying a W.W.I aeroplane by Eddie Rickenbacker himself. With the help of a vintage styled video footage between practice units he explains the basics of flying and after watching the video you try the manoeuvres yourself in a SPAD X.III. There are visual markers which assist you during the training flights. They are represented by green circles you have to fly through. It is thought for the novice among the flight sim folks. The training missions start very easy and get more difficult from missionto mission. Novices should switch subtitles on during the training sessions because they may have no feeling for the right timing especially during the mission where you practice stalling the plane. You need to come out of the stall on a very low altitude and novices may find it unsatisfying ending more often than not as a smoking hole in the french scenery. The first three of six training missions are easy to fulfill. The later ones are challenging. But all in all they are a nice idea from the developers and good starting point for the novice player as well as for the jet jockey who will find a whole different world with those slow and unforgiving crates.

As the training campaign is the only campaign in the single player mode there is not much to say. It would have been nice if neoqb had integrated some more pre-made campaigns from the beginning.


Rise Of Flight - Training Campaign - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Dec-2009) Rise Of Flight - Training Campaign - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Dec-2009)



Career

Career Mode is what the the single player crowd with historical interest wants to play. In Rise Of Flight you start the career mode by selecting a plane, a year and then a squad. The W.W.I flight sim buff immediately notices the difference to other W.W.I flight sims since the early days of Red Baron where one always picks a side, a squad and a starting date and then has to fly what the squadron has to offer at a given date. That means that in RoF your career is centered around a given plane with which you start the career and with which you finish it. Means if the plane goes out of service your career will end - sometimes even after four to six missions only. Also during a career progress there will be no other plane than what you selected. I mean squads did get better planes over time but this is not reflected in the RoF Career Mode. Another thing is that you can not start another career with the same plane if you created already one. I tried to start a second career with the Pfalz D.III but could not select this plane from the menu anymore.

A career consists of a queue of missions and you always stay with your selected squadron. There are no transfers from one squadron to another one. Your career life looks like this: You get assigned a certain mission and may repeat it if you fail to reach the mission targets. There are no greater variations when repeating a mission, no random elements. You will find friendly and enemy units in the same locations in each repeated mission. If you look carefully you will see that you can trigger enemy units by reaching a certain radius around them. At least it is noticeable on ground units. They start moving when you approach them. There are no autonomous actions in the world around you. The flak bursts and the artillery fire in no man's land and some fighting planes here and there are creating an illusoriness of the Great War but without depth. Granted the tracking, moving and the interaction of friendly and enemy units in this world would cost some processing power but this would help the immersion factor immensely. Did I mention the static frontlines already? No-man's land stays always on the same parts of the map and thus cuts off some variation from the simulated experience.

The career progress follows some simple rules: After selecting 'Next Mission' the game creates and loads the mission parameters and also loads the game graphics. After loading has completed which may take a while depending on your hardware you get presented by the mission briefing screen. After having read about weather and primary and secondary objectives you need to select your plane's load-out, the amount of fuel and the convergence of your machine guns just like in the other single player elements. The next you will see is that you are sitting in the cockpit. If you chose to start with cold engines you need to hurry up to warm up your engine because your squad mates will soon begin to take-off. If you have not warmed up your engine by then you have a hard time to catch up. If you are flying Entente you will find out when looking at your squad mates planes that they carry their bomb load-out around even if they do not need it. A design bug which will follow you throughout the whole game.

Another thing which spoils the fun is that after take-off your squadmates will climb better and fly faster than you can. You can not follow your AI squadmates no matter what. This does apply also when you take only a basic fuel load with you. They still perform better. The only way to stay on their tail is to look for the waypoints with changes in flight directions on the flight map and then take a short-cut to the waypoint after the next one. That trick will at least keep you in the vicinity of your squadmates.

The following slideshow shows screenshots from the career mode of RoF.


Rise Of Flight - Career:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Career:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Career:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)
Rise Of Flight - Career:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Career:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Career:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)
Rise Of Flight - Career: Jasta 15 takes off - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Career: Hunting a SPAD XIII - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Career: Hunting a SPAD XIII - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)
Rise Of Flight - Career:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Career: Statistics screen - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Career: Summary screen - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)

If you chose to fly full realism then accomplishing the mission parameters is not an easy task because it takes you to another dimension when flying without map markers, navigating only by your flight map and the landmarks you notice below and also finding the assigned target, a single balloon or a truck convoy moving in the distance. Also you need sharp eyes and a good visual memory to distinguish friend from foe on your computer monitor.

After you have finished a mission successfully a statistics screen will presented to you with a short overview of enemy units shot down/destroyed. In summary screen which comes up after the statistics screen you will find badges, medals and a short summary of your accomplishments. The award system for medals seems more or less random. I can not see a pattern here what you have to accomplish to get this medal and that. It looks like it is somehow related to the realism settings for the simulation.

All in all the single player mode leaves me with mixed feelings. It is good that it is there but in its possibilities it is inferior to even 12 year old flight sims. Not to mention the great experience you can have with the dynamical campaign engine another W.W.I flight sim market contender offers. Unbelievable but true: there are two third party tools which improve two shortcomings of the single player mode. One is a quick dogfight generator and the other one is a campaign generator. Without documentation of the game internals two members of the RoF user community developed single-handedly third party tools to enhance the single player experience of RoF while neoqb did not manage to do this with their team of developers. The quick dogfight generator lets you select a location, squadmates and a number of enemies and you can jump right into the action. The campaign generator is going to implement a historically accurate dynamic campaign engine for RoF. Another member of the RoF community has made historically accurate plane skin packs as an add on to this dynamic campaign generator. Why this was not implemented by the developers in the first place escapes me.





Multi Player

The Multiplayer Mode has been the main focus of the game development as admitted on several occasions by the RoF developers. There is a server software included in the game installation and you have two possibilites to host a multiplayer game. The easy way is you host a game directly out of your game. The other one is to run a dedicated server. The downside of the latter is you need a second account and game registration key to run a dedicated server. There is only on server type available: coop multiplayer. That means it is a round-based system where one mission runs for a set number of minutes untilit ends. After that another mission is loading and can be started. A mission starts after everyone has picked his plane and has signalised he is ready to start.

Rise Of Flight - Multiplayer: Servers list - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)

Playing multiplayer games is pretty straight forward. You select the menu option Multiplayer and then you get presented a list of servers from which you pick one. As these are co-operative missions servers only you need to have a look at the tiny status symbol in the server list to find out where a co-op mission is currently running and where one is starting soon. You can join a co-op game only before it has started. After you picked your choice you enter a server, the mission files get transfered to your PC and the texture files are loaded just as in single player mode. This may take more than a minute and finally you enter the server. There you get the selection screen where you pick the side - either Entente or Central Powers. After you have joined a side you select your plane from the ones that are not reserved for other players. The players with the lowest loading times will have the best choices. After you have selected your plane you can fine tune ammunition and fuel loadout in the hangar screen. When you are satisfied with your settings then you select 'Ready' to show others you are finished with your preparations. The realism settings for all players are already set by the server operator to keep everyone on the same level. When everyone is ready the starting countdown begins. WHen it has ended the online mission starts and depending on the mission parameters both sides have to fulfill a goal similar to the single player missions like balloon attack with the other side defending it and so on. There is even the possibility to transform single player missions into multi player ones. Nice. There is the option to create a map rotation which adds a great variety to the multi player experience. The possibility to kick disrupting players is also implemented inthat you can kick them via the plane selection screen when the next map starts. The kick is being done by voting. Thus the users can decide temselves via a democratic vote anddo not need the assistance of the server operator which is a good thing.

The server load is high. Especially when AI planes are involved to fill up empty slots. That is why most servers are running without AI units. Also the server software does not seem to be stable because after a while being in map rotation the server hangs. Unfortunately old acquaintances can be met in the servers too: lag and plane warping. It is recommended to run a server on a quad core machine with good bandwidth and little latency if you want to host more than 16 players. That may be one of the reasons that there is a very small number of servers available even at Europe and US prime time (see screenshot below). The other reason is that there is no possibility by the server software to hsot a dedicated dogfight server to please the 'instant action' crowd. The developers have misjudged the needs of their customers and failed to deliver a multi player experience for the mass-market. They promised to bring out dogfight mode for multi player in the future but currently flying multi player on public servers is not very rewarding as the numbers of players are declining.

Rise Of Flight - Multiplayer:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Multiplayer:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010) Rise Of Flight - Multiplayer:  - Screenshot by Gremlin (22-Feb-2010)




Miscellaneous

Besides the pure simulation Rise Of Flight has more to offer than flying a plane. There is the flight recorder to witness your heroic deeds and also there is a mission editor for those of you who have fun fiddling with missions and campaigns. A plane model viewer is now included also.





Flight Recorder

Rise Of Flight - Flight Records menu - Screenshot by Gremlin (13-Feb-2010)

The flight recorder was included with patch 1.009. It lets you create video footage and also offers the possibility of replaying your flight adventures with different camera angles. A feature which was badly missed from the beginning. Now it is easy to create ingame footage without the use of third party tools and with the advantage of selecting different views from different angles from the same scene which you can not do with a third party video capturing tool. A very useful tool and quite a lot of people have embraced this new possibility when update 1.009 was released.




Mission Editor

Rise Of Flight - Mission Editor - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Dec-2009)

A mission editor had been included in the release which helps in creating missions for Rise Of Flight. For the historical background or just for the fun of it you can create missions and scenarios to enhance the sim experience. I did not try it but on the one hand it seems to offer a lot of possibilities and on the other hand it seems to be somewhat complicated to use. There is no tutorial for it coming with the game and at first people were poking around in the dark trying to find out how to work with it. However there is a tutorial on neoqb's web site which explains a lot. A good addition for the creative part of the user community.




MFC Viewer

Rise Of Flight - MFC Viewer with S.E.5a - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Dec-2009)

Since patch 1.010 there is now a long-awaited viewer for the skin creators. There you can look at your skins during the creation process without opening the game itself. This is a welcome addition as it helps to shorten the time needed for creating plane skins. Although there seem to be differences between a plane skin lighted in the viewer and in the actual game the viewer will assist tremendously with creating plane skins for the game. Definitely a great help for skin creation.





Upgrading the Sim

neoqb has released the sim with just a basic set of planes. You can basically upgrade your game experience with buying new content which currently consists of extra planes. It is not known to date if any other extra content will be available in the future the user has to pay for.


Rise Of Flight - Plane selection in RoF Online Store - Screenshot by Gremlin (28-Feb-2010)

The process of buying one or more extra planes is plain and simple. Log into neoqb's online shop select your plane(s), pay with credit card or PayPal and voila after the next login to the game the plane is available for flying. Of course if you plan to buy all planes available now and in the future then be aware that you will invest a multiple of the game's basic price in your hobby. But as I said before the plane models are of such high quality that they are comparatively low priced when you have a look at the price tags of third party planes for Microsoft's Flight Simulator X. Right now there are only fighter planes available. Except for the Nieuport 17 the plane selection contains planes from 1917 to 1918. Even late and rare types as the FOkker D.VIII. The Fokker D.VII model that comes already with the basic game package sports the weaker 160 hp Mercedes engine. The 185hp BMW powered model with altitude compressor is not avaiabl yet. Also the S.E.5.a has the Hispano Suiza engine. THe stronger Viper engined variant is also not available. In terms of fighter planes variants, two-seaters and bombers not available right now there is a lot of potential and it could be that you will spend some money on add on planes.





Conclusion

Rise Of Flight is the best W.W.I flight simulation in terms of flight dynamics and detailed plane models. The flight model seems to be the best of all currently available W.W.I flight sims. If the damage model gets raised to an equal level to the flight model then a high fidelity interpretation of the flight physics will be reached. Nevertheless this simulation is both challenging and fun to fly.

The game architecture seems flexible enough to add more content in the future. But RoF is not the Holy Grail everyone was waiting for after its four years of development. The sim environment is not up to a standard what I would expect from a top notch W.W.I flight sim of 2009. Flying over the trenches does not give you the feeling of the Great War raging below your plane. Thus the immersion factor especially in single player mode is low.

Multi player is not an option either as the number of players is declining due to the missing dogfight mode and the high requirements for server hardware and internet connection.

There is the frustrating stability problem Rise Of Flight has and I hope the developers will concentrate on that for the next patch. Having been a programmer myself I know there is no bug-free software anymore today. But memory holes and such spoiling the fun for the customers should be removed - soon.

neoqb is working hard on Rise Of Flight that is good news. Since the initial release 10 months ago (version 1.001) there have been 9 updates with numerous bug fixes and improvements. There is hope that my complaints will be taken care of in the future.

With all the good, the bad and the ugly: if you are a real W.W.I flight simulation enthusiast you should not miss out on this sim as flight physics are top-notch and as there is a lot of potential below the surface which starts to shine through now.