Hello and welcome to ‘The Twelve Games of Christmas’, a highlight reel of some of my (Dann Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief) favourite games of 2017. As regular readers will know, we’re extremely eclectic in our tastes here at B3; hopefully these little suggestions, essentially recommendations, will match that. Enjoy!
Bomber Crew, from Runner Duck, launched back in October of this year, and, as it turned out, there was a massive gap in the market for cartoony crew-management games just waiting for it to fill.
It’s hard not to talk about Bomber Crew by measuring it up against the likes of Cannon Fodder and FTL; it channels the team management and station system of the latter but with a lot more depth and purpose. It’s all wrapped up in the former’s nonchalant art style, which adds a cartoon façade to historical settings — both Sensible and Runner Duck were well aware that this walked a fine line between representative and disrespectful.
Bomber Crew walks a fine line in balancing tasks at hand with threats — even on easier missions there’s always a shortage of times for things to be done optimally. As the equipment available improves, the mission difficulty continues to ramp, ensuring that you’re specialising to persist, rather than ‘getting better’ against an intermittently twisted difficulty dial.
Much like both of the previously mentioned titles, Bomber Crew‘s Lancaster crew members are almost blank palettes when they join your team, and yet grow to be much more. Differences in design are purely aesthetic and once they’re padded up, or armoured out depending on your intuition, there’s little to tell them apart other than their roles on the plane, the gear you’ve clad them in and their names. But you will remember their names, and not just because of the skills they’ve acquired during their flights, or the enemies they faced down, but through the battles you narrowly scraped with them, or the time they stopped the whole plane from going up in flames.
That said, it really does hurt when you lose a specialist. Each character unlocks abilities which tie into their role on the plane, basically tied to their station. If your pilot cops a few too many bullets then you can put the radio operator in his seat and even land, but when you arrive back at base the person who steps up to the mark is green through the door. You can clad them in the gear of their fallen predecessor (not literally, ew) but until they see a few missions you’re far from full capacity. This is much more comparable to XCOM’s classes than Cannon Fodder’s ‘fires faster when left idle as they rank’, however unlike XCOM, you can’t train up replacements by swapping around crew between missions — a crying shame, too.
It’s tense, it’s unforgiving, and at times it’s damn near unrelenting, not least because it’s all real-time. That said, there is now a slow-time feature, which docks points but ups survival rates. Loathe as I was to use it, as I normally play tactical and strategic games to great success due to turn-based games giving time to deliberate, and many others featuring one-button pause commands, I did use it, and it did give me enough of an edge to get back my team on the harder, landmark critical missions which play gatekeeper between batches of missions.
Bomber Crew will be remembered for its difficulty even though the game doesn’t have a fail state, and that’s absolutely fine, because the subject matter that it touches on was a far from easy topic. Runner Duck have made a good ‘un here, one to look into if you like a challenge and enjoy crew management or simulation games.