Bomber Crew Review
The porting of games across systems opens up some opportunities. Besides bringing a game to more potential players, it also gives time to fine tune the formula and offers a conceivably better first experience. Launched onto PC in October of 2017, Bomber Crew has an interesting premise. It might be most easily described as FTL but in an Avro Lancaster, although it winds up being much more than simply being FTL in a WWII skin. So it’s time to suit up and head to the wild blue yonder and see what exactly Bomber Crew has brought along to the Switch.
The premise is very simple, manage the crew of a WWII era bomber on missions into enemy territory. Much like in the war though, when a crew member or plane was lost, it was lost for good. If you were to judge a book by its cover, you might be forgiven for thinking that Bomber Crew‘s somewhat jovial looking characters and art style may indicate a somewhat easy or casual play style. This assumption, however, would be dead wrong. Like a poppy sounding song juxtaposed with sombre weighty lyrics, Bomber Crew is video game equivalent of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It may look cute, but it’s ready to tear you limb from limb at a moments notice and will leave you mourning your virtual crew when all inevitably goes wrong. Trust me, it will indeed all go wrong at some point.
At its core Bomber Crew involves management and not just a little bit either. Players are tasked with not only selecting the crew but also equipping them as well as their bomber. There is a lot of customization and options to be had here from outfits to liveries. Crew gear and plane parts not only come with trade-offs in effectiveness but also costs money too. If you want money though, you’ll need to earn it through missions. Bomber Crew‘s campaign is broken up between a somewhat random set of missions culminating each section with “critical” missions based on some more well known historical operations.
The management doesn’t end on the ground either. A full crew consists of a pilot, bomb aimer, navigator, radio operator, engineer and 2 gunners. To further complicate matters, that’s not actually enough to man every station all at once. Historically, a lone bomber heading towards enemy territory with no fighter cover was a sitting duck. That’s however just what will happen here and it will test you to your limits. There is not just potential chaos from exterior threats to manage, but from the interior as well.
So with all the attempts to throw a spanner in the works, players will need a good way to control the crew through all the chaos. This was initially my biggest concern. Having played the PC version for some time it seemed like the kind of game where not only would the mouse and keyboard be the best option, but also the only viable one. It may come as some surprise then that using a controller is not only good but in some ways an even better option. That’s not to say that it isn’t a potential nightmare either.
Wonderfully Intense, Mentally Stimulating
Most actions are not intuitive. To select one crew member and move them from one station to another requires, holding the B buttons and using either the left stick or d-pad to scroll through a list and select the correct one. Then once selected, holding down the ZR buttons while moving the direction you want them to go until that station or area is highlighted then pressing ‘A’ to confirm. That’s just one simple example from an action that will be repeated quite often, so you’re probably wondering how the heck I could think that in some ways that’s better than simply clicking on a crew member then clicking where you want them to go. Well, that comes in the form of things like shortcuts. Selecting a gunner and sending them for ammo then back to their turret can be done with a significant sidestep to moving them along the line to and fro. That might not sound so great, but it does streamline some of the most common operations. I will admit though that already being quite familiar with the game gave me an advantage here. I only had to learn the new controls, which certainly didn’t come naturally and occasionally gave me fits. Having to learn the game and the control set-up here from scratch may be a bit much for some.
Why would it be a bit much? Bomber Crew has zero issues with throwing you right into the deep end. The difficulty curve can be quite steep. Again, this is another area where prior experience helped me out. There is a lot to unpack with the game, even if you are familiar with crew simulators and can pick up the controls, there is still knowledge of where to be and when with your bomber, it all matters. Due to the multitude of components involved, the learning curve could be fairly daunting depending on experience.
Bomber Crew is the rare game that combines many of the things I personally enjoy, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its faults. The steep learning curve is going to turn some people off. Coupled with a harder to pick up control scheme on consoles, it could really use a little more training to ease players into the fray. While I wholeheartedly recommend sticking with it till you really pick up on what it is Bomber Crew wants you to do, and you can do it, I wouldn’t be surprised if it flustered more than a few players from the get-go. When it all clicks though, what you get is a wonderfully intense, mentally stimulating game that takes something like FTL to a whole new level.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- Hectic but fun management
- Historically based operations
- Steep Learning Curve
- Difficult to pick up controls