Sunday, July 16, 2023

Red Baron: April Showers

Once again this session starts with me doing something I already did. There's something very annoying about having to do a mission you did very well on over again. Were this game not going for as carefree a vibe as possible one might suggest it as a metaphor for PTSD. Every damn time I have to replay one of these balloon missions it's a damn hour of doing the same mission again and again. By the time I finally beat it, over an hour later, it's the best scoring mission I've done along with an "ace in one" mission, that is, one mission with five kills.

It's funny, last time I couldn't get enough of this game, now that I have to do these missions over and over again for no good reason whatsoever, it's lost some of its charm.

I decided to paint my plane, a Spad 7, current best plane of the front, blue and green. If I could, I would paint it green on top and blue below, but I doubt that would do anything against the AI. And you can't do it that way, just the main body and the wings. So green body and blue wings. My first mission with this bad boy is to do a dogfight with Nungesser at my side, a French ace nicknamed "The Knight of Death", or perhaps that's just a name he picked out for himself. Forgive me, I've been lax with my Osprey reading. I guess I should call myself "The Angel of Death", not necessarily as a good thing. Sure, it sounds cool, but pilot names are supposed to be insulting, at least at first, and it feels appropriate for someone who's exploits usually result in massive losses for both sides. I'm actually the commander, befitting what I suspect is both a lower kill count at this point and a lower rank for Nungesser.

Despite the new plane, it doesn't feel like that great an improvement. Sure, it's faster and more agile, but it's not overwhelmingly better. Anyway, the battle goes smoothly, I take down one pretty quickly, but the other gives us some chase. He never really gets a chance to attack us, but it's some merry chase. I lose him a couple of times, as even with my speed down low it feels like my enemy can do slower, one of the advantages of a crappier plane, no doubt. For this, I am awarded the Croix de Guerre, which despite being a French medal, can indeed be given to foreigners. Come to think of it, the medals I've been getting do seem to be service agnostic. This also continues the tradition of medals being awarded to me for utterly mundane missions. Come on, two aces with 20+ kills against two random German planes?

The Sopwith Triplane has been introduced into the service. I don't know if it's going to be good or not, because I'm inclined to hold onto the plane I have for at least a little while longer. Still, next up is a patrol mission, and this time I've bothered to remember where I have to go. The flight proves to be uneventful, the Germans send a single plane, which easily goes down. But I do get some more insight into my new plane. It isn't quite as agile as I've made it out to fact, I might just want to switch to the Triplane as soon as I can, because the Spad 7 has something distinctly of the Morane Bullet, I.E., by the time you've turned around, the enemy is already gone. Which feels like it doesn't work with the high speed engine I have here. Worse yet, I'm stuck in doing side turns, going up stalls and I literally cannot do a 180 downward turn.

Now, I shouldn't complain too much, because it seems like this plane has worked out for me, I took out three planes this mission, handily. Sure, one decided he could try to flee from me, somehow. My machine has a 120 MPH climbing speed, which I don't quite believe the Germans have, yet. Though after I finish the mission, I am told the Germans now have an Albatros D. III. Which seems to be pretty close to what I have, in addition to having two machine guns.

The Storks are also transferred to St. Marie Cappel, a nice town, in the north of France. Fairly close to the Red Baron, but of more immediate interest to myself, Goring. So close, he is practically across the border. Does he ask for a duel? No, it's just a regular mission dogfight. It doesn't go well. The enemy planes just don't want to let me catch them from the side in the initial confusion and that's fine, sometimes I can survive these suicide rushes, but if I do, eventually someone ends up in the clouds and it goes poorly.

Alternatively, "The sky is falling!"

With my experiences with these planes, I decide to screw it and go with a Sopwith Triplane. Painted completely blue, theoretical defense against AA strikes me as better than trying to confuse enemy pilots. Sturdier or not, the Spad is costing me, and without that agility I am a sitting duck. And my first test is a regular patrol. I wish I could say it went well. Oh, yeah, the Germans all went down by my hand, but they basically just let me. They'd try to sneak attack, I'd notice them, then they'd try running away and I shot them all down. I practically didn't need a wingman for this. And for this brave action, I am awarded the Legion of Honor, the greatest medal the French can award.

April, America joins the war. Zeppelin bombs and Bomber raids are still pretty bit news though. If that's an actual quote, Wilson is is either lying through his teeth or the optimist. The Storks get transferred to St. Omer, which is more or less just one aerodrome over. And we have Fonck now. Obviously, we won't ever fly with each other because I doubt the French want to lose him.

Next mission is a Zeppelin hunt. Guess I can try to take out one of these without being in England. The game does seem to be under the impression this can only happen in England though, judging by the way it describes it. It took me a while to figure out a good strategy, doing anything remotely close resulted in my death, and obviously I couldn't let my companions handle it, they'd just get shot down. In the end I just sort of settled on trying to shoot the plane outside of it's aggro range, turning around whenever I was in danger of reaching it. This seems to be a winning strategy, though I am the only survivor again.

I forget if I mentioned the ability to have a third person view, which you obviously don't want in the middle of combat.

Next up, an escort mission. It's been a long time since I last did one of these, so long ago, in fact, I was probably still using the Bullet. No matter, this should be a piece of cake so long as my wingmen can handle some of the Germans. Things seem to be going well, they're no match for us...I took out a plane...and the mission is over and we lost. Oh, well. I get a second chance, because last time I quit after this mission. Technically I could restart until I win, but generally speaking so long as I'm not dead I try to play with what results I get.

This time, however, it goes badly in a different way. We successfully take out the enemy planes, only for my wingman to be badly damaged and for me to loss track of the recon planes. I for one am glad that the game only tracks the fuel and oil of my plane, if only for this one mission. I reach the point we were supposed to go to, and they are nowhere to be seen. Screw it, they're dead anyway.

New plane, the S.E.5a, which I had to go back and check on. I'm not changing my plane yet, the Germans have given me no reason to. I can also join the No.56 Squadron, which I guess should be a big deal, but the way things are, I don't really care to leave where I am. GORING! I SHALL HAVE MY REVENGE! Then I get another invitation, to The Black Flight led by Raymond Collishaw. This is apparently the deadliest squadron of the war, and surprisingly almost entirely made up of Canadians. That one's not too far from where I'm at, not that I could check beforehand.

Oh, yeah, it's May, which I should point out, means I missed the worst part of the war for the Allies, Bloody April, in which superior German aircraft, well, slaughtered the Allies. I didn't see that. Considering I'm not too far from the legendary Red Baron himself, it's inevitable that I'm going to encounter some of the more dangerous German planes before I can upgrade to something with two guns.

A scramble mission follows this up. Uh-oh. I get the feeling if they need me to rush out, that the Germans aren't bringing their leftovers from 1915. Unfortunately, I have to report that this is the first time I've had an allied mid-air collision. On the plus side, the Germans aren't bringing their good planes here. It's a cake walk whenever I finally get around to not crashing into my compatriots. Service good enough for the Distinguished Service Order.

Better still, the Sopwith Camel has been introduced, but uh, I think I'm going to hold off on that one. The Germans, meanwhile, now have the Albatros D. Va.

Oh, they're just giving me one. Uh...something tells me I should take this. This doesn't count as a request for a new plane, right? Damn, it, that probably does. The sad thing is, I might have been better off in the S.E.5a, but I ignored it because I could barely remember the name. Gah.

Next up, another scramble mission, with Nungesser on my side. Man, the Germans are desperate to do something here. I presume bombing the place, but the enemy is always regular planes, not bombers. Good news, the Camel is marvelous, I was under the impression from my test runs that it was hard to turn, but apparently that isn't true, it's hard to keep level. It's slightly slower than my old plane, but between that agility and the dual machine guns, it's worth it. Just so much I couldn't do in an old plane I can do here.

The actual combat goes strangely. I lose a bunch of times, guess the Germans sent their A-team here. On multiple occasions I get a friendly confused with an enemy, apparently white paint is indistinguishable from the kind the Germans use at a distance. Anyway, the Germans have a new plane, the Pfalx D. III. Will I get shot down by one? Probably.

Speaking of which, here comes a zeppelin mission. I figured out the trick to these. Because the zeppelins don't really turn, and they have a blindspot at the back, well, you can just hang in there and shoot at it relatively stress-free. Assuming, of course, you don't have to fly so slowly you stall. This brings my kill count up to 40. The big question is, can I get 50 kills before the end of the war? Another new German plane, the Fokker Dr. I. I don't think it truly matters so much anymore, since my plane is more or less good enough to last me the end of the war and no German plane truly outclasses it.

I think this is a good time to stop off. Next time, we shall see the war to it's finale. Next time, a balloon busting mission with myself, Charles Nungesser and Georges Guynemer. Will any of us survive? Will I be able to take out any of the German aces? Will the Allies win the war? Will Wilson's wishes come true? Are the answers to all of these questions going to be yes?

This Session: 3 hours 50 minutes

Total Time: 14 hours 20 minutes

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