Saturday, July 8, 2023

Red Baron: Stagnation

For the first time in a while, I've been having a whole heck of a lot of fun. Don't get me wrong, I've had quite a few fun games recently, but I haven't quite been at the stage where I'm trying to put in just a little more like Red Baron. And that's with the crappy Morane Bullet plane, the second least airworthy vehicle outside of flying an anvil into German lines. When I get a good plane, things are going to be great.

Picking up where we left off, I am now stationed at Toul, the worst place to be an Allied fighter pilot, we have several enemy squadrons of note, and worst of all, famed German ace Ernst Udet, the most vicious and deadly flying ace the Germans have. Who, since I have set foot here, has become my hated rival and Red Baron to my Snoopy. I swear I shall down him before the war is over! It's either that or we'll never even see each other.

The game starts me off easy, a balloon busting mission. Which is a real bad sign for this session. I just could not manage to hit either plane well in the initial confrontation, and inevitably they would take out the flight leader, before crashing into me/killing me. I hope there's a flying ace in this squad, because otherwise this is pretty brutal. Finally, I can take out one of the planes before the other kills the leader, take out the remaining one...but I'm too low for the remaining balloon. Flak all around me...and I die by flak.

Nearly an hour later, I check to see if this is some kind of crap the game is pulling because I'm now an ace. No. For two reasons, the first is that I'm not an ace, the shoddily coded game did not in fact save my progress after I made damn sure it did. The second is that yes, it is the exact same setting. EVENTUALLY, I win, allowing me to continue as expected, thankfully balloons do count towards ace status, as this time around my squadron leader kills off one plane before going down himself.

Now at Toul I can do a regular old, 4v3 dogfight. It's nobody special. It goes well, in the initial confusion we suffer no losses, and in the aftermath I find myself on the tail of an enemy plane. Despite one of the enemy fellows momentarily shooting at me, I do especially well, contributing quite heavily to all three planes death, taking out two myself. It goes well, which I'm thankful for after the disaster that was the last mission.

This nets me an invitation to join No 24, led by Lanoe Hawker. Unfortunately, the game offers me this choice now, with no option to actually see where the No 24 is. With that in mind, I decline. At this point, I check how the save system functions. I make sure I manually get out of the game, which should trigger whatever save system the game has. Because logically, if I was right the last time, then I should have been saved afterwards, if I'm right this time, then it should be saved here.

Except no, the game takes me back to the dogfight I just won. So the game saves at whatever the last mission is. I dunno if that's something that was fixed later on, but this seems like a pretty important thing to have missed. I assume it's a mistake, because it's hardly reasonable to put a player back a mission they've already beaten. Jesus, this is going to make this game a true pain in the ass to play. I played a few campaign missions as an one-off, which means the time I spent doing that was a complete waste of time. I'm going to try to skip over these "wasted missions" in this let's play. However, I will note that I still got a chance to join Lanoe Hawker and I still declined. I'm going after Udet.

Finally, getting away from that obnoxiousness, another dogfight, except this one is different. A scramble, I.E., we're fighting over our aerodome because the Germans, likely hoping to bomb us, have invaded. The major difference is that I start out on the ground, and on my second attempt I manage to make it into the air. While the Germans are in the air, soon enough they come down to my level, I get a good shot on one, but because I'm actually playing attention to the altitude guage, I break it off. Fortunately, my compatriots take them out.

The Nievport 17 and Sopwith Pup are now available. If I remember the in-game descriptions, they were not positive. Still, one has to be better than the Bullet...right...? Assuming I can ever even GET a new plane, the game is obsessed with forcing me in this accursed thing.

Patrol time, which goes uneventfully, at first. The first group of Germans we meet go down easily, I even get a good look behind one. Then comes the second patrol, and I have no idea what the hell is happening. All grey planes, which means that at least a couple are enemies, and I have no idea which. And if the speed is any indication, they're faster than the Bullets, shocking, I know. It is very worrying, because I don't want to shoot down any friendly planes, and if they're impossible to differ from my own and are...better, well, I'm kind of screwed. Fortunately, it seems like we won, because the planes left standing don't shoot at me. The mission then ends peacefully.

Afterwards, the game tells me the Germans have a new aircraft, the Halberstadt D. II. I suspect that was one of the planes we had to shoot down.

The answer comes to me on my next mission, a patrol, and the first plane we fight is a grey biplane. The plane we've been in and the German crappy ones are all monowing, which means it has one wing through the ship, kind of like a F-16, and only like it in that respect. A biplane is what you probably think of when you think of a WWI fighter. Which means we're HORRIBLY OUTCLASSED IN EVERY POSSIBLE RESPECT. What's worse is that it's just me and one other guy on patrol, the next group of enemies has two biplanes and two crappy ones. My flight leader does not survive, something of little solstice to the Germans, as they've lost three planes, one fancy new one included. I'm unfortunately, not even sure I can technically win this mission, as I forgot what area we were supposed to be patrolling to.

This is enough to get me promoted to first lieutenant. Now I'm the idiot in charge. Which is unfortunate if we ever happen to end up trying to patrol around somewhere.

That's not important right now, because I have to protect some balloons. What does being a first lieutenant mean? I get to choose how many planes I know, as long as I don't want more than two. I might be able to chose which plane I can fly, if the game was willing to let me have something other than a Morane Bullet, which is rapidly becoming the worst plane to be in right now. Thankfully the Germans have decided to kill off their old stock trying to take these balloons, and we handle things a-okay.

And then the entire squadron gets transferred, to Bertincourt, near where the previous transfer I rejected is. So now instead of being able to take out Udet, I can take out Immelmann, Max Immelmann, a much nicer German ace, a turn was named in his honor, the one where you go up until you face the other direction, then right yourself. He also won the Blue Max, the highest German flying honor. Curiously, he also died soon from the current time. Will I be the one to claim him?

Uh, yes.

As could be expected from my training sessions, this was not a terribly hard mission. I've figured out the subtle art of not hitting the enemy head-on and instead trying to sideswipe them, and while I don't get him on the opening salvo, it's not long before I shoot him down.

Next up an escort mission. Still using the Bullet, the Germans still have the fancy plane. The Germans win, but none of them live to tell of their victory. The recon plane is lost, but they don't get either of the escorts. Hopefully now the game will not be so confident in my ability to protect these recon planes.

Wow, another bomber raid?

News, the British have succeeded in taking ground along the front. This means that the lines have been changed. And a new aircraft, the Spad 7. Neither of these changes matter much to me, who will be forced to continue to fly in a flying deathtrap until the end of the war.

Considering how much of this game just consists of the same sort of things, it's hard to come up with both good screenshots and comments.

Another escort mission, good, we needed to have less recon planes. This one certainly started off at 11, with flak firing all around us. Two recon planes, two victories for a soon to be dead German. Except, it doesn't go as poorly as I feared, instead, they send two planes, of which we handily defeat. No losses. I feel like the game is practically giving me these victories at times.

Each plane is supposed to have its own unique interface, which includes the dials, assuming you go for realistic instruments.

Balloon busting next, but that isn't the good news. No, that isn't the good news, I'm in a new plane! The Nievport 17, not quite as crap as the Bullet. Actually, that's not fair, with a 110 MPH when climbing speed, it's at least twice as good as the Bullet, it turns well. While the machinegun might not be the best, it's good enough that I, even with help, killed almost all the Germans this mission. It's like taking the training wheels off. I don't care for the very heavy GUI, makes sighting enemy planes a bit of a problem.

News of this, reaches the Germans, and they introduce a new aircraft, the Albatross D. II. Can't have me winning the air war all alone now.

Patrol again, which would almost be a side note, except that suddenly the Germans have figured out how to make a sneak attack. I spotted him, so fat lot of good it did the single plane this time, but it's nice to know I might not be so lucky in the future.

This is followed up with a scramble mission that goes very poorly. Now the German planes are the color of the ground, and while at first this is useful, when climbing, often I find myself above them, which ends ever so badly. By sheer luck, I eventually end up figuring out the pattern to their attack. Despite the target rich environment, I'm starting to loathe these scramble missions, the inevitable confusion is just too tricky for me to figure out right away.

After this, I get an invitation to join The Storks squadron, I accept. Not like there's much chance of fighting another ace where I am, and I see no reason not to join. If I want to try for Udet later, I can always request a transfer. My new squadron had two aces before I joined, Guynemer and Nungesser. Time will tell if they fly with me, but that sort of thing usually ends badly for my compatriots, so that seems unwise for their health. I also find out after the fact that the Red Baron himself was now where I was, though if duels are linked to kills it is highly unlikely we would ever meet, as we're through most of 1916 and I haven't cracked 30.

I also note that we're about as far away from the front as possible without being in England. You can transfer to there, but from what I've read in a few places that's an incredibly boring way to spend the war.

First mission with the best of the best, balloon defense. Same approach as usual, try to take them from the side, then gun them down. It works mostly well. I find myself chasing after one plane, heading towards the balloons. Constant gunfire drives him off, but his companion is clearly trying to get rid of me. He doesn't get a chance before my target is down. He breaks off, taking out one of the balloons before I can stop him, and he goes down while me and my flightmate gun him down.

Next up revenge! We shall take down THEIR balloons! Interestingly, despite where I am, the best plane I can use is still the Nievport 17. In fact, that's the only plane I can use. The battle goes well, despite the German planes probably being better than ours, we win overwhelmingly. The initial strike doesn't go well, but in the ensuing confusion, I chase after one German, and by the time I take him down, my companion still isn't dead, giving me a convenient chance to take out one of the others, while the third disappears. Then, a simple matter to take out balloons.

This gives me a promotion to captain, and with it, not just the option to pick my own plane, but the requirement. The Nievport 17 is the second best plane so far, and the only one that seems better is the Spad 7, which still only has one machinegun. Guess it was fairly late in the war when they decided to do that little bit of advancement. I'll see if I can't customize how it looks next time.

This session: 5 hours 00 minutes

Total Time: 10 hours 30 minutes


  1. I am following your campaign with interest.

    If you have ace status and I don't mix it up with the later Red Baron, you should be able to customize your plane by now.

    Nungesser and Guynemer are the best ace of mid-1916 (with Jean Navarre, but by late July 1916 his career as a good pilot has ended). Fonck and Madon start to shine in 1917.

    To answer one of your earlier questions, the Morane-Saulnier N "Bullet" machine gun is unsynchronised with the propeller, which is armoured. A good number of bullets are "lost", though I am not sure whether it is in-game.

    The Red Baron gives this plane a much larger role than it had historically, where only a few were built. The first dedicated allied fighters deployed in significant number were two-seaters like the F.E.2, and for one-seater it was the Sopwith Pup and the Nieuport 11 but only in 1916. I suppose the designer needed a one-seater to face the early Fokker E, and so they decided to put Morane-Saulnier N everywhere.

    1. Didn't see that you said anything past the first line when I first noticed this comment.

      It was just when I was allowed my own plane, guess it was the second Red Baron that allowed customization. Or I merely missed it at the time.

      Damn, it really ticks me off finding that out. I'm not sure which plane of the early ones is technically worse, but in either event I'm guessing the two-seaters are unavailable since that would contest with the whole vibe they were going with, plus probably annoying to code at this point in time.