Wings of Glory
By: John Graham
Date: January 6th, 1997
Wings Of Glory is a World War I combat flight simulator, released in 1994. The player plays the role of an American pilot who joins the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. The most unique aspect of the game is the central story. The player goes to various locations in his Aerodrome, and receives mission briefings, information, and gossip by interacting with the personalities in his squadron. This is done in the form of animated sequences with digitally recorded voices. There are also special sequences for events such as awards and promotions, comrades' deaths, and general information. Each mission is introduced by a narrator stating the date and time, and a newspaper front page, headlining important events occurring in the war.
The 40 missions of this story, span the 1917-18 timeframe and form the bulk of the sim. The player starts out with the RFC in the Sopwith 'Pup', a joy to fly, but noticeably underpowered when compared with the German Albatroses that must be contended with. After about 9 missions in the Pup, the squadron receives SE5a Scouts. The SE5a is not only much better than the Pup, but for a time, gives the player an edge over the increasing array of German scouts and two-seaters.
Upon promotion to Captain, the player is granted a request for a personal Sopwith 'Camel'. Eventually, the whole squadron is outfitted with Camels. As the story grows, the player is forced to deal with friends dying, and begins to realize that much of his friends' suffering has been at the hands of a single German ace. A personal quest begins to hunt down this ace.
In the spring of 1918, the player transfers on to the American Expeditionary Force where he also has access to the Spad 13. The ruggedness of the Spad and the finesse of the Camel is sorely needed by this time, when the Germans are using the deadly Fokker D7, among others. In the final missions, an interesting development occurs. A wounded German pilot lands his Fokker Dr.1 at the squadron's aerodrome. The squadron mechanic is able to patch the German plane up and the player gets to take it on a rather unique mission.
Finally, the player is rewarded with a personal request for a duel from his arch-rival. The resulting battle is probably the most intense one-on-one combat of the entire game.
Wings of Glory is not limited to only campaign play. There is a mission generator which allows the flying of custom missions. Unfortunately, its capabilities are quite limited.
Air Combat missions are the most configurable. The player chooses a plane to fly, then the number and type of enemy planes, observations balloons, or Zepplins. All planes modeled in the game, both Allied and German may be used as opponents. The player also assigns a skill level to each enemy and specifies a starting location for himself - either his aerodrome or at a configurable altitude somewhere within visual range of the enemy.
Bomb Run missions are very similar to Air Combat. However, because there is no enemy (other than antiaircraft guns) to deal with, the player does not get to specify the enemy type or skill level.
Random Mission will randomly generate an Air Combat mission. The player only specifies what plane he will fly. Altitude and enemy number, type, and skill are all different each time.
Gauntlet is a kind of "arcade mode" in which the player flies a plane of his choice and is pitted against wave after wave of enemy planes. The computer will randomly generate planes one at a time until four are defeated. Then it will send 2 planes at a time until 8 are defeated. Then 3 at a time until 12 defeated, etc. Points are awarded based on the skill and plane type of each enemy defeated. While I use the term "arcade" for this intense experience, all advanced flight model and realism effects are still available, except for ammunition, which the player has a constant supply of. This is, in fact, excellent Situational Awareness practice.
Each mission is recorded to film which can be saved and reviewed at a later date. The viewer controls include rewind, play, pause, fast forward (up to 4x normal speed) and single step. The player can also choose to enter the mission at any given time and alter the outcome. All views normally useable during flight are allowed in the film player.
Cockpits and Views
Each of the five flyable aircraft has a unique cockpit. The cockpit instrumentation has some very nice touches, including an altimeter that works counter-clockwise from the top and a compass that always points north (ie. if the needle is to the right, north is on your right-hand side and you are flying west). These cockpits look very realistic and are very close to pictures I have seen of actual WWI cockpits.
The interior views available to the pilot are Forward, Back, Left, Right, and an "over the wing" view, which varies in angle for each plane. The amount of visibility afforded by each view depends on the specific plane. Additionally, there is a virtual cockpit and padlock feature.
The exterior views allowed are chase, external, and tracking. The external view may be panned around to view the plane from any angle. An external view can also be shown for every aircraft in the vicinity. Tracking view shows an external view in direct line-of-sight to whatever the player has designated his "target" for camera purposes. A tracking view is also available from the "target" to the player.
Only five planes are able to actually be flown in the sim. The are:
Sopwith Scout ('Pup') - steady and slow, and outclassed by nearly every enemy plane in the game. Very nice for ground attack missions though.
R.A.F. S.E.5a - stable, fast, and very sturdy. The wing-mounted Lewis gun is invaluable for attacking enemy two-seaters and supplements the cowl-mounted Vickers very well.
Sopwith F.1 'Camel' - quite an unsteady aircraft, but can out-turn any other aircraft in the game, even the Fokker Dr.1. Because of it's incredible turn rate, it is much more prone to stalling with damaged wings than the other aircraft. Twin front-mounted Vickers make short work of enemy planes.
Spad S13 - Faster than even the SE5a and able to take a tremendous beating and still fight back hard. Twin front-mounted Vickers give it a hefty bite. This is probably the best plane that can be flown in the game.
Fokker Dr.1 - A real delight to fly. Extremely fast turn and climb rate. It is not very fast or sturdy, and has a tendency to shed its wings in a dive. Because of its three wings it is not as affected by wing damage as the other planes, and is very difficult to stall. Twin Spandau machine guns give it serious teeth.
The AI in W.O.G. is very good. It may be configured to "Rookie", "Veteran", or "Ace". This does not change the skill level of individual pilots, though. Each pilot still retains a separate skill level within these broad categories. At the Ace setting, the enemy pilots are extremely lethal, and it is often all you can do to keep them off your own tail, much less gain an offensive position. This requires a real knowledge of your plane's abilities and performance to gain the advantage. Once the advantage is gained, however, it is a slightly different story. The AI is not nearly as good at defense as it is offense. While it still has a "bag of tricks" on which to draw, it will often make tactical mistakes, enabling a persistent pilot to shoot it down. At the same time, it should be noted that other enemies will make short work of a pilot who focuses only on a single opponent. Situational Awareness plays a big role in combat here, and a greedy pilot is often a dead pilot - j! ust as it should be.
As for friendly AI, it is a mixed bag. In combat against enemy planes, the friendly AI does very well. In fact, it is fairly common to have a kill "stolen" from you by a very capable wingman. Against balloons, Zepplins, and ground targets, however, the AI seems fairly incompetent. While it can eventually get the job done, it takes much longer for the AI to do it than for the player.
This is another point where WOG really shines. The flight models for the five flyable planes are very nicely done. Each plane has its own very distinctive handling. In addition, there are many configurable "realism" settings. These are:
Stalls Gun Jams Mid Air Collisions Sun Glare Yaw/Roll Couple Wing Shearing Rotary Engine Center of Gravity Placement
In addition to the ability to disable any of these features, there are also several specific "cheats" for those who find combat too difficult:
Easy Gun Hits Unlimited Ammo Easy Landings Bigger Bullets Bigger Engine
Along with a flight simulator's flight model, is it's "feel of flight", or how well the sim creates the illusion of flying. Sadly, in this area, W.O.G. lags behind. Planes often respond to control inputs in a "jerky" and unrealistic fashion. This effect is worse in some planes than in others, but the highly-praised "smoothness" of Red Baron, is simply not present in this sim. The ground seems to be divided into sectors, with different sectors moving at different rates. This also occurs in an abrupt manner, and diminishes the effect of flying gracefully though the air. This one particular aspect of the sim, has probably resulted in many potential players as writing it off prematurely as "unrealistic".
All sound fx in W.O.G. are digital, making for some very realistic sounds. Engines grumble, wheels creak, and wind whistles past. Vickers and Lewis machine guns each have a separate distinctive sound. When the airframe gets stressed during hard-G maneuvers, the frame creaks and fabric flaps. When you manage to shoot down an foe, you are often rewarded with a blood- curdling scream. As noted above, the story is told via digitally recorded voice. There is also a MIDI soundtrack which accompanies the entire game.
Graphics are 320x200 texture mapped 265-color VGA. While not the SVGA quality that has become popular recently, they are very nice nonetheless. Pilots' scarves flap in the wind, various shades of smoke pour from damaged engines and smoldering structures, and flames spout from burning aircraft. A nice touch is that all interior views with sight of a control surface can see the surface move in response to controls. Unfortunately, there is no darkness at night. All missions taking place in the predawn hours are seen in full light.
The 64-page manual that comes with the game is suprisingly thorough for its size. It does not go very in-depth on flight or maneuvering, but does cover the basics and adds some depth to the game's storyline with diary entries from some of the characters. Noticeably lacking is any sort of history section.
The 32-page playguide covers all aspects of gameplay and use of the interface.
It is unfortunate that there is only one campaign present, and there are no add-ons. Although the player gets the opportunity to fly for both the Royal Flying Corps and the American Expeditionary Force, there is no option to fly for Germany, France, or any other of the many participants of the Great War. Also, the script is very linear and the player either completes or loses each mission. One thing I found particularly annoying was that on ground attack missions, you are unable to use the 'autopilot' feature to go to the next waypoint, even if there is no enemy opposition. In other words, if you are out of bombs and low on ammunition, you can't abort a mission and go home.
There is no darkness or other light conditions supported. This would add a whole new aspect to the sim, as night flying at the dawn of aviation, was an incredibly challenging experience. This would affect Zeppelin-hunting missions more than anything, and would make simply finding and staying with the airship the hardest part. It would also be fun to do dawn patrols when a real sunrise graced the screen, or to struggle to maintain your bearings in thick fog.
The player has no control over his flight's formation, other than the ability to signal, "Attack" and "Form back up". There is no ability to send two members of the flight to a different altitudes, or signal your wingman only, to stay with you.
On planes with twin Vickers or Spandau machine guns, both guns jam at the same time. Also, the act of unjamming a gun is automatically taken care of by the sim. The player is free to devote all his attention to piloting, while this "autopilot" unjams his gun for him. It would be much more realistic if the player had to fumble with obscure key sequences to simulate the desperate attempts to free a jammed gun.
Wings of Glory's central story and animated sequences add a real "you are there" feel to it. Admittedly, the script is a bit poor in spots, but the effect of being briefed on a mission first-hand, by your squadron commander, then having to report back to him with the results, adds a real personal aspect to it. All voice sequences are closed-captioned for the accent impaired, if the player so desires.
This is a very immersive sim. The sound fx are very convincing and the detailed graphics aid tremendously in the identification of enemies and targets. Also, the previously mentioned "jerkiness" of flight is often completely forgotten in combat when you are focusing on your opponents. It is very easy to be drawn completely into this world of primitive skin-and-bones air combat. When your guns jam just as you are about to finish off a foe, you find yourself desperately wishing for even a rock to lob at the pilot mere yards in front of you!
The flight model is very good, and more realism features are allowed than any other WWI sim so far. Lift and gravity, in particular, seem well-balanced. Heavier planes gather speed in a dive much better than lighter ones, and gaining altitude can become very difficult in a plane with damaged engine or wings.
W.O.G. is also the first WWI sim to allow the player to use a wing-mounted gun - something which was actually fairly common on these planes. This gun is a tremendous benefit and adds a whole new dimension to air combat. You don't have to have your nose pointed toward an opponent to fire on him.
The Bottom Line
While not perfect, Wings of Glory is probably the best WWI flight simulator to date, and highly recommended for anyone who enjoys air combat. It successfully builds multimedia features and a fairly interesting story around a detailed fight model, yeilding a very rich experience.
A fully playable demo of Wings of Glory can be obtained directly at
or as a link at [url]http://www.ici.net/cust_pages/bladerun/fslinks.html[/url] under the "Flight Sim Shareware and Demos" section.
After downloading the demo, unzip it to a separate directory and create a subdirectory called "tapes". Then copy or create a file called "temptape.dat" in the tapes subdirectory. Note: temptape.dat may be any size and type of file. There is a bug in the demo that requires a file of that name to be there.