I’ll admit, I was a little in the dark about Bomber Crew. I remembered seeing a screenshot of it back when it launched on PC but I never committed whatever feeling it invoked to memory. Boy, was that a fucking mistake.
Bomber Crew is a real-time World War 2 era Bombing Crew management game. Seems like a mouthful, right? Probably doesn’t help that I completely made that up, but it’s honestly the best way to describe it. Usually, I’ll start my reviews off with an enigmatic “Did I like it, did I not like it?” type question, but my feelings on Bomber Crew will become very clear, very quickly.
So let’s get to the (veggie) meat and potatoes of Bomber Crew, shall we? Lets hit the gameplay. You control all the members of a WW2 Bomber. You’ll be selecting individual crew members to perform various tasks on the plane. Your crew is all unique but try not to get too attached as the game features perma-death, much like X-Com.
Your crew has specific roles, making them better at certain tasks than others. While everyone can accomplish every task to a point, your navigator isn’t going to be an amazing gunner and it’s likely that your mechanic isn’t going to be any good at piloting. Everyone gains experience in their preferred roles after every mission, which leads to them unlocking extra abilities and even gaining the ability to dual-class once certain thresholds are met. Selecting your dual-classes is massively important as you get further through the game. If you have a mission that goes tits up and you lose one of your crew, having another member with a few extra skills increases your survival massively.
The real stress of Bomber Crew comes when trying to maintain your Bomber while in a dogfight. Your systems can and will fail at the worst times. If your electric systems die, you’ll be hard pressed to even fire back as your radars will be down. If your hydraulics die, you better hope you already had you bombing hatch open, otherwise you’ll be doing a couple of loops while your engineer fixes it and obviously you’ll be peppered by some anti-air cannons while you do it.
True squeaky bum time in Bomber Crew arrives if the dice roll fucks you and you take an oddly accurate barrage of bullets, resulting in most of your crew being on critical health. If one drops, you have to send one of your “less critical” members to try and heal them. All sounds pretty placid and standard, right? Now, what happens when that crew member also gets dropped while trying to heal the originally downed crew? Things get really bad, really fucking quick. There’s a real rush when you have a crew member bleeding out as you race back to the base because you’ve used all your first aid kits and can’t heal them yourself.
The mission types are varied, ranging from dropping supplies to crashed Fighters, Bombing Weapon and Ammo factories and taking out enemy submarines. While there are some variations to these they’ll serve as your basic set of grindable missions in Bomber Crew, allowing you to boost your money and the experience for your crew. All these missions involve gunning down enemy planes, as naturally the opposing force isn’t keen on you trashing their key military supplies. Occasionally, when starting a mission you’ll be informed of an Enemy Ace that’s been spotted on the battlefield. These Aces are in stronger Planes then the standard enemy fodder, are seemingly more accurate and also employ evasive manoeuvres, just like your pilot can.
Bomber Crew has a weird difficulty curve, so if you’re hoping for a calm experience, you’re looking in the wrong place. Due to every combat scenario being, for lack of a better term, a dice roll, it’ll vary whether you come out completely unscathed or totally fucked up with multiple crew members down. There are ways to mitigate the wild difficulty swings though, as your gunners gain access to new abilities that’ll make them more accurate, or via upgrading the guns on your Bomber so that when they do hit, they do more damage to the opposing force. Speaking of upgrades…
Customisation runs rife in Bomber Crew. Want to make your bomber pink (obviously, I did, n3 colours for life) then you can do that. Want to make a custom emblem to go on the side of your bomber? Guess what, you can. The real shame here comes from the fact that a lot of the customisation options have to be unlocked while playing the game. While it’s not a massive shitter, it takes a few hours to get into some of the more interesting liveries or even some of the wackier base colours. It would’ve been nice to at least have access to a colour picker from the very start, then gating individual colour combinations for different parts later on. Not a major issue, by any means, but it would’ve been nice.
Weapon upgrades are what you might expect. Upgrading your weapons usually gives you a nice little damage bump, or makes it so you don’t have to worry about running off to grab more ammo for them. Upgrading the various systems in your Bomber negates the worry of them breaking AS often as they did before. Upgrading your engines basically increases your weight limit, meaning you can pop on more upgrades around the Bomber, though it would be nice if it also made you move a little faster.
Crew equipment is also a key component in Bomber Crew. You can pick out individual pieces of gear, which all looks different and has different properties. What’s key is finding a good balance that works for you. While amouring everyone up is a great way to keep your crew alive during dogfights, if something breaks or catches fire, you’ll be moving around the Bomber slower. Like all things, it’s good to have a balance… Thanos is my homie, come at me.
Graphically, Bomber Crew is fairly blocky. While that may seem like a disservice, it actually lends heavily to its charm as it’s not a case of how your crew look, but how easy it is to see that they’re DOING what they’re meant to be. While the models are simple, there are still some lovely little graphical flourishes that show the love and attention that’s been paid to Bomber Crew. The one that stands out the most to me is the rain. If you’re flying and it’s raining, little droplets will splash off of the plane. While it sounds like a minor detail, it’s little things that make a big difference. If you climb and fly through the clouds, your vision is obscured, meaning that navigation is that much harder. Did one of your engines take a beating during the last dogfight? If it did, chances are a little flame my pop up. If you don’t take care of it then it’ll grow, eventually leading to the engine blowing out. Had a particularly bad dogfight? Then you’ll notice that shit loads of hole will have peppered the Bomber. Like I said, little flourishes add up and Bomber Crew has lots of flourishes.
Overall Bomber Crew is an enjoyable romp through the WW2 era. The gameplay loop keeps you going “I’ll just take one more mission on before I stop”. The differences that occur in even the most basic missions keep the game fresh and will keep any player on their toes. While the spiking difficulty may put off some players, once you learn to adapt and roll with the punches, Bomber Crew really does feel like something special.