Rise of Flight … Over Flanders Field

rise1My kids (Maggie 9, Henry 6) suddenly began asking me about World War I aviation. Did they find my picture books? See the covers of a few of my books? Last time they were in my office, did they see my models? (Spad, Fokker DR1, Sopwith Camel, Nieuport.) Finally I remembered to ask – “We saw it on the Peanuts Halloween Special” they answered. Here’s the WWI Flying Ace slapping his forehead.

I love WWI flight sims. I think it’s the romance, flying close to the ground at a relatively slow speed, the knife fight of a dual and the harrowing thrill of a hard landing. The way dogfights can become personal, even if you’re jousting with an AI.

Riding through the air in a wood and canvas crate powered by an early piston engine is a dangerous thing to do. Flying was only a few years old – the planes were unreliable and a pilot had to actively fight the forces of physics (wind sheer can take off a wing, serious G’s can stall an engine) while fighting a colorful bird piloted by the enemy. The machine guns were primitive and that meant the duel was more like a knife fight. Planes got within 30 yards and if they didn’t collide, a kill wasn’t ensured. Bullets had to hit the engine or the pilot to guarantee a quick death. Many shots just ripped through the canvas. Like small holes in a sail.

For years I’d been looking for a successor to the immortal Red Baron 3D and the Full Canvas Jacket mod, my kids prompted me to look again. There it was, a new — gorgeous — ultra-realistic WWI sim from Russia called Rise of Flight.


I went online and ordered a Track IR (it attaches your head movements into mouselook – it is crucial to be able to look left, right and behind in a biplane and I dusted off my old Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro 2 joystick (it’s really been a while). The game is bare bones. A simple campaign, only a few planes (the sim is so detailed they can get $7 for additional planes), and an unforgiving dose of realism and fidelity.

Here’s the World War I Flying Ace crashing. Here he is getting shot down. Here he is, a wreckage next to a tank he was trying to shoot. And here he is, wings aflame, after meeting an enemy plane. Here he is crashing on take off, and here he is — ready to try again.

Rise of Flight has an unparalleled sensation of flight. The graphics are spectacular and the sound effects immersive. The wind wooshes through the cables in these birds … I can’t explain it but it feels like flying in a way other sims never have. But the game is so hard. Dauntingly hard.

Over Flanders Field is a labor of love by some serious fans of WWI. They built on the Combat Flight Simulator 3 game engine and managed to make something that rivals the thoroughly modern Rise of Flight, despite being fan made and built on a 4 year-old game. OFF has more options – including one to dumb down the AI a bit.


I’m still learning. I play Rise of Flight now and then because the flying part is just so much fun, but I’m logging more time over Flanders. The idea is to get really good at flying before challenging the Russian game to another duel.

My kids aren’t old enough to play simulations this dense and realistic, but they can watch. Henry thinks it’s cool, Maggie loves the planes and I just gotta fly.

Gaming is more than just treasure, alien killing and shooting police. The Flight Sim is a way to ignite interest in history through example. WWI is a forgotten chapter and remote to today’s kids. This is a way to educate, entertain and simulate.

Gaming is about doing. Now you know what to do when your kids ask you about Snoopy’s Dog House and his root-beer fueled flights with the Red Baron.

PS: The kids are still getting a World War I fix – sort of – I dusted off a copy of Snoopy vs. The Red Baron for PlayStation 2. A rare thing, a combat flight sim for the kids.


3 Responses to “Rise of Flight … Over Flanders Field”

  1. Snoopy vs. The Red Baron is surprisingly decent. I was just about to recommend that game to you while reading your blog, but then you mentioned it at the end.

    Snoopy as the Flying Ace is my favorite Snoopy persona. The Snoopy x Red Baron parts of the Great Pumpkin are my favorite parts of that TV special. And then there’s that Christmas song.

    Also, have your kids try Namco’s arcade classic SkyKid. –Cary

  2. Glad you found the time…I remember how much you lamented not being able to spend time with either of the WW1 sims I had informally ‘reviewed’ back some time ago.

    Both definitely have their strengths and weaknesses…the big thing I’m not a fan of is the constant ‘phone home’ connection necessary for ROF, even single player…there has already been problems with the authentication servers, not to mention if you have problems on your end with your net connection.

    But the fidelity is hard to beat.

    OFF Phase 3 is definitely a labor of love…and incredibly immersive at the higher settings.

    And welcome to the wonders of TrackIR…once you have one, it’s REAL hard to go back…


  3. “For years I’d been looking for a successor to the immortal Red Baron 3D and the Full Canvas Jacket mod, my kids prompted me to look again.”

    Me too… Thanks a ton for the reviews, the screenies & the links to youtube videos as well as the heads up regarding the OFF & Rise of Flight! I can fly again! It’s always been either space or the skies of 1914-1918 for me. I have enjoyed your website for quite some time. My wife & I find your artticles valuable and we peruse your site prior to a lot of game purchases.

    Best Regards, & Have a wonderful New Year Gamerdad!

    Daryl Tunget

    aka. Baron von Jaeger, JG1, Jasta 10, Jasta 23b

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