The 40K universe takes to the skies with the release of Aeronautica Imperialis: Flight Command, a new strategy game based on the Aeronautica Imperialis tabletop variant of the same name. Does the game do enough to fly steady & aim true? Lets find out.
If the game follows the tabletop version closely, then storywise it ties into the Double Eagle book by Dan Abnett that focuses on the air war that takes place during the Sabbat Worlds Campaign. That’s it, and I had to go searching the web for that info too. The game doesn’t offer anything in the way of story, with only snippets given during briefings & scenarios – even then they don’t point to a larger overall arc and just seem contained to a few lines on the mission in hand.
The game does offer up an Imperial campaign mode, which can be set to various lengths, and follows the rules of a tabletop game. Each engagement will see points awarded that go towards your overall tally to hit the victory amount, or can be used for squadron options. Your squadron can be levelled up during a campaign and can also permanently die within it, so you’ll want to be cautions in battle if there’s a favourite of yours outside of the ace. Outside of campaign the game does offer some scenarios that can be completed, with these also offering a couple of extra options in that you can play as the Orks or online with other players.
With most areas taking place on enclosed plains or canyons, there’s little else to see in the environments aside from rock faces – though they are detailed enough. A good amount of work has gone into the aircraft piloted though, looking even more detailed than the tabletop variants with good character portraits for each craft in your squadron. The cinematic view allows you to appreciate these models, with some nice particle effects also used when putting the hurt on the green skins. Audio is a little forgettable for the game though, a relatively fitting BGM is about all it has going for it.
For the most part performance is good, if you have a decent enough system there’s nothing to worry about as my PC (R5 1600/16GB/RX 5700XT) played without a hitch at 4K. My laptop (Core i7/16GB/R9 M270X) didn’t quite fare as well, given the game has a minimum of an HD7870, but was still playable enough given the turn based nature doesn’t need a fluid framrate. Just needed to drop settings & resolution as expected, so the game could be playable on lower end devices if you are willing to sacrifice.
I’m gonna be frank here. Make sure you run through the tutorials first as this is a strategy game of sorts that attempts to bring the full tabletop game to PC. Each engagement starts you with a a squad or so of various fighters etc to take on the opposing faction, with each move/attack meticulously planned before hitting the Commit button. Once the button is pressed all your moves will play out in real-time in a cinematic view before ending and your next turn begins. This plays out until everyone is destroyed, mission completed or the turn counter runs out, with the game mixing things up occasionally with ground units etc.
There’s one key thing you’ll need to do to ensure victory though, and that is to anticipate your enemies moves well. You don’t get to see anything of what your foe is up to until the turn plays out, so just lining up behind some Ork filth may just see them bank off to the side and only a few laser shots hit at best. It can frustrate seeing all your moves fail in one turn due to the 3D nature of movement in aerial combat, but that one time you anticipate perfectly and an enemy lines themselves up for the kill feels immensely rewarding. Being based on a tabletop game, this game does seem to incorporate the rules from that as well alongside calculating rolls etc – but this is mostly hidden from the player with only hints of this being the case throughout the tutorial. Something to be mindful of.
If you’re a fan of tabletop games then Aeronautica Imperialis: Flight Command will be right up your street as it sticks so doggedly to the original rules of the game, without the need to set up the table for quick blast. As a consequence the game is as unforgiving as the Orks faced in battle for new recruits, the tutorial is a must, with you quickly faltering if expecting anything else.
Personally I was interested going in as 40K fan, the lack of any meaningful use of the universe to craft a narrative is disappointing though, but the game did turn out to be surprisingly good once some time was spent on getting used to how the skirmishes play out. It’s not a game for everyone, but it clearly doesn’t aim to be and would be worthy of playing for anyone with an interest in the 40K universe or tabletop games in general.