Ace Patrol is a WWI aircraft, hex-turn based strategy game. It’s made by those folks who make Civilization, a properly great series of turn based strategy games. So what is it like and does it require a stiff upper lip and handlebar mustache to enjoy? here’s what I think.

Ace Patrol in many ways reminds me of an old 2d space combat game. I once randomly installed it from a magazine cover disk of PC Zone, or Gamer, or… Format way back when I was at school. It was about 5 colours, tiny little Singular sprites and for some reason I was hooked, wish I could remember the name of it. Probably made by one guy in his basement…

It has that same “momentum” mechanic, despite being turn based, certain maneuvers or going at full speed result in limits to your maneuverability, diving, climbing, rolling etc. It’s subtle but it’s there, additional polish and improved visuals of course make this a much more enjoyable experience. You can change elevation by about three levels and learn special maneuvers which make you more effective in a dogfight.

You also get a starting trait for each pilot, something uniquely beneficial although the selection is limited to one of four. Being able to progress through the mission structure, earning experience, unlocking upgraded equipment or more advanced bi-planes keeps this game constantly engaging and challenging when your enemies also have these upgrades.

Your pilots are vulnerable too, while the planes can be temporarily damaged your pilots can take longer to recover, or even get trapped behind enemy lines until the end of that particular offensive. When the offensive ends you get your pilots back during the Christmas armistice and a new offensive begins….it’s all very British.

There are several levels of difficulty, I found regular quite challenging but no doubt some folk can breeze through it, acing the aces. The mission variety is rather limited, patrol, defend, attack, duel, spot/mark for allies and occasionally you get to strafe a convoy or shoot down a balloon. I suppose that’s a little unfair, it covers pretty much everything you would want to do, it’s just with three options showing up each mission, they start getting a little repetitive after several campaigns. The primary trick seems to be kill enemy places then do whatever, at least that’s what I did most of the time.

You do get the option to choose “extra hard” missions occasionally, these are worth multipliers to your end result and typically put you at horrible odds against very dangerous enemies. There is also a multiplayer head to head mode which you can play if you happen to have friends or enjoy shooting strangers. I didn’t try that but it works much like single player.

There are four playable factions, although the campaign and missions don’t change at all, France, Germany, Britain and America can be chosen. Each one you complete unlocks some Ace colour schemes to add some additional customization to your aircraft. Speaking of customization, you can change the colour of the trim on all the aircraft, to personalize them. You can also choose your pilots appearance which gradually gets more medals on their portrait as you complete more missions. Points for gender balance btw.

The customization is limited per option but the amount you can customize for such a small game is quite impressive really and helps make the squadron you manage more personal. Despite the games apparent simplicity there is some serious strategic depth to it, I especially enjoyed using the Anti Aircraft zones and cloud cover during dogfights, really does help gain an advantage when you’re struggling.

Ace Patrol is a fantastic budget strategy game, the PC version of the title is cheap as chips on Steam and I honestly can’t recommend this enough. For the price you’re almost guaranteed to get more enjoyment out of it than anything of equal age and value, Buy it.