Want to turn a green lane into a brown lane, tow a Gulaschkanone across a snowy field, or roam the Western Desert trashing Axis airfields? Get a 4×4. Want quick introductions to games of interest to wargamers and simmers? Read a 3×3. Prior to penning one of these articles I’ll play three tempting titles for three hours each. While it would be cavalier to call the reports that result from such brief auditions ‘reviews’, it’s conceivable they might lead to more prolonged playtests, and prompt or prevent the odd purchase.
Radio General: Water Rats
Like a tourist traversing the Midwest by train in the 1890s, I’ve spent a fair amount of time vainly scanning my surroundings for buffalo, lately. With its soggy Battle of the Scheldt theme, I was expecting Radio General’s first add-on to furnish me and my Canadian cannon fodder with LVTs at some point. Although the amphibious bovines* never appeared, novelties like air support and Bailey bridge construction made their absence easier to bear.
* And their avian counterparts.
You don’t need to purchase the £5 Water Rats in order to get rocket-spewing Typhoons and photo-snapping Spitfires (the latest free update adds them to the base game) but spurn this solid DLC and you’ll miss out on a string of seven entertaining scenarios that explore a chapter of WW2 history that, prior to 2020, few wargame devs had shown much interest in.
True, I’d have liked a few of the Dutch and German diversions to have utilised roomier battlefields. At times the maps are so pocket-handkerchief and the flooded areas so extensive, that sensible tactics basically boil down to ‘Advance down road leading to objective, calling in artillery, air support, and engineers when necessary’.
Fortunately, thanks to uncommonly thick Fog of War (you can spend as much time working out where your own units are as locating enemy ones) even when the sage approach is as plain as a pikestaff, executing it inexpensively can be thought-provoking.
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with Michael Long’s almost unique turn-free RTT, in it the reassuring presence of Sherman- or Tommy-shaped miniatures at the tip of your offensive spear or at the boss of your defensive shield, means absolutely nothing. Painted pewter is just that. Unless manually moved and removed by the player, figurines remain on the map long after the men and war machines they represent have been put to flight or obliterated.
Completed in around five hours, my first Water Rats playthrough is unlikely to be my last. Reactive foes, a special ‘challenge mode’ (extra adversaries and more fortifications) and customisable core forces ensure this add-on is no weekend wonder.
Perhaps next time I’ll be more adventurous with my force compositions. Maybe I’ll give my perpetually sidelined scouts and snipers a chance to show what they can do. I’m even tempted to introduce dice-generated weather. As much as I love the Panzer-pulverising Tiffies, having access to them in every single scrap feels a tad gamey.
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My first hour with Early Access Groundfall was dominated by ‘Hows’ (How do I configure my joystick? How do I change graphics settings? How do I trim? How do I turn this branch into a torch? How do I load this toolkit onto my plane”, my last hour by a big fat ‘Why’.
Once I’d realised and accepted that I was playing a (currently) unconfigurable bush flying/survival game, and that the weird grey ‘leaf’ in the crafting menu was actually a shred of “dismantled” clothing, my brain was free to devote itself to the nagging question of why a chap with a log cabin, a hangar, tools, weapons, a radio, petrol, and a fully functioning American Champion Scout, would choose or need to spend his time felling trees, crafting spears, and unpicking knitwear.
Lacking both a back-story and a narrative, Groundfall makes little sense at the moment.
As there seems to be an ample supply of food, water, shelter, and firewood close to the starting aerodrome, and several additional strips are within strolling distance, quite why you’d decide to burn avgas, and risk life and limb gallivanting around an unpopulated 10km x 10km wilderness in a flying machine is a mystery.
“Because aviation is a darn-sight more interesting than toppling timber, picking blueberries, and slaying suspiciously tame fauna” is the best answer I’ve come up with thus far. Even if you’re forced to fly with keyboard and mouse because of the absent config menus (The devs recommend a gamepad until updates arrive), there’s a modicum of fun to be had alighting on and departing from boulder-dotted strands and tree-hemmed landing strips.
The physics are sufficiently sophisticated to make taxiing testing (Brake heavily and there’s a fair chance your steed will nose over). Aloft, the FM shows promise, but unless Snow Creature implement wind, improve the execrable audio, and explain how to trim, much of that promise will remain unrealised.
Playing Groundfall it’s hard not to think of the unfinished project that may well have inspired it.
Deadstick’s feature list still gives me Grumman goosebumps…
- Earn a living delivering cargo as a bush pilot.
- Perform full walkarounds, pre-flight checks and manually load and unload cargo.
- Brave challenging airports and weather conditions to earn extra profit.
- Learn new skills and take on bigger challenges throughout the sandbox career mode.
- Master the art of pilotage to navigate your way to your destination.
- Discover new challenging off-airport strips.
- Maintain, customize and upgrade your aircraft into the ultimate STOL workhorse.
- Experience realistic damage and failures and dead stick your aircraft to safety.
- Accurate flight model including advanced effects – Prop wash, torque, P-factor.
- Advanced persistent wear and tear, damage and failure models.
- Study level cockpit with all avionics, electrical loads and circuit breakers simulated.
- Realistic and challenging dynamic weather conditions.
- Beautifully rendered environment effects including atmospheric scattering, volumetric clouds and fog.
- Rugged and challenging terrain featuring dense foliage and vegetation.
And – last I heard – there’s still a chance REMEX’s dreamy bush flight sim will show up at some point.
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Best Forklift Operator
Almost overnight I’ve developed a hankering to visit Swanwick Junction and this £15 VR-friendly delight is to blame. PC forklift games are two-a-penny, but I’ve never encountered one that grips as tenaciously as Setapp’s effort.
For the last few days I’ve been zipping around warehouses like an overworked Amazon drone. I’ve tilted more tines than a spaghetti taster on piecework and done more three-point turns than a Yodel driver with a broken sat nav. All this activity would probably have left me feeling frazzled and tetchy if BFO determined scenario success solely with a stopwatch.
As tardiness only means missing out on leaderboard glory and modest cash bonuses, I’ve been able to proceed at my own pace and savour the vehicular ballet that is the forklift driver’s daily lot. Looking for a simmy stress-buster? This should fit the bill.
The sim comes with three venues, four purchasable-and-repairable-with-in-game-earnings forklift types, and fifteen scenarios. Completing a venue’s set of challenges unlocks randomly generated tasks in that location. While ponderousness doesn’t prevent ‘career mode’ progress, clumsiness does. Unlike their real-word prototypes, BFO’s pallets and loads are indestructible. However, topple a load and your unseen supervisor calls an immediate halt.
Fairly quickly you discover the perils of ‘shortforking’ (failing to fully support pallets) and cornering at speed. The range of burdens includes some wardrobe-shaped ones that are particularly prone to toppling during turns.
Obviously, I wouldn’t be enthusing about BFO if its physics felt fishy. Friction, momentum, centrifugal force, collisions… the things that done well turn a forklift game into a forklift sim, SetApp do well.
Much of the pleasure BFO produces comes from dealing with these Newtonian nuances and learning what the capable pallet porters can and can’t do. There’s pleasure to be found in the on-the-hoof route planning too. Regularly a load must be rotated ninety degrees before it can be be placed in its assigned spot. Finding suitable en-route locations for these transfers and executing them elegantly, punctuates the purposeful shuttling very nicely.
Neither of the two forklift models I’ve purchased thus far boast sideshifting carriages or customisable tine spacing. Hopefully, one of the machines I’ve yet to acquire will introduce these capabilities.
Would I have liked lean keys so I never had to abandon the first-person camera? Sure. Would warehouse traffic (pedestrians and other forklifts) and better audio have enriched the challenges? Certainly. Would I recommend Best Forklift Operator to anyone fond of OMSI, Farming Simulator, or the SCS truck simulators? Without a second thought.