Flight Sim World is the continuation of the Flight Simulator series made famous by Microsoft. Developer and publisher, Dovetail Games obtained the rights to the series in 2014. The transition from Steam Early Access to full releases was made possible due to the small team’s dedication to the game, and feedback during the early access phase. Flight Sim World is by and large completed, but there’s work to be done still. As it stands, Flight Sim World is a bit light on aircraft, but provides scenarios and situations that no other flight sim is able to deliver.
Now, one knows what Training or Flight School is and does in a flight simulator, and it’s very good at what that does. However, Missions are what sets Flight Sim World apart from its counterparts. They are a series of approaches, jobs, or situations which test and hone your skills as a pilot. The level of time commitment to complete them takes anywhere from five to thirty minutes. I feel the missions give not only direction, but focus. Other games in the genre rely too much on “make your own adventure” for it to appeal to wider audiences.
Personally I find the situations to be the most satisfying of the bunch because they have you fly in unusual circumstances and have to react to them. For instance, you’ll be flying and doing your thing when suddenly your engine flames out and shuts down. You make contact with the nearest air traffic control and request emergency landing, as you start to set your lights and continue to communicate, your electrical fails. From there it’s a quiet and harrowing glide back down to safety. Another will have you out in the early morning and the chill of the air freezes your engine and after a near fatal spin, you recover and land safely back. Now, the outcomes are this good only if you’re skilled enough to do so – otherwise it’s a restart until you get it right.
Free Flight is where the most experienced pilots will spend their time. Here is where you pick your aircraft, weather setting, and flight path, and just go. It’s relaxing to pick how you want to fly and following the GPS. You’ll notice the more you play any given mode that you will increase experience into your Pilot Profile. This saves your progress and level of skill based on the types of flights you’re making.
Where Flight Sim World can use some work, is in its optimization. I have a fairly recent PC with near top-of-the-line hardware, and the game has struggles with staying above 60fps. To most, this is more than enough. But I’ve also played other flight sims recently that don’t have this problem. We live in an age where games are running as 64-bit applications, not 32-bit like they used to be. There’s more legroom to make optimizations to performance, and the game isn’t quite there yet. This is not to say it isn’t playable, because it very much is. But depending on the location your aircraft is flying through, framerates will fluctuate, but not to a disruptive degree, thankfully.
In the sim itself, another thing that really annoys me is the lack of options on the menu bar. You can’t change the time, season, airport, aircraft, or indeed, the weather. To do any of that, you’ll need to leave the sim, cancel the flight, and head back to the start of the free flight setup page. Having to go three steps back for something that you could just change on the fly in FSX is inefficient, annoying, and time consuming. You can change your graphics settings in sim, but you have to hit the escape key then select the ‘Settings’ from the new menu dialogue. Speaking of settings, I really dislike the lack of control over the graphics settings. The combined sliders make fine tuning impossible. I can’t turn off the cars, or tone down the shadows. It’s frustrating. It feels not just like a massive step backwards, but like the user is being locked out of making changes.
There’s been multiple updates to the weather system in Flight Sim World. First was the standard static themes such asCold Night, Fair Weather, Fogged In, Grey and Rainy, Heavy Snow, Major Thunderstorm, and Sunny Day. You can guess what each of them do. Then came the “Cold + Dark” update, which made it so you had to go through a real-life checklist of the plane in order to get it off the ground. The next evolution of the weather system brought the “Dynamic Weather” update, which makes it so you see conditions developing around you, and see the layers of clouds as you fly through their foreboding or fluffy exteriors.
For comparison, there were 24 planes in Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition, the first game Dovetail Games worked on and brought to Steam. Now, Flight Sim World only has seven planes, with two (an amphibious and tundra) variants of a single plane. This is astonishingly shallow. The plane selection lacks a single commercial or military craft to use. This I hope is something that is added (for free) sooner or later, but the core fleet is satisfying enough. But there’s always a want to do something else than the usual.
The paid DLC in Flight Sim World is not anything new flight sim fans haven’t seen before from other developers, or even in other Dovetail games. It does feel unfair to see DLC for things that improve the core experience like flight recorders, and better approach training. Flight Sim World nor Dovetail Games don’t seem to be “nickel and diming” the community, but improvements like this should be part of the Steam Workshop, not a paid DLC. The developers could commission the modding efforts through other means. There’s nothing wrong with the model, but it does turn many off from anything beyond their initial game purchase.
The work’s not done, Flight Sim World is starting “Phase 2” of development, as outlined in a Steam Community Post. They will be expanding the core fleet of aircraft (not through DLC), graphics improvements, live weather, and improvements to the ATC. This is all promising for the future of the game. How that all ties in remains to be seen, but the developers are committed to making this an enjoyable, inclusive, and authentic experience.
Dovetail Games has done right by Microsoft, and Flight Sim World has some rough edges, but nothing that can’t be smoothed out in the near future. Where Flight Sim World lacks in aircraft, it makes up for with its Free Flight and Mission modes. The scenarios and situations deliver tense, and enthralling experiences. They even make the mundane like being a tourist flight be exciting. Dovetail Games gets so much right that its otherwise problematic or concerning elements can be ignored. This flight sim is the real deal and for all to enjoy.
A Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes