Friday, April 6, 2012

Microsoft Flight - Free to Play Flight Sim, now on Steam

Microsoft Flight Simulator has become simply Microsoft Flight, and is now a Free to Play game. Missions, collectibles, and exp.  It sounds like Pilotwings(SNES) all over again.  Even more perplexing, it's still mostly a Single Player Game despite having gone Internet free to play.

They recently released a Steam version of the game, so now you can try it out through Steam instead of downloading off the official site.  Benefits of that are you can use Steam's downloading service to grab the game(which is usually faster then the normal download speed).

It's probably going to be a while before I can review it proper, it being so big and all.  So I thought I'd share the news with you all now, instead of waiting to publish a full review later.  Please note that this info is based on my research into the game, as I haven't fully played it myself enough to properly speak as a player.

The game will be funded by giving free to play players one pretty big area(the largest of the Hawaii islands) and a few planes to start with.  The game can be enjoyed for free, but future areas and more planes cost money.  Buy a plane and it's yours on the account forever, same for each area.  This removes the "monthly fee" system and means that at any time you can dump as much or as little money into the game as you feel you need to.

There is a daily cache location to find, and so far they have been doing 1 per area(including the free to play map), meaning free to play players will always have a cache to hunt for at the very least.

The rest of the Hawaii islands are already a purchasable pack, and at $20 USD sounds a bit pricey, until you realize it comes with lots of new missions and allows you to hunt down all the caches in the new area too.  The planes are also a bit pricey, but owning one unlocks all the missions for that plane across all maps you own.

The concept behind this structure is that the overall price of the game for those who just cruise around a few spots will be lower then the cost of previous Flight Simulator games.  I'm not quite sure I like the pricing though, as high quality as the areas are, purchasing every area will jack up the total investment in the game pretty fast.  I guess it all depends on how fast they release the areas to see if it will all work out in the long run. I'm not saying I'd want all their hard work for free(as it is a ton of work to make each area), but at the same time, buying each area for 20$ might feel a bit overwhelming when the shop starts filling up with hundreds of these locations.

MS Flight Simulator doesn't have combat, instead it focuses on the mechanics of the different planes, and in this case, challenges you to explore, find areo-cache locations (the equivalent of a geocache or treasure hunt), and do "missions" that mostly involve delivering people or cargo to different places.

Everything you do is recorded into a "pilot record" online, which keeps track of different things and mostly, keeps track of the EXP you earn to rank yourself up.  Leveling up gives access to harder stuff, so the game will theoretically scale itself to your skill later on or challenge you with tougher planes to control.  I'll have to play a bunch to get a feel for if this really works, or becomes a horrible grind like so many other free to play games tend to do.

They claim you can fly well with a mouse and keyboard.  Given my time with previous flight simulator games(especially MS flight sim X), I can safely say that I had no problems playing with a mouse as the plane yoke and the keyboard as the switchboard.

There have been many rumors before launch that they would have different control schemes to let beginners play without worry of every last adjustment or let advanced pilots tweak every last part of the plane.  The problem here is that the other flight simulators MS has made have all claimed that too, and then it turns out to get anywhere in the missions you had to learn to "take the training wheels off".  I'll see if they properly fixed that and made more things automatic this time around for "easy mode".

On the downside, the game uses our good friend Games For Windows Live.  I don't think you NEED an account, but without one you won't be able to go online to play any multiplayer flights, and I don't think you can save your pilot info either.

Enough of my babbling, here's some links so you can get to the good stuff:
Official page of MS Flight Sim:

Steam page for the game install, in case you want to grab it off Steam:


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