Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

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rezaf
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Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by rezaf » Sun May 03, 2015 8:56 pm

I'll always hold a special place in my gamer-heart for Rudankort (of Flashback Games), who first took it upon himself to make a modern Panzer General remake, but by definition he didn't make any major adjustments to the formula in Panzer Corps, and to me, his new project WH40k Armageddon is really one step forward, four steps back, considering just how many features from PzC were removed for this game. It's ok when looked at by itself (as opposed to compared with PzC), but not groundbreaking in any way (except the setting, arguably).

Now OOB: Pacific judging from the first screenshots I saw looked like Panzer General TRULY modernized, with thoughtful adjustment to solve some of the problems the original game struggled with. And by and large, I feel this mission has been accomplished - well done indeed Aristocrats. 8)

Before nitpicking a bit, let me iterate through the things I really enjoy about this game:

The presentation is great. It all still looks like ye olde hex light-wargame, but slicker and more modern. Little effects from explosions to sinking ships add to the atmosphere. Little touches like bombers with rear gunners actually turning around when facing fighters make it seem like a lot of thought went into such considerations. Cool stuff.

I like that combat is a lot less lethal than in Panzer General. It's still "lighter" than in a full-blown wargame, but it takes some time to destroy a unit. Units can also retreat, even bunny-hopping over adjacent friendly units. Mutual support can be helpful, but doesn't break the game. As a major problem from PG and PzC solved, fielding masses of weaker troops is actually a possibility due to units having different weights, which allows for very welcome alternate strategies.
It's also great that the game actually enforces seperate maximums for naval, ground and air units.

I also like that missions usually have a lot more turns than PG scenarios. Edit: Same about room for maneuvering - it's great there's usually unoccupied ground to make flank assaults.

Support is another welcome addition, implemented in a pleasingly lightweight fashion that means it doesn't get in the way most of the time but can afford additional tactical opportunities. I was a bit taken aback in the beginning of there being no fuel nor ammo limitation, but I guess it makes sense and I certainly didn't miss skipping a turn every now and then just to resupply.

The flexible goals system, with multiple secondary goals to aim for and some of these having effects that can still be felt several missions down the road is very enjoyable and motivational. Sometimes one really needs to take a close look at the map and make some hard decisions on which goals to pursue and by which means - before the mission has even started in earnest.
I also like the specializations for one's army as well as units sometimes having special abilities (such as "launch torpedo").

In the bottom line, the game's very fun to play and compares favorably to the original classic - hardly anything that was tweaked from Panzer General felt like a step back or an unreasonable idea. OOB:Pacific is, to me, the new standard by which future Panzer General "clones" will have to be measured. Once again, excellent job.

Now for a little nitpicking, and I hope none of it comes across as too harsh:

The engine is a little bit too prone to FPS drops. I don't have the most expensive rig, but my PC is powerful enough not to break out in sweat when playing the newest FPS (with reasonable settings), yet the OOB engine has it visibly struggling at times. The Java mission was by far the worst so far, but from what I understand this is a bug due to be fixed. Anyway, unfortunately the game doesn't shine in this area. Thankfully, it's usually bearable.

I find some information is missing from the UI. Most prominently, I miss a way to just hover across any hex to see what terrain type it is and - if it's a city - how the place is called. This adds flavour at almost no cost, so it's an omission I don't really understand.
I also miss a way to click on an enemy unit to see it's full stats - you do get a selection, but not all of them. This is also sometimes an issue even with your own units.

While I like the less lethal combat, I feel this makes some units/unit types lack any kind of punch. For example, a battleship should blow a single destroyer out of the water, yet this is usually not the case - using swarm tactics with destroyers is often a better tactic. I'm not sure I have a good solution here - when you're at the receiving end, it's of course cool that you're not immediately destroyed by a superior shiptype - but it also makes battleships look like a dubious investment.
Same with ground bombardment, heavy ships lack a punch.
It's similar with fighters and bombers, but at least these are fairly cheap.
It's a little silly facing a defenseless, slow naval bomber with a top-notch fighter and getting a combat prediction of 1:0.
Also, submarines are of very very dubious usefulness.

Experience gain is a joke. All heroes I've seen so far are almost useless.

The support implementation is a little harsh, especially when it comes to paratroopers. The less lethal combat makes it a theoretically feasible tactic to make a paradrop behind enemy lines, but the limitation to 1 movement and rapid loss of combat readyness basically destroys all gains immediately.

While it's nice that you sometimes have to plan your approach when it comes to (secondary) objectives, I found that it's too hindsight reliant. For example, one time you have a very very short turn allowance to blow up some fuel tanks. It's only a 5 str structure, and there's no AA around, but you cannot know this beforehand.
The objective can easily be attained, either by a concentrated bomber raid or - better yet - by using a unit of Paratroopers, but you can only know this after the fact.

The briefings would be a ton better with voice acting. The text is rather limited, and the game isn't exactly cheap, so I can't really understand the decision to be a cheapskate here. At the very least, I hope you guys can provide the neccessary hooks so modders could at least theoretically adress this themselves.

Which brings me to what - to me as a seasoned PzC modder - is the elephant in the room: moddability, which is sadly extremely limited so far. But I read you're planning on improving that with patches, which gives me some hope. If at all possible, please consider providing an actual model importer that takes popular 3D file formats as opposed to simply a 3D Studio Max plugin - I know it's a very popular professional tool, but it's also prohibitively expensive, so most modders don't have access to it.

Finally, there's some bugs that still have to be ironed out. A few briefings have spelling/grammar mistakes. Sometimes, the retreat animation fails to trigger, and you end up with ghost units, displayed at one location but ACTUALLY being elsewhere. Reloading usually resolves this.
In one mission I had to capture a fortress, and the player controlled "copy" it created wasn't clickable like usual units - I could only get to it via the "next unit" loop.
When saving and then loading the game, I could no longer control the fort at all.
In the Java sea mission, I could suddenly repair the ships of my southern fleet at sea, as if they were infantry. Oddly, this didn't affect the northern fleet, and the effect arbitarily ended after a couple of turns.

I guess that's all my nitpicks (and praises) for now. But let me add that I hope to see (much) more content - the Pacific was a sound choice for the first game, it only to showcase the naval features, but where's my campaign in China? Where's actual branching out with player decisions (I hope your engine is flexible enough to add this, eventually). I wanna see OOB:Europe. Hopefully, you guys will end up shipping a lot of copies and providing addons/DLC for years to come, like Panzer Corps did.
I, for one, didn't regret my purchase one bit.

Edit: One more complaint: I understand the reasoning, but making captured units impossible to repair also makes them almost completely useless, imo.
_____
rezaf
Last edited by rezaf on Mon May 04, 2015 5:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ballacraine
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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Ballacraine » Sun May 03, 2015 9:09 pm

I'm very much in agreement with your stated views.

I do think the graphics, whilst pretty, are not well optimised.
My mid range rig sweats with this game, which it really should not.

The briefings are too brief. :P
They should give extra information as to suggested target data & any specific equipment you might be likely to need.

Whilst no doubt there will be DLCs, short of that I hope modding, will cover what I would really like to see.
That is the Grand Campaign idea of PzC revisited with this engine. ;)

adherbal
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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by adherbal » Sun May 03, 2015 9:39 pm

Thanks for the detailed impressions rezaf. I'll address a few of the points raised below:
The engine is a little bit too prone to FPS drops. I don't have the most expensive rig, but my PC is powerful enough not to break out in sweat when playing the newest FPS (with reasonable settings), yet the OOB engine has it visibly struggling at times. The Java mission was by far the worst so far, but from what I understand this is a bug due to be fixed. Anyway, unfortunately the game doesn't shine in this area. Thankfully, it's usually bearable.
There is certainly room for optimalisations in the rendering code. How much extra framerate we'll be able to squeeze out of the Unity engine exactly remains to be seen, but improvements will gradually be implemented.

I find some information is missing from the UI. Most prominently, I miss a way to just hover across any hex to see what terrain type it is and - if it's a city - how the place is called. This adds flavour at almost no cost, so it's an omission I don't really understand.
I also miss a way to click on an enemy unit to see it's full stats - you do get a selection, but not all of them. This is also sometimes an issue even with your own units.
It's one of the biggest complaints we've had so far so it's quite high one the priority list. Possibly in next weeks patch.

The support implementation is a little harsh, especially when it comes to paratroopers. The less lethal combat makes it a theoretically feasible tactic to make a paradrop behind enemy lines, but the limitation to 1 movement and rapid loss of combat readyness basically destroys all gains immediately.
The efficiency drop from lack supply is substantially slower for Paratroopers, but it's true that dropping them behind enemy lines still doesn't really work. Perhaps a tweak to allow them to raise a capture VP's flag instantly as opposed to the 3 turn delay?

While it's nice that you sometimes have to plan your approach when it comes to (secondary) objectives, I found that it's too hindsight reliant. For example, one time you have a very very short turn allowance to blow up some fuel tanks. It's only a 5 str structure, and there's no AA around, but you cannot know this beforehand.
The objective can easily be attained, either by a concentrated bomber raid or - better yet - by using a unit of Paratroopers, but you can only know this after the fact.
Not sure how to address this. I suppose in this particular case it could've revealed the airfield defenses during the briefing. But players will always get significant advantages when replaying a scenario. We've added randomised positions for mines and carriers in most scenarios but it'll never be completely unpredictable.

Which brings me to what - to me as a seasoned PzC modder - is the elephant in the room: moddability, which is sadly extremely limited so far. But I read you're planning on improving that with patches, which gives me some hope. If at all possible, please consider providing an actual model importer that takes popular 3D file formats as opposed to simply a 3D Studio Max plugin - I know it's a very popular professional tool, but it's also prohibitively expensive, so most modders don't have access to it.
We've just finished an exporter today - for 3DSmax only I must admit. I've had a look at the OBJ file format and I think we could try to use this instead. I believe a fair amount of 3D software supports that?
Image

Horst
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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Horst » Sun May 03, 2015 10:13 pm

adherbal wrote:
The support implementation is a little harsh, especially when it comes to paratroopers. The less lethal combat makes it a theoretically feasible tactic to make a paradrop behind enemy lines, but the limitation to 1 movement and rapid loss of combat readyness basically destroys all gains immediately.
The efficiency drop from lack supply is substantially slower for Paratroopers, but it's true that dropping them behind enemy lines still doesn't really work. Perhaps a tweak to allow them to raise a capture VP's flag instantly as opposed to the 3 turn delay?
Paratrooper actions are always difficult, as you first have no idea what resistance to expect from nearby free-roaming defenders. Taking supply points should always take time, as it would make the paras too superior. An air-supply command for paratroopers with cooldown would be neat, although that would make you wish to have for other units too then.
In that case, I would create something better like an airdrop transport plane, comparable like a supply ship but with a one-shot efficiency-boost feature to the beneath land unit. The plane would have to return to the next own airbase to refill supplies.

rezaf
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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by rezaf » Mon May 04, 2015 5:23 am

adherbal wrote:Thanks for the detailed impressions rezaf.
Ah, you're welcome. Sorry it ended up as such a wall of text, I kinda got carried away.
adherbal wrote:I'll address a few of the points raised below:
I do hope you did take note of ALL of them. :wink:
Obviously you're not going to act on some of them - as it should be, other people's opinions (and "necessities") are equally important to consider.
adherbal wrote:There is certainly room for optimalisations in the rendering code. How much extra framerate we'll be able to squeeze out of the Unity engine exactly remains to be seen, but improvements will gradually be implemented.
Heh, I expected you to point at the Unity engine for this. Some games seem to struggle with this less than others, and I have virtually no coding experience with Unity myself - so maybe you're correct and it's the sole culprit. A possible workaround might be to allow players turning off some animations during the enemies turn, which is when the FPS drops are most notable.
adherbal wrote:It's one of the biggest complaints we've had so far so it's quite high one the priority list. Possibly in next weeks patch.
Nice to hear you're considering adding something like that. :)
adherbal wrote:The efficiency drop from lack supply is substantially slower for Paratroopers, but it's true that dropping them behind enemy lines still doesn't really work. Perhaps a tweak to allow them to raise a capture VP's flag instantly as opposed to the 3 turn delay?
I don't think this would help all that much, since to raise a VP flag, you still have to defeat units guarding said flag before the fact. And with the slow, "nonlethal" combat in OOP, this just takes a little while.
My armchair design approach: Use something like aircraft fuel. I.e., Paratroopers, when dropped, come with a turn timer (out of the blue, let's say 3 to 5 turns) during which they can operate at full efficiency. After this timer has run out, the unit will go out-of-supply as normal. Supply drops sound nice on paper, but I think they'd be nicely abstracted by the fact that a captured objective is going to start generating supply.
adherbal wrote:Not sure how to address this. I suppose in this particular case it could've revealed the airfield defenses during the briefing. But players will always get significant advantages when replaying a scenario. We've added randomised positions for mines and carriers in most scenarios but it'll never be completely unpredictable.
These two statements seem to contradict each other...
In this example, pointing out something in the briefing would be completely sufficient, imo. The airport is currently undergoing repairs and it's AA is out of order yadda yadda yadda.
adherbal wrote:We've just finished an exporter today - for 3DSmax only I must admit. I've had a look at the OBJ file format and I think we could try to use this instead. I believe a fair amount of 3D software supports that?
I was thinking 3DS, which almost everything supports, but if you support obj, I guess it should be possible to daisy-chain any model into the game.
Edit: Or is 3DS a native 3D Studio Max file format anyway? I seem to remember there being *.max files...
_____
rezaf
Last edited by rezaf on Mon May 04, 2015 5:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

donger
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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by donger » Mon May 04, 2015 11:34 am

rezaf wrote:The engine is a little bit too prone to FPS drops. I don't have the most expensive rig, but my PC is powerful enough not to break out in sweat when playing the newest FPS (with reasonable settings), yet the OOB engine has it visibly struggling at times.
Ballacraine wrote:I do think the graphics, whilst pretty, are not well optimised.My mid range rig sweats with this game, which it really should not.
Either you're both overstating the power of your computer or your hardware doesn't get along with this game, because this game runs lightning fast on my machine and it's most certainly not the best machine that money can buy. With the highest settings I easily get close to 300 fps if I force VSYNC off (just for testing, because I prefer 60fps VSYNC on).
I don't see any major frame rates losses and why on earth would there be any, it's not like we're dealing with a major triple A title with demanding 3D graphics and animation. :)

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Lecnik » Mon May 04, 2015 11:43 am

rezaf wrote:
adherbal wrote:The efficiency drop from lack supply is substantially slower for Paratroopers, but it's true that dropping them behind enemy lines still doesn't really work. Perhaps a tweak to allow them to raise a capture VP's flag instantly as opposed to the 3 turn delay?
I don't think this would help all that much, since to raise a VP flag, you still have to defeat units guarding said flag before the fact. And with the slow, "nonlethal" combat in OOP, this just takes a little while.
My armchair design approach: Use something like aircraft fuel. I.e., Paratroopers, when dropped, come with a turn timer (out of the blue, let's say 3 to 5 turns) during which they can operate at full efficiency. After this timer has run out, the unit will go out-of-supply as normal. Supply drops sound nice on paper, but I think they'd be nicely abstracted by the fact that a captured objective is going to start generating supply.

_____
rezaf
+1

Ballacraine
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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Ballacraine » Mon May 04, 2015 4:41 pm

donger wrote:
rezaf wrote:The engine is a little bit too prone to FPS drops. I don't have the most expensive rig, but my PC is powerful enough not to break out in sweat when playing the newest FPS (with reasonable settings), yet the OOB engine has it visibly struggling at times.
Ballacraine wrote:I do think the graphics, whilst pretty, are not well optimised.My mid range rig sweats with this game, which it really should not.
Either you're both overstating the power of your computer or your hardware doesn't get along with this game, because this game runs lightning fast on my machine and it's most certainly not the best machine that money can buy. With the highest settings I easily get close to 300 fps if I force VSYNC off (just for testing, because I prefer 60fps VSYNC on).
I don't see any major frame rates losses and why on earth would there be any, it's not like we're dealing with a major triple A title with demanding 3D graphics and animation. :)
In that case I would count yourself lucky. :wink:

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by bobk » Mon May 04, 2015 4:58 pm

As paratroopers are my favorite units, these are some great ideas for making them more useful. How about making the flag turn instantly, but for supply only, leaving in the 3 turns for deploying units. You could still air transport units in before that. Also, if not implemented already, paras should ignore entrenchment like engineers, to stimulate a surprise attack.
Rezaf, adherbal has answered this previously, but repairing captured units makes no sense historically. Where would you get the spare parts? They should be a one time gift, to be used sparingly until they are destroyed or upgraded to your own countries units.

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Razz1 » Mon May 04, 2015 5:26 pm

In the Java mission, there is a repair ship, if you leave your unit next to it for one turn, you can repair it the next turn.

rezaf
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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by rezaf » Mon May 04, 2015 5:33 pm

Razz1 wrote:In the Java mission, there is a repair ship, if you leave your unit next to it for one turn, you can repair it the next turn.
It didn't work properly for me and appears to be buggy. Like I wrote above, things were a bit wonky in that mission when I was allowed to repair some ships at will for a while. Later, I parked the supply ship next to a damaged cruiser for a couple of turns, but the repair icon never activated.
_____
rezaf

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by gunnergoz » Mon May 04, 2015 5:46 pm

The Support/Repair ships seem to work best for me when they stay in the same spot (obviously out of the line of fire) and wait for the damaged units to come to them. I only wish the cost of the darn repair ship was justified by a discount or entirely free repairs - perhaps 1 or 2 steps at a time. Slow, but free compared to going to a harbor and getting an instant, expensive refit.

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Imarion » Mon May 04, 2015 6:20 pm

adherbal wrote: We've just finished an exporter today - for 3DSmax only I must admit. I've had a look at the OBJ file format and I think we could try to use this instead. I believe a fair amount of 3D software supports that?
Maya can export Wavefront objects (not sure for import though), and Blender (totally free/open source 3D tool) can both import/export this format.
Software-wise, to import 3D objects you may have a look at the assimp library: http://assimp.sourceforge.net/lib_html/index.html
It can import lots of 3D formats in its own internal format.This would allow anybody to import its prefered format :).

Assimp is a bit hard to compile on windows (at least with GCC) but it is feasible.
There is a tutorial on using this library here: http://ogldev.atspace.co.uk/

Imarion

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by bebro » Mon May 04, 2015 6:41 pm

Are we talking the older 3ds format? It's relatively common indeed, but it should not be confused with the newer .Max format because of the software's name 3d Studio Max/Autodesk 3ds Max). The newer format puts .max as ending, as opposed to .3ds.

Long story short - from what I know .max is way less accessible for tools and software other than Autodesk 3ds Max (which isn't cheap), while the older 3ds can be read by a number of common 3d programs.

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.3ds:
While the 3DS format aims to provide an import/export format, retaining only essential geometry, texture and lighting data, the related MAX format (now superseded by the PRJ format[citation needed]) also contains extra information specific to Autodesk 3ds Max, to allow a scene to be completely saved/loaded.
Overall .obj seems a good choice for a more common format, provided there are no other issues with it (conversion-related or so).

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Qwer28 » Mon May 04, 2015 6:58 pm

Why is wildcat better then A6M2 zero? I think zeros was better.

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Ballacraine » Mon May 04, 2015 7:35 pm

I think you need to define 'better'.

IIRC Zeros are faster & more agile but a lot lighter & more fragile in construction.

Wildcats are solidly built but not as agile.

Then you have the pilot skill variables.

8)

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Qwer28 » Mon May 04, 2015 10:29 pm

Kill ratio 7:1 for zero tell everithing i think.

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Erik2 » Tue May 05, 2015 10:15 am

Qwer28 wrote:Kill ratio 7:1 for zero tell everithing i think.
Same exp level and strength for both units involved?

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by bobk » Tue May 05, 2015 12:01 pm

Never knew that, must be early war, what is your source of those numbers please?

This is what I found on a quick search of Wikipedia:

When it was introduced early in World War II, the Zero was considered the most capable carrier-based fighter in the world, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range.[1] In early combat operations, the Zero gained a legendary reputation as a dogfighter,[2] achieving the outstanding kill ratio of 12 to 1,[3] but by mid-1942 a combination of new tactics and the introduction of better equipment enabled the Allied pilots to engage the Zero on generally equal terms.[4]

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Re: Fantastic game - here's my first impressions

Post by Ballacraine » Tue May 05, 2015 6:48 pm

As stated in the game, early war Japan had well trained experienced pilots which helped their early war dominance.
The Zero carried no armour for lightness, speed & agility & lacked self sealing fuel tanks.
That is why so many turned into a fireball under a lucky / well aimed burst

The Wildcat was a much sturdier aircraft, but early war its pilots lacked experience.
The pilots visibility was hampered by the fuselage design, which didn't help inexperienced fighter pilots.

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