This is ambitious offering is a truly a top-of-the-line flight simulator. It is at least two generations ahead of anything Microsoft has produced. It is simply stunning.
It is simply the most accurate historical recreation of World War One air combat that exists, and is very close to the most accurate that can be imagined.
However, there are some drawbacks.
The aircraft are absolutely gorgeous, with an extreme attention paid to every detail. Each aircraft seems truly unique and individually valuable. The terrain and clouds are quite good and there are a variety of detailed ground objects.
The flight model is very high-fidelity. The sense of flying an aircraft is intimately there and you can almost feel the aerodynamic forces as the air moves over the plane. Even if you don't want to dogfight it is worth it just to fly. Each aircraft handles differently and details such as rate of climb and diving speed that were more important in WWI than any other time period are present. Any movements on the plane's will create drag and cause it to lose speed, making air combat more like a game of chess than anything else.
The damage model is also fantastic. Parts of the aircraft can bend as a result of damage. An aircraft that has lost a wing will gradually pick up speed and crumple like a butterfly as bits are torn off by the airstream. The internal structure of the aircraft are modelled and a bullet to a spare or the pilot can take out an aircraft, while a hundred bullets through the fabric will have no effect - this leads to a lot of different situations. The artificial intelligence is quite strong in some areas and can manage energy states to end up higher or faster than the player. The AI also exploits dives and shows considerable potential for future development. The two-seat observation aircraft can either user their gunners to defend themselves or use their fixed guns to attack the player!
As of the time of writing the product is still in development, with future versions and patches planned. In addition, it is possible to buy new aircraft as they are added. This, combined with the strong mission editor that comes with the game ensures hundreds of hours of gameplay.
After the product is activated you can use it offline for as long as you want (unlike the original release). The new release (Iron Cross Edition) also comes with a greater variety of aircraft and features.
It has stiff system requirements and is detailed enough that only a few aircraft can be in the air at one time. These system requirements tend to climb as new patches are released (there isn't a roll back capability - so you can't stay with earlier versions).
It is extremely strongly recommend to have a 3d (twisting) joystick or rudder pedals. The padlock system is also a bit primitive and there aren't good visual warnings for stalls or overspeeds (In other words it is easy to fly too slow or too fast). This means it is much easier to use with a force feedback joystick and a head tracking setup such as free-track or track-IR both overcome these issues. The game is still very playable without this equipment - just a bit harder to handle.
The End User Licensing Agreement is one of the worst I've seen. The game cannot be resold and is permanently tied to whatever e-mail address which is used to register it. I believe it even says that the services can be terminated at any time. However, I've talked to the owner of the company and some of the employees and they seem fairly nice. But essentially your buyer's rights are worse than those of a serf and you're relying on the good will and gentlemanliness of your software's owner (which doesn't happen to be you). The campaigns also require a periodic internet connection (although 3rd party campaigns and the single missions do not).
At the time of writing the AI sometimes gets stuck using a shallow turn as an evasive maneuver - which makes them very easy to shoot down. The more skilled AI sometimes dive into the ground while attacking the player. In addition, the AI is much better with some aircraft than others. After a while the AI can seem repetitive. The modelling of bullet dispersion is also very simplified. However, this may all change as development continues.
As a serious flight simulator it may take some patience to learn. This is a game about beauty, about calculating turns, not about holding down a trigger and blasting everything in sight. It isn't so much the greater challenge as the different orientation that may turn some people away. However, for those like Gerard Manley Hopkins, it will be bliss:
"I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,--the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!"