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Knights of the sky logo

Simulations usually rely on the high-tech hardware they are mimicking for charisma. But here is a game that stars Fokkers and Sopwiths that has its own distinctive style.

L Knights of the sky ooking down on the muddy hell of the Somme is a sobering thought. Europe is killing itself 5,000 feet below and all that holds you aloft is a precarious plane made of nothing but plank and plywood. To add to the terror Richthofen, the Red Baron, is hunting down allied pilots in the early morning clouds. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Knights of the Sky recreates the air wars of 1916. You are a pilot in the formative years of air combat, one of the brave few whose names became legends. High-tech jets are all well and good, but flying on a wing and a prayer has a terrifying edge, and this piece of software catches the atmosphere of innocence and fear well: back when flying by the seat-of-the-pants was the way you learned not hyperbole.

Aces high
It is late Spring, the Germans still rule the skies, but better Allied planes and more pilots are beginning to erode the Jerry’s advantage. You join the war as a young recruit with only a few flying hours logged, but ready to risk your life in ramshackle machines. The aim is to survive the war and to become an ace. The options that face you are simple: join the war straightaway, practice the various duties you will perform at the front, go head-to-head against a chosen ace or hit the comms options and fly for fun against a friend.

Practice follows the well worn, and reassuring, MicroProse path. Different missions and levels of difficulty can be mixed up as you try your hand in all of the game’s 20 planes. It is here that the planes reveal their strange characteristics: foibles that you have to learn to live with. Jet jockeys will invariably try to pull high G-manoeuvres, tight turns and afterburning tricks only to find that primitive prop systems cannot actually go ballistic. These planes have to be coaxed rather than flown, nursed into climbs and edged out of stalls. Try and Immelman turn here and you will find out why the move was revolutionary.

The manual recommends that you try to fly the standard dogfight moves: trust them they know what they are doing. Stick with the program and you will survive the first fight; rush straight for the front and you will find that beautiful new flying jacket is full of holes. New tricks have to be learned and all the regular flight sim tricks have to be unlearned.

Knights of the sky The Blue Max
At the front line life is harsh – you can determine how harsh at the difficulty level stage – as day after day you are sent on missions to bomb, strafe and shoot down the dreaded Hun. The trouble is that they are trying to do the same to you.

The missions are varied enough to keep even ace killers happy: balloon busting, trucks strafing, escort duty and air superiority each have their own tricks. Balloons are defended by triple A but rarely fighters, so the kill count will stay low but you will stay alive. Strafing is barn-storming stuff, screaming in low and level, but continually risking ground hits. Escort Duty is made tough because you have to keep pace with slower observation planes and try not to accidentally shoot them down. Air Superiority is best for pushing up your ace rating, but because whole enemy wings can be encountered by a single plane, your flying life span is not assured.

If you do massive damage to the German war effort you win medals and promotion, score five kills and you become an ace and a target for the second, deeper game motive. A war of egos rages between Allied and German Pilots. The best from each side are feared by many but sought by the few. As your reputation grows, so will the clippings ledger and gossip tally that tell you where to find the opposing aces. Some foolhardy aerial killers directly challenge Allied pilots to duels above a certain town at a set time; high noon at 5,000 feet! Other, wiser, aces have to be hunted down. These are the richest rewards to heroic Knights: dogfights against the true greats.

The Sopwiths, Eindekkers and Fokkers feel unnatural at first, but the simulation has been built to be flown and not crashed. Knights is friendly to the new pilot, allowing the fun of flight, but removing the dangers or things like landings and armed opponents. Supporting these ‘cheats’ are logical key commands that make your flight with MicroProse a pleasure. If you have not got the courage, know-you or if you lack the skills to land, pilots on easier levels can simply employ the ‘auto land’ function which brings even the shakiest of pilots down to earth. If a plane is in the distance then a zoom is available – because it is not clever to shoot down your own side – to scope out the other guy’s colours before opening fire, even in pause mode!

Knights of the sky The Red Baron
Knights of the Sky has a fresh feel, unrestricted by all the techno jargon that surrounds the latest, supersonic flight simulations. It handles the flying well, creating a squadron of similarly dissimilar planes. None of them are brilliant, but some are very good. The lack of clutter-up front, though, is what marks it out as an ace in its own right. Enemies have to be spotted and tracked, not locked on radar. Waypoints are still science fiction here, so pilots have to follow landmarks or compass for directions. These make the whole flying experience more of a game, forcing greater control and interaction.

Hunting down the enemy’s crack pilots gives the fights a candid touch – was that red Eindekker really Richthoffen? They force more into the ‘between-flights’ section too. The rewards are not just medals, but the power to track down a vaunted foe. It gives you something to shoot for other than personal glory.
The flying is fun but slow, in terms of velocity not frame rate, and it is all too easy to become disorientated. Knights’ navigation is confusing, but then so was the real thing. Knights captures the First World War theme well, segmenting a story into the simulation.

Excellent 3D and static graphics ram home the message – this is the Amiga biplane sim. It can be an absorbing and thrilling aviation history lesson, but you have to find the period and subject interesting to make soldiering through the initial ‘duff plane and I am lost’ syndrome, worth it. Learn to fly one of these beauties, though, and you are guaranteed hours of testing dogfights to the death against some of flying’s greatest heroes.

Trenton Webb

Amiga Format, Issue 29, December 1991, p.p.120-121

"Excellent 3D and static graphics ram home the message that this is the Amiga biplane sim."

Knights of the sky
MicroProse * £30.99
  • Standard MicroProse i.e. excellent 3D action!
  • The ‘plot’ gives the simulation gameplay some focus.
  • Planes appear slow and the navigation confusing to jet jockeys.
  • Fight the great aces of World War I in dogfight duels.
  • Knights is definitely the king of Amiga biplane flight simulations.
Verdict: 88%

Tollkühne Ritter in fliegenden Kisten

Knights of the sky logo

Wenn Microprose eine neue Simulation herausbringt, sind die Erwartungen immer recht hoch – kein Wunder, Highlights wie „Gunship“ oder „F-19 Stealth Fighter“ bleiben halt unvergesslich! Kein Wunder aber auch, dass kleine Enttäuschungen nicht ausbleiben können…

Knights of the sky Genau so eine kleine Enttäuschung sind nämlich die Ritter der Lüfte. Wohlgemerkt nur eine kleine, und auch das nur gemessen am hohen Standard anderer Microprose-Simulationen. Bloß: Wieviel Auswahl hat der Doppeldecker-Fan am Amiga schon? Die Cinemaware-Variante ist ja am Index gelandet, „Red baron“ dreht nach wie vor ausschließlich am MS-DOS-Himmel seine Kreise – genaugenommen muss man froh sein, dass wenigstens diese historische Luftschlacht nun endlich vom PC umgesetzt wurde! Als Hintergrundszenario dient das Frankreich der Jahre 1916 bis 1918. Mit einer der dazumal üblichen Klapperkisten kann man nun mutterseelenallein herumkurven (Training), in Einzelduellen gegen 16 verschiedene deutsche Flieger antreten („Dogfight Encounter“), sich per (Null-) Modem spannende Luftkämpfe mit einem Freund liefern oder versuchen, sich im Ersten Weltkrieg ein paar Orden und Auszeichnungen zu verdienen. Zuerst ist aber mal eine Entscheidung über den Schwierigkeitsgrad (fünf Stück) und den gewünschten Piloten fällig. Entweder man strickt sich seine Identität selber oder schlüpft in die Rolle eines von zehn Instant-Helden, die Auswahl reicht vom absoluten Greenhorn bis zum erfahrenen Flugveteran mit satten 78 Abschüssen am Konto. Dann braucht man noch eine Mission, und schon kann’s losgehen.

In der Luft sieht man seine Umgebung einschließlich Freund und Feind in flotter aber etwas ruckeliger Vektorgrafik, der untere Teil des Bildschirms wird von den ziemlich groß geratenen Cockpit-Armaturen eingenommen. Mit dem Funktionstasten lässt sich die Perspektive wechseln (linke und rechte Seite, nach hinten und Verfolgansicht), gesteuert werden die Kisten mit Maus, Hoystick oder Tastatur. Das Abschießen der feindlichen Maschinen ist übrigens gar nicht so leicht: Weil die Bewaffnung sich auf altertümliche MGs mit geringer Reichweite beschränkt, muss man seinen Gegnern fast hinten drauf fliegen, um sie vom Himmel zu holen!

Soweit, so gut. Auch, daß die vielfältigen Flieger und Missionen (das feindliche Hauptquartier fotografieren, Begleitschutz, etc.) für Abwechslung sorgen, ist fein, genauso fein wie der „Campaign Generator“, mit dem man sich eigene Aufträge basteln kann. Weniger fein ist hingegen, dass man immer dieselbe Cockpitgrafik zu sehen bekommt, egal in welcher Kiste man sitzt. Noch weniger fein ist, dass sich die Maschinen auch im Flugverhalten nur geringfügig voneinander unterscheiden. Da helfen selbst die ungeheuer atmosphärischen Zwischenscreens und das Bißchen Klaviergeklimper nix - Knights of the Sky ist bestimmt kein schlechter Flugsimulator, aber von Microprose hätten wir uns doch ein bisschen mehr erwartet…
(C. Borgmeier)

Amiga Joker, December 1991, p.?

Amiga Joker
Knights of the Sky
Grafik: 72%
Sound: 41%
Handhabung: 70%
Spielidee: 72%
Dauerspaß: 69%
Preis/Leistung: 58%

Red. Urteil: 69%
Für Anfänger
Preis: ca 104,- DM
Hersteller: Microprose
Genre: Simulation

Spezialität: Zwei Disks, Codeabfrage aus dem hübsch gemachten Handbuch.