I've had my eye on Aerofly FS 2 (Steam) for a while now. The flight sim made in Germany by IPACS recently came out of early access, so I decided to pick it up! I was especially excited because it has native VR support, which I would have loved in the first sim they released. These are my thoughts after a few hours of flying around. Does it hold up to the standards of German manufacturing quality?
Update: I've re-reviewed Aerofly FS 2 recently. I recommend reading it after this article; the new one focuses more on VR, while this is more about the bigger picture.
Aerofly FS 1 - An Airworthy Ancestor (with flaws)
It's predecessor Aerofly FS 1 (previously just "Aerofly FS") had very enjoyable physics paired with beautiful scenery, which was what pulled me in for glider flying. While Condor has a superior flight model, the much better visuals do have their appeal, too. I need the right mix of both.
But for for motorized planes it lacked any system depth. No clickable cockpit or engine start up procedures. The physics were still very good, but for me the general operation of the plane is just as much part of a simulation as flying it - which is why I clocked quite some hours in the glider, but merely a few minutes in any powered planes.
As you're probably aware, most gliders cannot start by themselves. They need either an aerotow or winch launch. Only the latter is available in FS1, but it's the cheaper and therefore (where I live) the more common way of taking off. The entire thing worked well and made for a pretty realistic take-off to landing experience!
For powered flying the two biggest complaints are definitely the lack of any checklist procedures and the "small" area of Switzerland the game offers. It's a decent size for GA flying, but anything quicker, like the F-18C, would not be able to live up to it's full potential at longer distance flights. Not that it mattered that much, because no other aircraft included was suited for longer range flights.
A New Hope
Aerofly FS 2 directly addresses the issues the first game had. It comes with clickable cockpits, more intricate plane systems, global map coverage and has a freely accessible SDK. Improvements to flight physics, weather simulation, etc are being made constantly, as well as the addition of long(ish) range planes like the A320, 747-400 and the free DLC Dash 8 Q-400. It all sounds like a very solid foundation for a flight sim.
And it has that native VR support pretty much every other flight sim is struggling with, paired with it's great visuals a very promising package.
It All Boils Down To Features
If it looks so promising, why are recent Steam reviews merely "mixed"? And overall it's just "mostly positive"?
Well... It lacks everything other flight simulations offer. The advertised global mesh coverage doesn't include airports around the world, you only get around 150 in the south western USA - that's it. North eastern USA is a $15 add-on. Switzerland is another $15 add-on. There are a whopping two ORBX airports ($25 and $35). And beyond that there is just no noteworthy scenery. Want to fly somewhere else? You'll need to make it yourself, no airports available otherwise. Not even autogen textures, just blurry green.
Plane systems are still superficial, there are no system failures, no ATC, no AI traffic, no multiplayer, no 3rd party addons (yet) to fix any of it. Not even winch launches are in the game, even though FS 1 had them. I think you see where this is headed. Physics are nice, graphics great, plane selection decent, but it lacks details and features. For a fully priced simulator, which is supposedly no longer in early access, this is just too little! It's good enough for the mobile version of the game, sure, but from a desktop simulation I expect a little bit more. I don't want to play a mobile game in high resolution.
Oh yeah, talking about the mobile game, the interface was clearly made with touch screens in mind. Which makes it... Mediocre at best when using a keyboard and mouse. Hoping for a different UI on PC eventually.
VR - The Saving Grace?
Then what about the praised VR? How well does it work? Well, it works just fine, and that's that. Credit where credit is due: It is one of the best looking games for VR I own which offers a steady framerate that doesn't make me sick (looking at you, DCS World). But the lack of immersion, and that's what VR is all about, is not fixed by simply making it three-dimensional. Adding VR doesn't complete the game and is no replacement for anything I mentioned above.
Still, for a fluid and straightforward VR flying experience it is probably the best game you can get right now, I will give it that.
The (Harsh) Verdict
Everything about this game makes me want to set up my flight stick, put on the Vive and fly around in a glider for hours. But whenever I spawn in the ASG 29 I sit on the ground, think to myself "Argh, that's right, no aerotow", and take a second to wish Aerofly FS 1 had VR instead. I press Q (lift up) and zap, I'm up in the air. "Meh." What's the point when I don't even get to take off?
So I load up the Cessna 172 instead, looking to fly a few laps around the airport. I load in on the runway, engine already running. "Dammit!", I mumble, remembering I wanted to install the cold and dark mod for it long ago. But there's no parking spot to spawn in at this airport anyway, so why bother with startup and taxiing? I look around the very well made cockpit and contemplate what exactly stops me from enjoying this flight simulation. And I concluded it's the lack of immersion due to lack of depth. To me at least, aviation isn't just about physics that happen up in the air. It's a fascination with these simple yet complex machines called airplanes. And in it's current state, everything that's not directly related to flying is lacking.
6/10. Looks pretty, but a little too shallow. - Mazzn
Would I recommend you buy it right now? I think you can already guess my answer. No, at least not as an alternative for any other simulators.
For simulation depth all the major sims (FSX, P3D, X-Plane, DCS) are at least on par or better, even when using only default or freeware planes, while offering much more in terms of scenery and plane variety. Since glider flying without any way of launching is a little pointless in a simulation, no matter how nice the physics and visuals, I won't factor that in at all - sorry. I'll stick to Aerofly FS 1 for now. If winch launching (or aerotow, I'll take either) returns to the game, it will 100% bump it to the top of my list for gliding though!
Personally I found good VR to be the only selling point it has right now, but don't buy it looking for a VR flight simulation. In it's current state it's just a good game. If that's enough for you, then you should get it, especially with more features on the horizon - it's not like IPACS stopped developing. When looking for proper VR simulation though, FlyInside for FSX and P3D or DCS World are better choices. Since I didn't try X-Plane 11 in VR yet I can't compare it to either of these, but feature wise it should be a good choice, too!
I think Aerofly FS 2 has great potential, but the guys at IPACS need to flesh it out some more. Dear IPACS devs, please keep working and adding features, I hope I can update this review to a 10/10 one day! :)