Firaxis and Sid Meier have been behind some of the best turn-based strategy games, including the Civilization series and X-Com: Enemy Unknown. Now they have released the free-to-play World War 1 fighter plane turn-based game Ace Patrol. You take to the skies in WW1 era fighter planes against the Germans, in a variety of missions that revolve around dogfights. Ace Patrol's greatest strength is that the game is great fun whether you're a fan of WW1 dogfights or not, and in no time you'll be fighting mission after mission, upgrading your pilots, and doing your best to keep them out of POW camps or the hospital.
As it is on the mobile, the strategy is streamlined in comparison to Firaxis's PC games, and battles never last too long which is great for gaming on the go. Your planes and the Germans planes are usually on opposite sides of the map, and you move around on a hexagonal grid. You get a few choices in how you would like each of your planes to move, whether it involves trying to climb higher in the sky for the advantage, or trying to take a sharp turn to avoid getting shot, or special moves like the Immelmann, where you can quickly turn the tables on any pursuing enemies. The environment also comes into play with ally and enemy bases providing flak cannons that will quickly bring down planes that linger in their enemies' zone. Clouds also provide a hiding place to escape from the enemy, or to ambush them. There are a few different difficulty levels should you find the game too easy. Should you choose harder levels you earn more points for succeeding in your mission, but the enemies become a lot smarter and you'll find you have a lot more trouble keeping your pilots in the air.
What do you get for free?
While the game is free-to-play, you can only play a portion of the British campaign. Although in the amount of time you are given you will have access to a variety of missions. For the price of a cheap app you can unlock the rest of the campaign, or for a bit more you can unlock 3 other campaigns for the Americans, French and Germans which still offer the same variety of missions with different plane colours. You can also purchase abilities such as instantly recovering all your fighter aces from POW camps, injury or damaged planes. Although purchasing these will remove any incentive to play carefully.
The visuals look good on the phone. The planes have a nice cel-shaded appearance and everything else is clear and easy to understand. The only time the visuals can fall short is when it gets hard to distinguish which plane is which, when the battle gets built up in one spot.
There isn't much music throughout the game, and there is limited vocals for your pilots to tell you if something on the plane is disabled.