Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol – Turn based aerial combat? Yes indeed, it does work.

Normally I shy away from "Free" these days. That usually means the games is crap, or you can play for around an hour, perhaps an entire day and then you need to start handing over the cash to get any further. Games like Big Win Football and Gear and Guts immediately spring to mind; great games ruined by the incessant need for cash to progress. But I digress.

Ace Patrol is new game by Sid Meier and 2K Games. The premise is quite simple, you fly your squadron over enemy lines and complete missions. Your pilots gain experience with each mission which leads them to perform more aerial maneuvers. More maneuvers means more attack and evasive tactics. It also means your best pilots get access to special weapons and armor.

I went through the first free mission with pretty low expectations. The idea of turn based combat seemed a little uneventful, but to my surprise it was quite good. It really comes across like chess. I make an opening move, the computer counters. I then counter that and the computer counters my attack or defense. Before you know it, you’re in the heat of battle with the cut scene showing you dishing out damage and looking for a way keep up the pressure, or if things go wrong, caught in the crosshairs and looking for a way out. It became quite exciting.

I was actually doing quite well with new aerial tricks and weapons upgrades until my main pilot was shot down behind enemy lines. I had to go into the next mission missing a key man. That made things noticeably tougher.

The other advantage of turn based allows you to quickly jump in, makes a few moves and come back when you have more time. This means it’s a great game for waiting in line, to play during lunch, as a quick break to the day without having to invest hours of time in a single sitting. You can set up your moves and come back later.

Since the initial game is free you have to buy the mission packs – British Pack, French Campaign, American Pack and German Pack for $0.99 – $1.99. That seems pretty reasonable, although it seems they should all be $0.99 or one bundle that gets you all of them. Right now you have to buy the British Pack, then the "bundle" separately. Even so it’s $4.99 and makes Ace Patrol infinitely expandable.

The only real complaint is the "rescue" in-app purchases such as Field Hospital and Ambulance Corps. When you lost a pilot behind enemy lines you can pay to retrieve him or her in a more timely manner. I don’t mind paying for the content, but this is an unnecessary expense. Let’s not be greedy. Even the "skins" seem a little greedy to me. I know work has to go into the art, but make that part of the campaign price not a separate purchase just to change the look of the place.

Overall, Ace Patrol looks and plays pretty well. The first campaign is short and makes me want to buy the rest of the content. I have no doubt I’ll grab the British Campaign and if that goes well, the rest of the bundle. This is a decent way of offering a game and additional content at a slow and steady price. If more "free" games came across like this it would vastly improve the App Store.

Anyone else playing Ace Patrol? Have you purchased any of the additional content or more importantly, have you been shot down yet?

Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol

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