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Posted on Nov 2, 2020 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features



Greg Johnson

IL-2 Sturmovik: Flying Circus – Volume I is part of the IL-2 Great Battles series

Publisher: 1C Game Studios

Price: At time of release it was $79.99 (sale price $39.99 at the time of this article)

Passed Inspection: Flight modeling, graphics, game interface

Failed Basic: No active in game guided tutorial to help you learn how to fly.


  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: 64-bit Windows® 7 (SP1) / Windows® 8 / Windows® 10
  • Processor: Intel® Coreâ„¢ i5/i7 2.8 GHz
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 660/Radeon HD 7770 with 2GB VRAM or better
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 35 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: DirectX®-compatible flight stick recommended
  • RECOMMENDED: Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system


  • Intel(R) Coreâ„¢ i7-2600K CPU 3.40GHz 3.7GHz
  • Windows 10
  • 32 RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
  • 250GB Main SSD ATA, 1.5TB Secondary ATA
  • Three Gateway KX2703 monitors using NV Surround video for 5760×1080 res
  • Razor Nari Headset, Razor Blackwidow Chroma keyboard, Razor Viper mini
  • Thrustmaster 16000M Joystick

A mystique hovers around World War I aircrafts and pilots. A romantic air that drew the adventurous towards it regardless of the danger and aviation in its infancy was dangerous. The average life expectancy of a WW1 pilot was just 69 flying hours. There is your first challenge. Get through 69 hours of gameplay without a pilot death. Many pilots lost their lives during take-offs, landings and training. Several aircraft were so difficult to fly that they earned the nickname “coffin”. More than one earned that moniker.

Shot Down

Every new airplane and innovation brought its own successes and failures through lessons that were very hard earned. In the Flying Circus, you will certainly learn the same lessons and how each aircraft of that era had its own personality and quirks. My experience was tainted by my heavy hand due to the forgiving nature of the seasoned and powerful engined aircrafts that I had flown in previous flight sims and games. My lack of experience of how these early planes flew caused me to understand why life expectancy was so short in the early aeroplanes. With the low engine power and fragile frames, the early pilots had to do way more than just guide the plane.

Crashed on the Tracks

I was used to flying the WW2 type aircraft and had to really back off and listen to what each of these aircraft were telling me on an individual basis.  I was even less than a rookie at first, but after many hours I finally began to understand each plane and started to find my favorites. In the process of learning this game I began to have a lot of fun. You will be challenged at first to just stay in the air. Once you get that under control, you will find many additional challenges in this game to keep your attention. I am sad that the support for this game has waned and would love to see more people find the enjoyment of early aircraft flying.

Set in a 10,000 sq. km. map of the Arras sector in WWI including cities, towns, airfields and the famous No-Man’s-Land. You can fly above the trenches and craters around no man’s land watching artillery blasting the ground below you. You can fly as either the Entente or the Central Powers.

Squadron from Above


The models are detailed and the interiors of the cockpit are very nice. Instead of a pilot you can also fly as an observer/gunner in properly equipped aircraft. It has realistic ballistics modeling,  gun-sight visuals and operation, detailed physics modeling and performance as well as detailed damage modeling to simulate damage to planes made of lighter materials. Watch your wings fold up and break apart as you dive too fast or collide with another aircraft, both spiraling to the ground in a wooden embrace.

The aircraft are well modeled to start, but you can customize many aspects of the plane including custom skins support and a variety of components.The following are aircraft available to pilot or in some cases be the gunner are:

  • Albatross D.Va
  • Bristol F.2B
  • Fokker Dr. I
  • Fokker D.VII and D.VIIF
  • Halberstadt CL.II and with 200hp
  • Pfalz D.IIIa
  • RAF S.E.5a
  • Sopwith Camel
  • Sopwith Dolphin


The game also includes cars, trucks, tanks, trains, observation balloons, flak and artillery guns placements along with interesting towns, rivers and other quality graphical elements that show the beauty and devastation in the terrain. Even watch artillery bombard no man’s land and the ground forces will attack you if you get within range. Weather can be random or set which can add a lot of challenging value to the flying. You can turn the identifying markers off for a more realistic and challenging game.

I don’t own a VR setup, but this game has me seriously considering taking the leap with VR support. With the slower flying aircraft with open cockpits and the wind whistling by I can see this being a VR heaven for the VR flyers.

Sun Over the Wings

There is a mission editor, quick mission generator, multiplayer modes of Co-op and Dogfighting. The game offers quick missions, designed patrols and multiplayer. Quick missions are a good way to earn your wings and test out each aircraft. It was fun to set random aircraft and numbers and find yourself in anything against anything. Very cool.

The scripted campaigns are a good way to get the feel of how it must have felt to work with a group during that time. The AI seems to do a good job. There is enough here to keep you busy for quite a while. I didn’t get to spend much time in multiplayer mode as groups that fly together seemed to get together on a day that I was not available. The number count there was not as much as I had hoped.


It took me a while to get used to the setup as I had not flown the IL2 games before. Give yourself some time to learn the keyboard controls and you will be grateful for the knowledge. If you don’t get frustrated easily just go flying as you learn the controls as you go.

I jumped right in and found that these aircraft will take some time to learn individually. The flight modeling of the aircraft is quite unique to the era. The aircraft behave differently than modern aircraft, but feels accurate to the times. Try to fly them like WW2 aircraft, you will crash often and may become frustrated. For instance, if you dive faster than the aircraft frame is capable, you will rip off your wings and wonder what just happened. Then again, you can just do that with each aircraft to see where the stress tolerances break.

At first, I flew the Camel and kept putting it into an unrecoverable spin. I still do that often with that airplane. It’s a good plane, but you can’t over fly it or it gets mean. I noticed that on the DR I and some others, you have to keep the stick forward. Because the lift of the wings is so great, those airplanes just want to climb nose up all the time. Others, like the Dolphin, one of my favorites to fly, are much more forgiving and you can relax a little more in the cockpit. Some aircraft want you to tweak the engine, especially during dives, to keep from over revving and causing engine damage. The things these early pilots had to do to just stay in the air makes it hard to imagine how they ever had time to fight.

Dolphin Turn

I found the interface of the game to be mostly intuitive and felt that I didn’t have to work extremely hard to find the things I wanted to find. The menus can go deep, but are not a real burden.

There is not a way to fly the plane from a following camera view as an arcade style and you are pretty much in the cockpit all the time. This allowed me to really get the feel for the visual impairments that each plane has compared to each other. Some aircraft like the Dolphin have a wide open view and others the field of vision is really narrow. If you are looking for arcade style flight, this is not the game. Flying Circus puts you in the cockpit and lets you experience what the pilots of that era did. It is quite enlightening. There are different camera angles to choose from for viewing which can be fun from a visual aspect.

Heading into Action

Flying required staying focused on the task, including checking your six and turning your views to look around a lot. It reminds me why the early fliers wore silk scarfs. They had to move their heads around constantly or be taken off guard. This would chaff their necks raw against their collars. The silk scarf kept the chaffing minimized to some degree. The game is an immersive experience and all those factors seem to be included. If you do VR, you may want to get that silk scarf too. Once you are used to the controls and have some hours of flight time the experience keeps getting better.

I completed the Kaiserschlacht scripted missions which took me from Lechele over no-mans-land and back with a squadron of DR Is. During those missions, we went enemy aircraft and balloon hunting and artillery spotting. We made defensive and offensive patrols, defended our spotting balloons and intercepted bombers. I repeated several missions due to poor decisions on my part. I got too close to ground forces on one occasion, crashed into a balloon on another, crashed into an enemy aircraft and decided to do a chase dive and ripped off my wings on yet another.

The Baron Flies Over the Rhine

My allies were pretty good at taking out some enemy aircraft which is good since there are a lot of planes out there. I eventually learned how to attack the enemy aircraft by aiming for the engines and pilot. You can land a lot of hits on these aircraft and if you dont hit a vital spot it is like nothing happened. That makes sense to me for canvas covered aircraft.

No Man’s Land

 I noticed that different damage to the enemy showed up as different effects. For instance, fuel line hits versus radiator hits created different types of streaming off the aircraft and with those hits you didn’t see the plane go down immediately. If it didn’t make it back though a kill credit would show up when it crashed. If you shot the pilot, the plane would go down quickly. With that in mind, if you notice a lethal hit to the plane you didn’t have to chase it down and could move on to other targets. You will see smoke fire and other damage effects as you play. I flew one DR I  into a major dogfight taking hits and giving them. I looked around the plane after the battle and was shocked to see the top wing on the left side and the bottom wing on the right side completely shot off and bullet holes everywhere else. I had to fight the controls all the way back. It was a real interesting and fun personal task to get that severely damaged plane back to my home field. I made it and survived even though I nose flipped the plane during landing. 

Nice Speed

I hope you will have as much fun flying in this game as I did. Give is the right amount of time and you will. If I get VR, I will try to do another review from that perspective as well. Any review you can walk away from…

Attacking a Railyard


There will be a learning curve, so take your time learning the keyboard and setting up the camera views and other options for each plane. Push past any frustrations you may have at first and you will grow into the fun of the game. It did take a little while for me to get there, but it was worth it. I find I myself missing the flying time and jumping back on every chance I can now. It is a completely different experience than the high powered aircraft, in a good way.The game is quite beautiful to play with the detailed aircraft skins, terrain, weather and flight characteristics.The flight variation between planes all kept me challenged. I do recommend that if you have interest in the WWI era of flight that you try it out. If you search the internet for IL2 Flying Circus you will find tons of photos and videos of the game with impressive displays of dogfights, and tutorials, showcasing the beauty and fun of this game.

Armchair General Rating: 91%

Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 not for solitaire, 5 suitable for solo)

About the Author

Greg Johnson worked in education in the areas of interdisciplinary art, photography, web design and graphic design and psychology for thirty years. He has taught all age groups from K-12 through higher ed bachelors programs. He also records music, audio and is a singer/songwriter. Greg is involved in board game design and is immersed in the game industry. An avid gamer, Greg enjoys all genres of games that can be found in board games, tabletop miniatures, video games, including online MMORPGS.