DTG Flight School received strongly polarized reviews and I feel that some questions need to be answered. Is it the best sim of the century?
How people see the Flight School
Usually, I like to write my reviews with no preconceived ideas – that is why I do not read reviews of products I have not reviewed. This time, it was impossible. There were so many reviews. And people fought over this game on the forums and on Facebook so hard that I am sure there was blood if some of the reviewers met in real life.
So let me use my blog to clear some confusion and give you the best idea about the quality and value of Flight School as your next sim. I will start with a small recap of the best and most helpful reviews I read or heard. I love them. Reading those reviews was like reading 5-star reviews of “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Their authors left the cinema after the first 5 minutes of the movie – just like some of the reviewers of this game. This is why these reviews are so insightful.
All screenshots were captured at ultra high settings.
“Toss in the simple goal of racking up Flight hours that equate to real achievements and earning licenses, and now, all your flights matter, now getting back on the ground safely means something, now you care”
“What I found is that as an instructional sim, this performs great, is stable, visually appealing, and gives great instruction for those new to the flight simulation genre”
“DTGFS is EXTREMELY UNDERRATED. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a good game and a solid effort by Dovetail Games”
“This is a good simulator at a great price”
+ Better graphics than FSX.
+ Great night lighting.
+ Runs smoother than FSX.
+ No crashes”
Enough said. This game / sim is great. Actually – it is such a nice piece of software that one of the quoted users did almost all of the nine missions. Can you believe it?! Flight School was such a nice toy that he spent an hour or maybe even two (without time compression) playing!
Apparently – this is how far you can go before Flight School (FSc) overwhelms you with the great views, beautiful scenery, nice aircraft (both of them) and the amount of knowledge it provides. I especially appreciate a review of an established flight-sim youtuber who apparently enjoyed this game so much that he completed 8 lessons (of 15) and 4 missions (of 9). All this in a short time between May, 3rd and today (May, 28th). This shows how in depth the training is – even an experienced flyer (I think this one may have the real world experience as well) he completes 8 lessons in a single month. It’s like a real flight school! This also shows how much this sim gives you. It is like the real world flying. Maybe even better – more exhausting. And harder on a person. This is why you should savor the experience. Do not just get flying. Taste it. Slowly. Just like the people who bought this game. You may think it is a good idea to just install it and fly (let’s say) from Los Angeles to San Francisco. In fact – it is not. According to the achievements statistics – less than 5% of users dared to do a one hour flight (based on Achievements statistics almost 2 weeks after the game was released).
I am among those who flew for more than one hour and I can tell you – this is an experience you will not forget for a long time. Keep in mind that you have no autopilot in either of those planes. Flight School is not about aircraft systems. It is focused on the joy of flying the plane. Just take your Cherokee (or your Super Cub) and fly. Trim it correctly and re-trim it every time the conditions change. There is no rudder trim so you will be correcting your heading every minute (or every five minutes if you not anal about following your desired path). This is how a real plane is handled. You need to keep your hands on the controls. Thankfully the Flight School chose not to include the AP so you can enjoy the real experience. And by real I mean something extraordinary – two planes which aerodynamics is based on FSX default planes with minor tweaks. That is huge! (Cherokee aerodynamics are based on slightly tweaked FSX AI plane – how cool is this! Super Cub is just a re-engined FSX Cub).
I mentioned the achievements. I really like them in FSc. Instead of the boring list of more than 300 awards, badges and rewards in the old Flight Simulator X we have 43 achievements that can be unlocked in FSc. This is a great improvement – DTG removed unnecessary clutter and made a selection that is really helpful, as it suggests what to do next. For example – fly the first lesson and you will be awarded “Reach for the Skies” achievement. By the time I finished writing this review – 46% of Flight School users reached for the skies. As the first lesson is limited to “line up the runway and take off” – I presume that most virtual pilots just crashed into this hangar at the edge of the field. But this is ok – the game is meant for newbies. Some people used the free flight mode and contacted the ATC – they unlocked another achievement – “Radio Waves” (more than 31% of FSc users did that!).
There is one think I am not sure about in Flight School. It’s the syllabus. The learning curve can be a little to steep. Just look at the stats. Of each ten users who managed to take-off in the first lesson – only seven got through the second (Straight & Level). Maybe the second lesson should be easier? But this is not the worst – later on the drop-out rate of this school is huge! Less than half of those who completed the first lesson got back on the ground safely in the Approach and Landing lesson (21,5% of all the users of FSc completed this lesson).
Actually, I have no idea what is wrong with this lessons. For me – everything seems perfect. The instructions are brief. It is not as in old FSX lessons where you had to read a lengthy text before a flight and then you were overwhelmed with detailed instructions. DTG did much better job choosing only what was most important. Take the landing lesson and compare the old and the new approach. In FSX the voice of Rod Machado does not stop. Rod is constantly speaking about how you need to adjust your pitch and power to stay on the glide slope. You may get confused with all the thinks he wants you to do. FSc shows a different approach. Forget about the throttle. Just pitch for the approach speed and everything will be fine. And it is! They are right! Well – most of the time. Maybe in 50% of the flights. Actually – in 30% (based on my tests). But this is much better to land in 30% of flights instead of being bored to death with some lengthy explanations, isn’t it?
I have to say it was the Radio Navigation Lesson that I remember as the best. Do not even try the radio-nav training in FSX. It’s hell! They show you all these charts and they give you information and details about your flight. Don’t they understand that I would buy a book if I wanted to read? I bought a Flight Simulator. I want to fly. FSX just didn’t let me. FSc is the opposite of this. Why would you need a chart when learning navigation? There is an instructor in your plane. He is there for a reason! One of the reasons is – he knows the frequencies and radials. If you are confused about what the radial is – he will explain it with a single sentence. So just set your frequency to 114.50 and fly radial 250. And then tune your radio to 113.00 and fly radial 130. Easy? Sure. Will you be able to do it later? Why would you even want to do it? This sim is about learning – not about using what you have learned.
To sum up my thought about the Flight School as a learning tool for newbies. It is great! Instead of boring, detailed lessons of FSX FSc provides short and easy flights that unlock achievements. It was so hard to go through all this material in FSX. They probably thought that someone wants to learn something. They even hired Rod Machado (click if you have no idea who he is) and made it so real-world-boring. FSc does the opposite. Lessons are short. Instructions are brief. They result in… achievements of course. And that is the best think about them.
Back to the reviews. Some people complain about various drawbacks of Flight School. They say that it is a limited version of the old FSX. They complain about the graphics. Or models. This is bad. Thankfully, some more experienced reviewers provided a good explanation of what was happening. The problem was – people just do not understand what this sim is about. Who is the target of this sim. And this is the problem. This is why this sim gets so many bad reviews. And it does not deserve them. They are clearly the result of misunderstandings and misconceptions on the part of some reviewers. I will quote several comments that show where the problem really is.
“This is a $15 game”. Sometimes “innocent” is included in such a sentence. When something costs $15 – you have no right to complain. What on earth were you thinking if you did? $15 is like 20 minutes of your work. Or an hour. Have anyone ever complained about what you did in a single hour. Surely not. Your boss has no right to complain about what you did in one hour. If you had two or three hours to do something – sure. You need to answer for all the shortcomings. But never when it just took you one hour. Or less.
“It is not meant for the users of FSX”. Clearly – it’s not. I agree. Do not get fooled by the fact that you will find an ad for this game every time you launch your FSX:SE. It is not for you. Was this game featured on most news channels where FSX users look for info and tips? Sure. But these press releases were also meant only for those people who never flown in FSX and they just wandered to a sim related youtube channel by pure chance.
The problem of “wrong people” who try to badmouth such a great sim is the same we observe elsewhere. These people remind me of those who complain about the movies. Let’s say that a couple goes to the cinema. They watch a romance and then he says that the movie was bad. What right does he have to say that? Romance is clearly meant for women. It’s his mistake that he went to the cinema. The same applies to her when he drags her to a war movie. It does not matter whether she is shocked by the combat scenes or just complaints about the acting. Not her movie. She is banned from all comments.
Another problem of reviewers is that they do not appreciate the good and concentrate on the bad. The most serious offense of those reviewers is that they do not praise the 64-bit architecture. It’s like you have gone to see “Fifty Shades of Grey” and you are one of those pathetic people who gave it a 1-star rating on IMDB. If you did give it such a bad rating – have you considered the quality of cameras used in making of this movie?! Have you?! Why not?! Obviously, this matters and the quality of the cameras should be put in front of such irrelevant factors like the story or acting. And do not forget – what right you have to give it a 1-star rating if you paid only $6 for the ticket. Even with your girlfriend’s ticket it doesn’t make $15 so you obviously have no right to complain.
Sorry, I am digressing. Back to the indubitable advantages of the “Fifty Shades of Grey”… errrr I meant the Flight School.
Missions. I love them. Each and every of those nine missions is so good that I flew them all, one by one. And I even went back to one of them to fly it again. It was an hour of pure joy. Every time I completed a mission I felt the thrill of satisfaction. And the achievements… it was just icing on the cake.
You may think that it is not a lot. Just 9 missions. And there is no way to download some freeware missions or buy payware to expand your choice. But you are mistaken. It’s actually better not to have a wider choice. You have no idea how much time I lost searching for a good mission for me back in the days of old poor FSX. I was never sure which one to fly next. Various locations, various planes. It was like standing in front of toothpaste shelves in a department store. Which one should I choose? Which is best for me? Maybe I should go elsewhere (download sites / shops) and look for something else? FSc clears this problem. It is as I was back in the communist Poland in my childhood days. There was a single toothpaste on the market. This was so good. So easy. Someone (the party) made a choice and people had to be happy with it. Isn’t that amazing?
The whole sim follows this righteous pattern. Do not get me wrong – it is based on the old Flight Simulator X. But a serious amount of good work was put into it so that it does not follow FSX’s mistakes. FSc was created in a careful process of selection. Good features were kept and the trash was removed. Let’s look through the features that were left out.
Autopilot. FSX strengthens this awful push-button-pilot attitude. We tend to fly on autopilot instead of hand flying. FSc solves this problem. AP on Cherokee is labeled as unusable. Good.
Aircraft fuel and payload settings. Have you ever set it in FSX? What a mistake on the part of MS to include this feature. Obviously, you want to fly aircraft with full tanks. So this is what you get in FSc. And what if you need to refuel? Say – you have just flown for 5 hours and your tanks are nearly empty? Just look for a bigger airport – there is a fuel pump – just like in FSX. You really should try exhausting your fuel and refueling – you will get a badge for this!
Kneeboard. I do not know if you have used this in FSX. You know – this little panel with checklists (mostly for default planes) and navlog. It was completely useless. Why would you need a navlog on a cross-country flight? It’s better to fly without one. Flight School teaches you what the best practices are – nav log is gone. Checklists are gone too – not that you need them in FSc planes.
GPS. It is there. Under Shift-3. It would be shameful to mount a GPS on a plane in flight school. Imagine this – a student is supposed to listen to his instructor but instead he looks on a screen. He might even notice that they are in a wrong place. That would be bad. This is why the GPS was only added as a 2d panel.
Hi-res textures in cockpit panels. Do you know how much resources goes to rendering these hi-res panels use? Like the ones Carenado, A2A, Aerosoft or PMDG planes use. This is a FPS killer. With the most detailed panels, you may loose as much as 0,01 frames per second! Fortunately, FSc is optimized. No hi-res textures.
The nav log was removed and so were the headings and courses from the flight planner. You have your GPS with a magic magenta line. What else do you need? Good choice – there is less confusion now.
I especially like the menu. One youtuber showed some confusion in his video. He was not sure whether he should have clicked the right or left arrow (which stood for “end” of for “back”) after he finished his flight. But confusion is a wrong word here. It was not confusion. He just enjoyed the challenge of exploring the User Interface. I, myself still enjoy the challenges of this UI. Why would anyone want the simple menu of FSX. The “click million times to get what you want” approach is much better.
Some people complained that the “failure” notices during lessons are badly programmed. I can not confirm this. They are perfect. For example – the instructor gives a command to perform a stall and then (before you stall the aircraft) he gives another to keep 90 knots. Do the latter and you will fail. Didn’t you ever have a teacher that tried to confuse you to make the lesson a little harder? Not harder. What I meant was… more educational. Do not think it is a case of bad programming. This is just an additional challenge. We like challenges, don’t we? So let’s look at the challenges. Private Pilot Checkride. “Perform a slow flight” proceeded with “Speed up to 90 knots”. Keep the 90 knots and you will fail. Steep turns check – “Turn when ready” and when the turn is started – “keep the heading of 300”. And then fail. I really like this. Even with the good flying skills I got to perform the check ride several times. If you wonder how many FSc users completed this check ride – 5 for every 1000. I will repeat this – FIVE for every thousand. Do you see how good this game is? Buy it. You will be able to join this elite group!
I did. I am part of this elite group of 0,5% who completed the Private Pilot Checkride. While I was testing this game I unlocked 35 of 43 achievements so I am not only one of 5 people in 1000 who completed the PPL(A) training but I am also one of 8/1000 who completed all the missions. I am also among 2,2% of Flight School users who clocked 5 hours of solo time in two weeks since the game was released.
This is the best sim of the century. It is such a good product that I do not think I can stand its quality and greatness anymore. So I will do, what other reviewers (no matter whether they were for or against FSc) did. I will quit playing this game.