Day 219 – Longbow 2

All in all, I’ve not had the most successful weekend and my attempts to play Longbow 2 haven’t gone well. It appears to be one of those games that just doesn’t like modern PC’s. I’ll decided I’d write a post anyway and will carry on from here if I ever get it running properly.

Longbow 2 was originally released in 1997. The fact that it was developed by Origin is well hidden and it was marketed under the Jane’s brand with Origin only being mentioned in the small print on the back of the box. As you would expect it is another helicopter simulator and basically a new and improved version of Longbow 1. This time it supports 3dfx graphics acceleration and has an interesting campaign mode which models a battlefield rather than having a set mission structure. I gather that this means that your actions directly affect the war, and it also introduces a random element meaning that you can replay the game and get a different experience each time. Despite the name of the game, there are also extra helicopters to fly in addition to the Longbow to add a little variety.

Usually I like to read a games manual before I start, but I decided to make an exception here due to the scale of the thing. There are in game tutorials which is where I decide to start instead. I did play Longbow 1 some time ago so I’d expect be up to speed fairly quickly anyway. As much as I love space sims like Wing Commander or X-Wing, hardcore flight sims are not my thing. I still decided to start off on all the default realism settings and give it a chance before I tone them down but I’m using casual rather than realistic mode. The mindset of the flight sim player is not something I’ve ever truly understood. I saw an article on The Gadget Show last week about a guy who had built himself a simulator in his house and was going to do a flight around the world complete with crew in this thing, over the course of several days. I would imagine this boils down to flying in a straight line for hours on end and would be about as interesting as driving a dead straight line through a desert. At least in Longbow 2, I’m going to have some combat to liven things up, but not before I go through the basic training.

I gather that this game is still popular with flight sim fans and there are instructions on the web about getting it running on modern machines. The crux of this is to turn off your extra processor cores.  Having done this the game initially appears to work in Windows 7 apart from the intro movie using an incorrect palette. I jump into the basic flight training, which covers simple maneuvers, taking off and landing. The instructions are all given verbally and it’s easy enough to follow. Some of the terminology seems a little strange like “applying collective” to increase lift but you get used to it quickly enough. Despite being such an old game, it worked perfectly with my modern joystick/throttle. I bought a Saitek X52 Pro ages back, mainly for playing space sims but it comes into it’s own with this sort of game and there is something strangely satisfying about controlling the game without using the keyboard at all.

I can’t say that I’m immediately impressed by the graphics although the terrain may well be more interesting in a real mission. The ground is extremely flat and there is a strange effect with the ground texture. It appears to stretch and contract as the helicopter bobs up and down. It may be an issue with the glide wrapper but it’s been ok in other games. I’m unable to get any screenshots as Hypersnap decided to play up on me but there wouldn’t have been much to see in these training missions anyway.

The training mission went well enough until the game decided to crash at the very end just after I landed. Not to be put off, I restarted and had another go at the next mission which was basic Blackhawk training. The Blackhawk is a much smaller, less well armed helicopter than the Longbow and only includes a side gun which I was about to learn how to use when the game crashed again…. At this point I decide that I’d better give this a go in XP instead, so I boot to that only for the game to not even want to install. I’ve gone back to the website giving advice on getting the game running and having read the whole article, the guy who wrote it can’t actually run the game himself any more without these crashes and has also given in being able to play it. This is despite being a big enough fan to have been playing it for 12 years before that and setting up the website in the first place which doesn’t make me hopeful that I’m going to get this running. It’s looking a bit like my attempts to finish all of Origins games may have just hit a brick wall with this one. I could try using a virtual machine running Windows 95 but that would mean that my joystick won’t work since there are no Win95 drivers for it and 3D acceleration support has been extremely poor when I’ve tried it in the past. It could be a case of either having to wait for Windows emulators to catch up before I can play this one, or putting together a Windows 95/98 PC.

It’s not something I’d use much but I quite like the idea of building a Windows 98 PC actually. Dos games are covered by Dosbox which works with more or less anything you throw at it as far as I can see, with the possible exception of some of the Glide games. I’ve struggled with quite a few Windows games though. Virtual machines are fine for running applications but there are always issues with controllers, sound and graphics in games. I expect that building a retro PC wouldn’t cost very much so I think I’m going to give it a go. I’ve probably got most of the parts I need kicking around already. I will need to buy a 3dfx graphics card (preferably one of the last generation) and an old fashioned joystick. Until I get that sorted out then Longbow 2 is on hold.

I got my Kryoflux on Saturday so that should mean I’m moving onto Ultima 1 instead but I’ve not been able to get the Kryoflux working either after trying it with four different drives. No matter what I do, I’m getting a no disk error with any disk I try. As far as I can see, I’ve either been extremely unlucky with the drives I’m using or it’s somehow managed to break itself in the post. I’ve not given in yet but I suspect it’s the latter and I’m going to have to swap it, which is something of a pain. I’ve ended up spending a large part of the weekend fruitlessly playing around with floppy drives, although on the bright side, all my old drives appear to still be working if I connect them to a PC in the usual way and the disks I’ve tried actually read ok which is something of a surprise. I expect it will be a minor miracle if my Ultima 1 disk still works but I’m more hopeful than I was.

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