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Video Game: Vector Thrust

Vector Thrust is a cel-shaded action-arcade flight simulator. Made by one-man studio Time Symmetry along with a motely band of assistants from around the world who contribute in varying amounts, it aims to be an "airborne adventure that offers something for everyone." Notable is its rather brutal AI as well as an increasingly ridiculous amount of playable aircraft. Vector Thrust was designed from the ground up with the intent for moddability, and since its (now-closed) release as an Alpha, many fans have already taken it upon themselves to offer a variety of mods and add-ons with varying complexity, ranging from additional aircraft paint schemes and HUD redesigns to even completely new aircraft. Also worth keeping in mind is the game's striking similarity to the classic Ace Combat and Air Force Delta video games- indeed, both Time Symmetry and the fans see it as a Spiritual Successor to those two franchises.

In terms of gameplay, Vector Thrust throws all semblance of realism out the window from the get-go with tons of missiles available for use, forgiving flight physics, and simplistic controls that emphasise a team-based, competitive atmosphere both offline and online. That's not to say that the game is completely focused on random battles and multiplayer- in accordance with its focus on moddability, Vector Thrust offers a solid story-based campaign as well as a fully-functional Map, Mission and Campaign Editor.

Vector Thrust can be found here and on Steam here.


Tropes:

  • Ace Pilot:
    • Well, what did you expect from a Spiritual Successor to Ace Combat to have?
    • In Skirmish Mode, the AI is modified to have distinct personalities representative of the common Ace archetypes as well.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: From what we've seen, the universe of Vector Thrust is another variant of Ace Combat's Strangereal.
  • Adventure Guild: Several organisations of dubious legality, like Bastille and Heron will get mercenary pilots an airbase to call home and a stream of study contracts from nations around the world. Most of them specialise in operations within the Kingdom, however.
  • After the End: From what's been released about the final campaign, this seems to be the setting.
  • A.K.A.-47: Thoroughly averted — unlike Ace Combat, every aircraft and weapon variant has its correct name and generally a correct description, save for the ones which are so obscure that the team couldn't find any information on them.
  • Art Evolution: The game's general aesthetic, colour palette and music has gone through three major iterations through its two-year development. Vector Thrust started off as a minimalistic game with royalty-free soundtracks and a colour palette similar to most modern games. After its Alpha-funding ceased the game gradually evolved a more colourful environment and aircraft as well as sourcing an independent musical composure. Finally on its Steam release the music changed from synthetic orchestra to live recordings and the HUD grew more complex and prominent.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The AI in the game is coded to resemble human behaviour, with several different 'persona's that can range from highly aggressive to being more calculating and cunning. One of the main principles for AI development is that "anything the player can do, the AI can do too."
  • Artificial Stupidity: They still like to crash into the ground though, but given it's often when somebody is harassing them from a higher altitude. Additionally missiles can be quite dumb.
  • Artistic License - Physics: Usually, every aircraft starts off with an Angle-Of-Attack Limiter engaged to limit airframe stress, but the player can manually disengage this to perform some crazy moves in aircraft that couldn't usually even begin to think of pulling them off. We're talking things like A-10s pulling Cobras.
  • Attack Drone: The PDU-17 drone functions similarly to a missile, save for the fact that it totes a small machine gun that it uses to spray enemy forces with before crashing into them and detonating in a powerful explosion.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Hitting the limiters in a one versus many situation- yes, removing the alpha safety may allow you to powerslide like nobody's business while pointing your nose at an enemy, but then you end up a big, slow target for their buddies.
    • Long-Range Air to Ground Missiles. So, you've got a heavy missile boasting the power of a large bomb that flies at low altitude to avoid enemy fire? Great, now it flies into mountains and other terrain features.
    • The KC-172S-1 in the Alpha. The missile's range is so extreme, it exceeds the radar range of the aircraft carrying it!
  • Battleship Raid: The Ziz Hunt battle scenario. There's also rumors about a new EOS naval superweapon.
    • Revealed to be the EOS-04-1, which puts that poor Ziz next to it to shame in sheer size.
  • BFG: The 135mm cannons carried by destroyers can and will shoot at your craft, blowing you out of the sky if you're unlucky enough to be hit. The Zi Z carries two 80mm cannons that will annihilate anything they can get a bead on. Player controlled examples include the GAU-8 Avenger 'tank buster' cannon and the larger bore cannons carried by Russian aircraft.
    • The Type-72 "Condor" Airspace Denial System, or the Kingdom's last 'vengeance' weapon against the outside nations. A triple-barrelled monster railgun designed to establish complete airspace dominance over the ruined Kingdom and drive out all corporate and mercenary forces exploiting its makers. Being the Kingdom we're talking about here, it's not exactly finished when you take it out. Good thing it isn't too otherwise you'd have trouble even getting to it.
  • Bigger Stick: The entire point of the Challenge Mode — unlocking more powerful aircraft as the player progresses
  • Blatant Lies: Updates every week!
    • Report 048: Game Editor Part II, states in the first line that it will not be in fact, about the game editor. It is.
  • Crew of One: Averted — for some reason nobody is flying the planes.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Aircraft remain fully functional even with one HP left. Lose that however, and you'll randomly burst into flame and explode if somebody so much as sneezes at you. Given the difficulty and the weird directional damage systems of the game, it's usually very hard to get into a situation like this.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Subverted. Anything the AI can do, the player can do, and vice versa.
  • Cool Plane: With the amount of aircraft to choose from, there are too many to count. Examples can include the Su-47, Su-27, F-14, MiG-29, F-15 and F-22. There are variants of each plane that are even cooler though, like the F-22X Alvaraptor, which is a F-22 with forward swept wings, the F-15J Kai+ from Patlabor, and the Su-37 "Terminator".
    • While not necessarily cool in-universe, the SBA-21 'Gemini' heavy bomber certainly qualifies- it's a massive bomber twice the size of a B-52, developed during the 1960s. While antiquated, it utilises a very unique 'air-mine' defence weapon that will give any attacker trying to get an easy kill from behind a nasty surprise.
  • Cool Boat: Vector Thrust doesn't skimp on this area as well, boasting watercraft ranging from the Karel Doorman class frigates, Arleigh-Burke class destroyers, numerous fast patrol and torpedo boats, as well as aircraft carriers like the Nimitz. More radical designs include the British STAC trimaran carrier, the Sea Shadow stealth destroyer, as well as the NAM-16 double-decker design. There's also the absolutly huge EOS-04-1 Leviathan.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: The EOS-01 ZIZ flying fortress can soak up an entire Hyperspace Arsenal of missiles.
    • With its redundant hull system, the Leviathan looks like it's shaping up to be one of these.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Go on, fly straight towards that AA battery.
  • Easy Logistics: As per Ace Combat standard, you have unlimited fuel. Subverted with the Fuel mutator for Skirmish.
  • Elite Army: Legion numbers only around 200 pilots but is feared across the world for their heavy-handed tactics whenever they intervene to stabilise a nuclear conflict.
  • Enemy Chatter: Standard for this kind of game.
  • Epic Fail: Time Symmetry decided to have 6 challenges for each plane in the Challenge mode. Given the amount of aircraft in game this amounted to over 1000 challenges. Time Symmetry responded to this by introducing a procedurally generated challenge system, but the computer ended up breaking the game with the sheer amount of variables in each challenge. Time Symmetry now has to manually create each of the ~1200 challenges by hand. In light of this he jumped ship and decided to make one challenge for each aircraft, albeit longer ones that explore multiple facets of aircraft performance.
  • Fail O'Suckyname: AI players you face in Skirmish include the standard AXE, VIKING, BLADE, RIBBON, and others. Or, you'll be hounded upon by people like FAIL, GASSY and JUICY.
  • Fragile Speedster: Several planes like the NF-104A which has a usable rocket engine mounted onto it. Exaggerated with the F-15 Streak Eagle and P-42, which both can outclimb a Saturn V rocket, but carry no weapons nor armour at all.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: The Linear One-Way Accelerator, or L1WAC. It's hidden in the game files and can one-hit kill any unit with a chemical energy blast.
  • Game Mod: Half the reason for the game is the ability to tweak absolutely anything you can think of.
  • Geo Effects: Electronic Warfare is ludicrously complex. It can get to the point where units are flying through jamming, false-information and IFF disablers while receiving electronic support, being hidden by a 'stealth hole' and being mirrored to grant the illusion that there are more of them than there really are.
  • Glass Cannon: Most aircraft go down in two or three missile hits, and carry a Hyperspace Arsenal containing many, many missiles themselves.
    • Particularly noteworthy are late-game variants of the Starfighter family, which gain cluster bombs and anti-ship missiles in contrast to the piddly single unguided bombs and rocket pods used by earlier examples. In terms of air-to-air firepower they also gain another hardpoint for a semi-active radar missile, doubling their long-range anti-air power.
  • Guns Are Worthless: A special case, because guns are intended to be the inferior weapons, but they deal Scratch Damage, have a retarded aiming reticule that lies to you and overheat if fired continuously for more than a few seconds. A recent update really upped the damage on them, but good luck hitting anything with them. Hey, at least you can rest easy knowing that the AI can't hit you either at close range.
    • An even more recent patch now gives the gun enough accuracy to be a viable method of attack in head-on scenarios.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Standard for the series, though this may not work as well with the update that makes IR-missiles more receptive towards engine afterburners.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: The Pause Screen and several of the menu backgrounds have them plastered all over the place.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The achievement system, in particular the ones revolving around points.
  • Joke Character: The AFTI has no wings and is as maneuverable as a brick. The Surprise Fighter B also is an example of this — it looks like an upside down shark, for one.
  • Kill Sat: The Ion Rain Mutator involves several dozen of them raining L1WAC beams onto the battlefield.
  • Leitmotif: The Vector Thrust theme and a host of variations makes it into nearly piece of music in the game. Weirdly, one of the few places it doesn't appear is in the Title Theme.
  • Lethal Joke Character: The antique MiG-21 and its family can carry all-aspect missiles. Bonus points if you've modded the game to give them some scary weapons. A more strange variant of this is the Su-74 Tukreb, a variant of the Su-47 with its wings slapped on backwards. Its performance is pretty similar to its predecessor and some may argue its conventional control surfaces are also pretty cool as well.
  • Level Editor: Incomplete, but it's there. Currently there are functional Map, Mission and Campaign editors to allow players to make their own single-player campaigns or one-off Battle Scenarios.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Su-27 and its later variants boast above-average armour ratings as well as a formidable arsenal aimed at decimating formations of enemy aircraft or performing precision strikes on ground targets.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Another secret weapon, the Micro-Missile Munition, or MMM-1C. It packs a 14-round salvo and carries hundreds in reserve. Even its Skirmish mutator is called Itano Circus.
    • The Leviathan's CIWS missile tubes certainly invoke this- you'll need to keep your speed up at all times to avoid being blown into next week by a constant stream of munitions.
    • Also occurs whenever you have three or more enemy aircraft lodged firmly on your six.
  • Mega Corp.: Several- notable examples include Sigsawa Heavy Industries which pioneer the Experimental Operations Systems, and the even larger CRADLE conglomerate, the largest heavy arms manufacturer in the world.
  • Mighty Glacier: The A-10 and its less common counterpart the Su-25 make an appearance. They may be slow and ungainly, but can take the most punishment out of any aircraft family in the game- and they carry a massive warload: The A-10 in particular is the only aircraft in the game capable of mounting 6 AGM-64 missiles and firing them all at once, making it one of the heaviest-hitting attackers in the game.
  • Mile-Long Ship: The EOS-04-01 Leviathan measures just over 1500 metres.
  • Mooks: The concept was introduced with an update that added the 'Grunt' AI.
  • More Dakka: To a T. The More Dakka mutator increases the Rate of Fire of aircraft cannons, which already follow basic design principles, i.e.: rotary cannons like the Vulcan fire faster than revolver cannons such as the ADEN.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: The Alpha Campaign has you thrown into random engagement with no continuity or context. Justified, in that it's a demonstration of what the game's early-alpha campaign mechanics were capable of. There's an obscure fan-made mod that attempts to add some backstory to the campaign.
  • Nose Art: Some of the schemes for the A-10A and J-35 have them.
  • One-Hit Kill: The fate of any unfortunate victim of a L1WAC blast, MPBM or SWBM.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: A Skirmish Mutator invokes this trope and references it by name.
  • One-Woman Wail: Present in the Main Theme
  • Pillar of Light: A SWBM detonation sends a massive, neon-blue pillar of meson energy into the atmosphere, along with a rapidly expanding shockwave of destruction that will swat any nearby planes out of the sky.
  • Private Military Contractors: Several 'corporates' exist- examples include APEX Solutions, a relatively small company focused mainly on logistics and aerial power, and Samson Strategic Services, one of the largest contractors in the world offering a massive range of logistical, tactical and force application power to anybody capable of affording its services. Worth noting is that while some companies are depicted as the stereotypical Blood Knights itching to make a profit from any means possible, there are just as many companies concerned with their ethical and social imagery in the public eye and maintain a strict sense of justice and discipline in their employees.
  • Recurring Riff: Each of the game's campaigns will have a unique riff popping up in their respective soundtracks. The game's signature theme is also suggested to show up across each campaign's music.
  • Research, Inc.: Sigsawa Heavy Industries spearhead research and development initiatives in order to sell the latest heavy industry and force-application technology to nations and manufacturers. It's rumoured that their 'Red Crow' internal development wing's handle on technology is lightyears ahead of their public releases.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: AI pilots are not afraid to leg it if they're facing down a technologically or numerically superior foe, or are out of ammo.
  • Shout-Out: Several!
    • The MPBM and SWBM from Ace Combat are hidden in the game files.
      • Two more to Ace Combat Zero: "Solo Wing" is an achievement for surviving massive damage. An achievement for hitting enemies head-on is called "Fire Away, Coward!"
    • The track 'Foxtrot 14' is one massive musical shout-out to the composition style of Ace Combat 5.
    • An achievement for using napalm bombs is Fire Bomber.
      • A paintscheme for the Falcon CCV is very similar to the one used by Basara's.
    • The Overdrive Mutator bears a heavy resemblance to TRANS-AM.
    • The design of the L1WAC, mutators such as Instagib and Volatile Unit, and the command menu, were said to be inspired by Unreal Tournament.
    • Update 0.9104 gives us the MiG-28.
  • Scenery Porn: The unique art-style of the game can create some rather striking environments to fly in, like these.
  • Shown Their Work: Time Symmetry has a thing for pulling up the most obscure variants of aircraft from the deepest, most heavily censored parts of the internet to put into his game, much to the chagrin of the dude tasked with writing descriptions for them.
  • Spinventory: The Hangar does this in lieu of having an actual view of a hangar. Not having made landing gear models also probably necessitates this.
  • Squad Controls: Almost ridiculously elaborate for an arcade sim. The player can direct teammates on weapon usage, formation spread, rules of engagement, and other tactics.
  • Standard Status Effects: Standard for the genre, anyway. If an aircraft has datalink capabilities, they will be able to perform one or more of the following:
    • Stats Up: Increases radar capabilities for allied aircraft nearby, allowing them to detect both stealthier aircraft and more distant aircraft.
    • Data Sharing: Coordinates FCS to aircraft around the user, allowing them to fire at targets that their allies have locked onto even if they can't detect or aren't in radar range.
    • Detection Hole: Hides nearby allies from radar, allowing them to make an unexpected entrance later on. However, it doesn't hide them visually, meaning a sharp-eyed player may see them early and raise an alarm.
    • Mirror: Receives and broadcasts false electronic signals in response to enemy radar searches, granting the illusion that there are more units out there than there really is. Advanced variants can even fool enemy radar into locking onto them, wasting precious ammo for the enemy if long-range attacks are launched. At close range however, enemy pilots will realise that the mirrored aircraft are nothing but thin air.
    • Lock Disabler: Prevents enemy aircraft from locking onto allied units around the user.
    • IFF Disabler: Disables the computers from determining who is an ally and who isn't. Not so effective against lone wolves, but against close-knit squadrons can be absolutely devastating if they can't visually confirm their teammates.
    • Map Disabler: Disables the global map to hide allied tactical movements from an enemy AWACS or similar aircraft.
    • ESCM: Electronic Support Counter Measures that neutralise buffs given by enemies to their allies.
      • Worth noting is that the more aircraft are affected by the user, the more strain on the system, meaning occasional disconnections that temporarily put the ECM or ESM out of action for a second or two. In addition, aircraft using Synthetic Vision like the ECR will render 3D models in place of radar contacts, meaning that they are especially vulnerable to electronic meddling.
  • Super-Deformed: Eggplane Mode.
  • Super Mode: A mutator for Skirmish mode allows the player and AI to toggle "Overdrive Mode". It looks like TRANS-AM.
  • Super-Persistent Missile: The QAAM from Ace Combat returns with varying performance based on what type of missile is being used. Older models like the Russian R-60 will be content with leading their targets, while more advanced models like the XAAM-5 will come back for another try if you manage to squirm out of their grasp.
  • The Order: A partially state-funded organisation of pilots, soldiers and politicians known as Legion is responsible for preventing another nuclear catastrophe on the scale that caused the Kingdom.
  • The War Sequence: The final battle of the Alpha campaign has a massive furball erupt above the ocean involving dozens of aircraft on your side and even more on the enemy's. In the unoptimised Alpha release this was usually enough to crash the game or destroy the frame rate.
  • Triumphant Reprise: Strike Force is a Triumphant Reprise to the Dreamers's theme, and then the Vector Thrust Main Theme is a Triumphant Reprise to the Triumphant Reprise of Strike Force while having a Triumphant Reprise to itself in the same song.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: Fully possible with the sheer amount of variants for each plane.
    • The F-104 Starfighter is a notable example as in addition to the YF-104 prototype, the game includes the preceding XF-104 experimental testbed, all the way up to the ASA/M, the final variant to be produced.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: An intercepted transmission reveals Overton, an intelligence agent contracted by somebody in the Kingdom to fill them in on the status of the outside world.
  • Wretched Hive: The Mushroom Kingdom is rapidly turning out like this, after nearly half a century of neglect by the victors of the Grand War- it scores 0.095 on the world' economic rating system.

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