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Video Game / Bomber Crew

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Bomber Crew is a Roguelike video game made by Runner Duck in the vein of FTL: Faster Than Light. In the game you'll manage the crew of a World War 2 bomber based off the Avro Lancaster, flying missions against Nazi Germany. Later DLC enabled the player to play an American campaign manning B17 flying fortress.

The game was released on PC through Steam on October 19th, 2017, and was then ported to Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on July 10th, 2018.

It was followed in September 2020 by the Science Fiction sequel Space Crew that puts players in control of a spaceship as they battle their way across the galaxy.

This game provides examples of:

  • Abandon Ship: The "Bail Out" ability given to pilots allows the crew (except the pilot) to grab parachutes and jump out of the aircraft, allowing them to potentially make it back home safely even if the bomber is destroyed. While they will always survive the landing, they may be captured or go missing if they don't land on friendly terra firma.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Despite being a member of a national air force, you have to earn money by meeting mission objectives to purchase upgrades for your plane.
  • Alternate History:
    • The final mission of the campaign is to drop a Grand Slam bomb directly on Hitler's Bunker. If you succeed you'll end the war by cutting off the head of the German high command.
    • In the USAAF campaign, the Nazis have not only completed the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin in 1942 and actually solved the Interservice Rivalry that kept it from ever being assigned an airwing, but they have somehow got it from Stettin (now Szczecin), which is on the Baltic Sea, out through the Kattegat and Skagerrak, across the North Sea, through the Straits of Denmark (or even more unbelievably, through the English Channel), into the Atlantic, around France, Spain, and Portugal, through the Straits of Gibraltar, and into the Mediterranean Sea, where it is operating near the Tunisian coast. For those not clued in, one of the biggest weaknesses of the Graf was that she was so big, she would have had immense trouble navigating any one of those features on her own, let alone all of them in a single trip.
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  • America Won World War II: Subtly mocked in the USAAF DLC trailer.
    RAF narrator: "Ah another beautiful day at the-"
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If you lose your aircraft and entire crew, you will have to buy completely new personal equipment for their replacements, but at least some of the upgrades you bought for your previous bomber will transfer over to the new craft, and you can recruit new crew at the same primary skill level.
    • The first patch added a Slow Time button, which you can use if the action gets to heavy to keep track of everything. Not using it during a mission adds a modest bonus to your experience and cash rewards.
    • The second patch added a button to lock your pilot in his seat, preventing the player from accidentally choosing the pilot when moving someone in the nose to another station.
    • The ammo-feed mechanism allows guns in the tail turret to reload indefinitely without having to run to the ammo dump, eliminating very long and very regular ammo runs. In a second layer of anti-frustration features, this capability was eventually patched in as an available option for all turrets, and is standard on all guns mounted on the B-17.
    • Your radio operator can learn the Auto Tag skill, which tags all the enemy fighters in the area for a short time, helping you tag large numbers of fighters and pesky-close up aircraft that you're having a hard time keeping in the reticle, or possibly even finding. It'll even tag the stealth Ho 229 for you.
  • Anyone Can Die: Your bomber crews are vulnerable and will die if they got shot too many times or the plane explodes.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • You have to tag attacking aircraft for your gunners to begin firing on them, even if the fighters have already wounded your crew or aircraft.
    • Even after tagging enemy planes, there's no way to tell your crew to prioritize and the decision of who to shoot at is entirely on them. It's not uncommon for them to blast wildly at a maneuvering enemy plane in the distance, while a whole flight coming straight at you from a different direction blast holes through your plane.
    • You also have to tell your turret gunners to get more ammo when their machine guns run dry. If you don't order them to reload, they'll just sit in their empty turrets and do nothing.
    • In when a fire breaks out, crewmen will just stand in fire and burn to death till you tell them to move. You also need to click on a precise spot on the fire to get a crewmen with an extinguisher to fight the fire, or else they'll just stand in the fire and do nothing. This was corrected in the sequel, Space Crew, which has a "fight fires" button that will automatically send any crewman with an extinguisher to fight the closest fire.
    • Every so often gunners will aim or blast away at a target they can't hit while ignoring a target they can, such as the top turret attempting to aim at a target beneath the bomber while ignoring a target coming in from above.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Sending out a lone Lancaster on a mission is something the Royal Air Force rarely did in real-life, and likewise, the USAAF rarely sent out lone B-17s. Lancasters did operate solo on sub patrol and air-sea rescue missions, but a strategic bombing mission requires at least 4-8 Bombers flying in formation to be able to effectively support each other and deliver enough bombs on target to actually have a noticeable effect. This apparently doesn't apply in the game's world; see Made of Explodium below.
    • The real life B17 Flying Fortress had a crew compliment of 10, but has only 9 crewmen in this game, notably missing the co-pilot and his station. The real life B17 always flew with two pilots, which gave it an advantage in comparison to the Lancaster in that it had an extra pilot who could fly the plane if one was critically wounded or killed. The additional pilot seat also facilitated better training than the Lancaster, since it enabled a senior flight instructor to fly with the pilot he was training and take over if necessary, whereas the Lancaster had only one pilot seat in an elevated position, preventing a flight instructor from even being present with trainees during flight.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: 20mm gun mountings in the nose and tail turrets. They're enormously powerful, have huge range, and make a mockery of the armor of enemy heavy fighters, but they chew through ammo quickly and carry relatively little of it, and as such, necessitate long and frequent trips to and from the ammo dump that the dorsal and ventral turret don't have to worry about due to being right next to the ammo dump. This is, however, subverted by the final version available, which is ammo-fed, and thus quite practical.
  • Badass Crew: A skilled bomber crew verges on being a one plane airforce. Even if they may die in the line of duty, it's not uncommon for a crew to become aces several times over, do as much damage as an entire bomber wing with a single plane, play a pivotal role in several major operations, and bring the war to an early close.
  • Been There, Shaped History: There are several "Critical" missions which touch upon historical World War 2 events. For example, the earliest one has you providing air support for Operation Chariot, bombing submarines and enemy coastal emplacements that threaten the operation's modified destroyer. note 
  • BFG: The Secret Weapons DLC adds 20 mm cannons for your turrets, which were actually field-modified into the ventral turrets of some Lancasters to counteract German night fighters with Schräge Muzik devices (though they never mounted it in other turrets), which is a positively enormous weapon for such a gun mount, to the point that Mk 3 20mm cannons in the nose and tail turrets add about 20% to the Lancaster's overall length.
  • Bloodless Carnage: If your crew is badly wounded they'll just lay down on the floor and require another crewman to attend to them with a first aid kit before they perish.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Flying at high altitude once you have warm weather gear - except for certain late-game enemies and aces, nothing can reach you at high altitude. Sure, it burns a little more fuel, but that can be solved with running a lean fuel mix, allowing you to slowly make your way to almost any target while most enemy fighters circle below and flak harmlessly bursts far below you.
    • Manual waypoints - you can often plot a roundabout route to your target and face very little opposition until you're very close to your target.
    • Ammo-fed nose and tail guns for the Lancaster. They're not flashy, they don't do any more damage than normal guns (in fact, until they very highest tech levels, they tend to do less, as ammo-fed guns are generally earlier gun models than the best normal guns available), they're very heavy, and they still have inter-belt reload, but they cut loads of micromanagement and save precious time that would otherwise be spent running to and from the ammo dump - time you might not have when you're under fire, and they allow your tail gunner and bombardier to be able to afford to wear much heavier gear without hindering their main job, which massively improves their and the bomber's odds of surviving.
    • For both the main campaign and the USAAF campaign, delaying one's progression by not doing the critical missions also counts. Doing the same three or four missions over and over again gets routine fast, and the rewards per mission are very small, but it's a great way to build your crew's experience and outfit your bomber on relatively low-risk missions. It even lets you face (and thus take out) enemy aces in circumstances where you're facing the ace on their own, which can trivialize encounters that would otherwise be That One Boss if they were mixed among regular enemies.
  • The Cavalry: Once your radio operator hits Level 9, they'll be able to summon Spitfires to defend your bomber from German fighters, and at Level 12, they'll be able to do it more often.
  • Christmas Episode: The Secret Weapons DLC, which is set around the holidays. It offers a couple of holiday themed skins for your plane, Christmas jumpers and knitted hats for your crew, and puts a Christmas tree in your ready room.
  • Continuing is Painful: Even though you get to keep some of your gear if you lose your bomber, the fact remains that if you get shot down, you're going to have a less well-equipped plane with a less skilled crew than before to try to catch up.
  • Cool Plane: Your bomber, which can be personalized with different paint schemes and nose art.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Your bomber and crew both look very cute and cartoonish. Oh wait, did someone just burn to death from a fire in the tail section?
  • Critical Existence Failure: Despite having its fair share of Subsystem Damage, it still shows shades of this; crew members can still walk and fight just fine even with only 1 HP left, and your bomber can still remain airborne and maintain altitude (albeit with reduced speed) just fine on one engine, but begins plummeting to the ground as soon as that last engine is gone.
  • Culture Clash: Played for Laughs in the trailer for the USAAF DLC. The sublime calmness of the RAF base and narrator are interrupted by the Americans arriving...via explosions.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Losing a critical system can rapidly result in a complete loss of your plane. For example: If you lose your plane's hydraulics while being attacked by fighters, your gunners can't shoot at the fighters effectively, which leads to several of your crew being critically wounded and unable to either provide first aid or repair other damaged systems or engines, as your plane is eventually shot to pieces and crashes.
  • Disposable Pilot: While all of your crew can die, the pilot is especially prone to it, since they stay at the controls when the bail-out order is given. Many players don't bother providing a parachute for the pilot at all, since the pilot having to leave the controls to grab a parachute is actually more likely to kill them than staying at the controls and attempting an emergency landing once everyone else has bailed out.
  • Eagle Land: The trailer for the USAAF DLC is firmly in Boorish category. However, the game seems to be a bit more Mixed with the B-17's larger armaments and strong armor along with their fight against Germany making up the "Beautiful" category.
  • Early Game Hell: At the start of your game, your plane is basically made of tinfoil, your electronic and hydraulic systems will constantly fail even outside of combat, and your gunners will have a miserable time trying to down enemy planes. Thankfully you can grind low-level missions to get your plane and crew into shape, but even low risk missions can go catastrophically wrong until you get some decent upgrades.
  • Ghostapo: Downplayed, but the ace piloting the Ho 229 is strongly implied to be an actual vampire.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    • Your bombardier is able to aim their bombs flawlessly in an era in which "precision bombing" basically meant "hitting the correct city", which is key to your crew's ability to do the work of an entire bomber wing on their own.
    • Your gunners will also likely rack up a 100+ kill count of enemy planes by the end of the campaign, when an average bomber's career would be lucky to get a single one.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: At the very highest levels of intel, the Ammo-Fed 20mm Twin Cannon Mk 3 becomes available, finally combining the overwhelming power of the 20mm cannons with an ammo feed that eliminates time-consuming and micromanagement-intensive trips to the ammo dump and finally makes it sensible to use them in the nose and tail turrets. With the drawbacks of earlier 20mm guns removed, they can trivialize German jets and heavy fighters that would otherwise be a much greater threat.
  • Just Plane Wrong:
    • You can make emergency repairs on an engine or fuel tank by climbing out on the wing. note 
    • The USAAF trailer shows an Enemy Ace in a Stuka attacking a B-17. The Stuka was a dedicated ground attack plane very unsuitable use as an interceptor, and unlikely to even be able to match speeds with a B-17, much less shoot one down.
    • The Lancaster can carry up to four X-4 homing missiles. While these air-to-air missiles were developed in WWII, they were German, and they were wire-operated and lacked the kind of pinpoint accuracy they have in-game, and never actually saw service, as the war ended before they could be delivered.
  • Kaizo Trap: This could happen when you're trying to land if you're careless or unlucky, due to forgetting or being unable to lower the landing gear, or crashing into trees near the airfield because your pilot can't line up with the runway due to one of your wings being shot off during mission. A particularly infamous case in the USAAF campaign is the loss of a single landing gear, as it is extremely difficult to survive doing a one-wheeled landing, and only a little safer to try a belly landing.
  • Large Ham: Most of the Enemy Aces.
  • Made of Explodium: Going hand in hand with the Artistic License – History entry above; apparently, a lone bomber is enough for a successful raid because the Germans seem to have made their factories and strategic facilities out of papier-mâché and dynamite.
  • Min-Maxing: Basically the entire goal of the customization system is to maximize the capabilities of your bomber, while making the least painful compromises possible to allow those capabilities within your weight limit.
  • More Dakka:
    • Turrets can be upgraded from two guns to four, and they generally have ammo-fed versions that weigh more, but mean you don't keep having to run to the ammo dump to keep your guns fed. Taken together, these can let the Lancaster have sixteen guns constantly firing without any more disruption than the time it takes to feed each new belt.
    • The B-17 can have up to seven gun positions (three turrets and four waist guns), all of which are always ammo-fed, meaning no lugging ammo around.
  • Mundane Utility: Gunner incendiary/HE/AP ammo skills have infinite ammo for the entire duration of the skill, making them useful for avoiding a long run to the ammo dump when you can't afford it, or even just cutting short a belt change during a tense battle.
  • Politically Correct History: Women and non-Anglo crew can be recruited to fly your Lancaster, and your B-17 can have an integrated crew. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Power Up Letdown: Lightweight Fuselage and Engine modifications will reduce your Bomber's weight to let it fly slightly faster and more fuel-efficient. However, this comes at the cost of dropping its survivability against hostile fire, allowing critical damage to crop up faster than with the Standard Fuselage mods.
  • Random Number God: Your Electrical, Oxygen, and Hydraulic Systems can fail on takeoff and during flight which is a serious problem note  but can provide free XP for your Engineer. This can be mitigated by upgrading them to Mk2 standards and above.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • One of the more challenging aspects of the game is managing all your systems, since there are more systems than crew members available to man them. While this may seem like a contrived mechanic to make the game more difficult, it is in fact accurate. The Lancaster really did only have seven crewman to man nine different stations.
    • Sending a crewman out on to the wing of a plane to repair damage may seem ridiculous, but there are in fact two recorded cases of this happening with a bomber crew in real life (one of them was successful, and the crewman sent out survived both cases)
  • Save Scumming: If your bomber is critically damaged or you've lost too many experienced crew, prior to crashing a player can shut the game down completely and restart it, bringing it back to the last save before choosing the aborted mission.
  • Schmuck Bait: Optional recon targets are often in the middle of heavy flak or radar search areas. Even when they're not, approaching the target results in a patrol of fighters immediately attacking you.
  • Shout-Out: If you defeat one of the Enemy Aces menacing your aircraft, he'll call back "So, the hunter has become the hunted. Clever girl."
  • The Squad: The crew of your bomber, which will hopefully survive long enough to become a Badass Crew.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Operation Limnos requires you to maneuver your bomber around a picket of German radar sites, to avoid detection and not give your target time to escape.
  • Stealth Pun: So in the above mission, you're flying a "Stealth" bomber.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Downplayed, but there are a few cases, primarily in the Secret Weapons DLC.
    • The Germans have a fully-functional Ho 229 in service, and it is not merely slightly harder to detect on radar, but fully radar-proof. Furthermore, the Ho 229 is carrying Ruhrstahl X-4 homing missiles, which while built, were never actually delivered to the Luftwaffe before the war ended.
    • The Germans field several Ba 349 Natters, even though the rocket interceptor only ever did a single (fatal) manned test flight. Furthermore, one of the German aces, Donna Kiel, has a Ba 349 Natter that is not restricted to a single pass.
    • In the USAAF campaign, set in 1942/43 in the Mediterranean theater, the Axis forces have Me 262s and Me 163s at their disposal, despite neither of them seeing combat until 1944
  • Subsystem Damage: Major sections of the bomber and individual components can be damaged by enemy fire. The flight engineer can fix subsystems such as the engine or hydraulics, but not damage to the fuselage.
  • Suicide Mission: Many missions will have you going up alone against incredible odds, but as long as you accomplish your mission goals it will count as a success, regardless of whether your plane or crew survives. However, there is a lot of money and experience to be earned if you bring your plane back safely.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The Enemy Aces are an... eclectic bunch, ranging from axe-crazy pilots firing incendiary missiles, to a strict German nanny, and a pair of twins spouting Christmas related puns, among others.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay:
    • If you perform the Corkscrew Maneuver or Emergency Dive while a crew member is trying to repair a wing or engine, they'll end up falling off the plane.
    • Accidentally choosing your pilot to move to another station means your bomber will nose down and crash.
    • If you do a belly landing with someone in the B-17's ball turret, they WILL die (their Lancaster counterpart may survive, as they aren't actually in the turret)
    • The B-17's landing gear doesn't retract fully into its inner engine nacelles like the Lancaster's, meaning it is more vulnerable to damage from below, which can result in deadly single-wheel or belly landings.
    • In a favorable case of reality ensuing, the B-17's waist and cheek guns can still be operated even if the hydraulics fail, as they are simple pintle mounts instead of hydraulically-actuated turrets.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Many of the Enemy Aces will do this if you succeed in shooting them down, some even shouting "This Cannot Be!" while others will express surprise and admiration at being defeated by a bomber.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Technically speaking, your Lancaster is just a bomber, since "Lancaster" is copyright Hawker-Siddeley, who merged with the original manufacturer Avro. Likewise the USAAF DLC identifies the B-17 as an "Iconic US Bomber" since "B-17" is still copyrighted by Boeing Aircraft.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: Some of the skills your crewmen learn at higher levels are pretty basic, such as putting the plane into a dive to put out engine fires, or using the radio to call for fighter support.