With the advent of new technologies comes a time of innovation, a time when pioneers set out to explore the potential of the latest inventions. Red Baron is remarkable in this concern because it is not only about the early days of a new kind of warfare, but because it was in itself one of the first dedicated combat flight simulators for home computers set in this era. And so it helped to lay down the basics of the genre just like the historical biplanes in it did for the aerial combat. A very fitting combination so to speak which gives the game a timeless appeal: Entering this world of rough 3D graphics and simplistic flight models seems to have a lot in common with taking off in one of those fragile flying machines of WWI. But let us take a look at how exactly this works to the game’s (dis)advantage and what else makes it a classic.
This is an action game which is commonly seen as the great-grandfather of all ego shooters. It was the year 1992 when this virus, disguised as Shareware, was travelling across busy schoolyards and noisy scene parties, spreading from drive to drive. The shooting orgy by American star programmer John Carmack had an irresistable appeal to the teenagers who hadn't yet been cauterised by mass-produced imitations of this ego perspective, and the extra episodes which were available for sale made John Carmack a millionaire overnight.
"Well, if SSI can do it with their Panzer General games, so can we!", Blue Byte must have thought. What they did here was simply porting their successful Battle Isle 2 engine to Windows, made new missions and bam – new release! Guaranteed hit! Well, not quite.
They did have the decency to spin a new plot around it. Ben Haris, son of the 'great strategist' Val (the player's alter ego in the previous game), has become a big shot in politics. Also he's an asshole. He humiliates Caro, the embassador/emissary/administrator (they keep changing her title) of the Kai people who have lived under the rule of the Drull for a long time now, in a public meeting of the parliament. Caro, being a neurotic asshole, takes this personally. She gets into an accident with her ship and meets the ghost of the 'old emperor' (asshole!) who offers her the power of his elite Pretorian units which, in spite of being hundreds of years old, are still superior to the Drull's current technology. She agrees to get back at Benny-boy and lets herself be physically and mentally brainwashed (by an obviously evil, hooded hologram).