Unlike many of the other games featured on this site - Dawn Patrol was not one of my boot sales finds. Instead I actually paid the princely sum of £31.99 in about 1995. The game itself dates from 1994 and if I remember correctly was the 1st flight sim I bought for the PC.
After a few years of not playing it - I dug it out again in 2003 only to find there was no obvious way to run it on my Windows XP based machine. Had this not been the case I many never have bought MS CFS1 or the many other flight sims I now own!
Anyway - thanks to the magic of DOSBox (but see further details below) I am able to play it again.
Dawn Patrol is set up as virtual book. Each page provides a scenario or a feature such as Video Replay or Preferences.
Most scenarios can be played from either side and you get to select types and numbers of most of the aircraft involved. This is similar to the system used in Aces Over Europe and Overlord.
Cockpit graphics are good - though no gauges. In these screen shots the ground looks very bare as I have selected the lowest level of ground detail (386) in order to improve the frame rate.
Actual aircraft graphics are much better - and frankly in 1995 were a revelation after the rather sparse graphics of ‘Spitfire 40’ or ‘Knights of the Sky’ I was more used to. Even by today’s standards they don’t look too shoddy.
Thankfully the game has a SVGA mode (640x400) - though only direct support for some graphics cards. With my old Pentium 166MMX I had an S3 Trio 64+ card - and it was necessary to configure and use the universal VESA graphics driver supplied with the game.
DOSBox also emulates this S3 graphics card but setting up the universal VESA graphics driver proved impossible due to DOSBox’s limited understanding of DOS memory configuration. However all was not lost and I was able to download from a different site a CVS build of DOSBox 0.63 (also tested with the CVS build of DOSBox 0.65) which implemented the ET4000 card. Dawn Patrol supports this card without the universal VESA graphics driver and SVGA graphics then worked.
After each flight there is a debriefing screen. Whilst this does cover events such as mid air collisions - the majority of the screens are very static and you don’t even get a report on the number of aircraft destroyed. Also annoyingly the screens are always written from the point of one side only so if you have chosen to fly for the other side - you sometimes get no relevant info at all.
The flight model is easy with no real sign of stalls and spins. Enemy planes are generally quite vulnerable - but then so are you! If you hear machine gun fire behind you then it really is time to ‘break’.
Its also worth making note of the command set. Dawn Patrol provides a very comprehensive set of controls and whilst a few favourites are missing you have plenty to play with. There is also good joystick support - and coupled with the joystick support under DOSBox you have plenty of options to experiment with.
Whilst the majority of planes featured are single engined (including 13 types you can fly) - the game also features the twin engined Gotha bombers.
In conclusion - I really like this game - but maybe its because I’ve grown old along with it. There is a lot of detail both on and off the flying screens - but its also quite simple and the lack of any sort of campaign mode can make it a bit repetitive.
I have the original full box edition which comes complete with a manual, keycard and a special edition of the book “Manfred Von Richthoffen The man and the aircraft he flew - by David Baker” - a nice touch.
Dawn Patrol is (c)1994 by Rowan Software. The version reviewed is the boxed CD-ROM edition published by Empire Interactive (c)1994.
Reviewed September 2006