DogFighter, Dark Water Studios‘ arena-based aerial combat game, took to the virtual skies via Steam about a month ago. Over the past couple of weeks, I repeatedly jumped into the cockpit to assess the fast-paced shooter.
DogFighter’s controls are solid, always siding with fun over realism, and the game’s five different arenas make for entertaining playgrounds. A variety of single-player challenges and multiplayer gameplay modes are available, and the rapid-fire nature of many of the gameplay types ensures very little downtime between respawns.
Power-ups and weapon pickups are littered throughout each environment and hidden in destructible hot-air balloons, adding another layer of fun uncertainty to each battle. Unlimited boost, invisibility, and even a pickup that will disable the engines of nearby enemies can be found, amongst various rockets, rail guns, and machine guns. “Dummy” power-ups that look quite similar to the helpful ones should be avoided, lest you grab one accidentally disable your own radar, or worse.
There are seven different aircraft to choose from that sport different stats in areas ranging from armor to agility, allowing players to choose airplanes that compliments their play-styles. With some very minor tweaking to the controls and sensitivity, I was able to quickly settle on a very comfortable mouse and keyboard setup, though use of an Xbox 360 controller is also supported.
The game’s five different maps are well designed and show a good deal of variety, from the Egyptian-themed “Pharaohs,” an arena surrounded by pyramids that you can fly through, to “Volcano,” a map with a giant lava-filled volcano in the center. The more elaborate maps with hidden tunnel systems stood out to me as being the most fun to fly around.
The single-player experience includes AI-supported Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Free Flight, and Survivor (kill unlimited waves of enemies). The bulk of the single-player portion of DogFighter is called “Tournament,” which pits players against five tiers of challenges ranging from “Cadet” to “Ace,” each with varying match parameters and three different medals to achieve. Sometimes you’ll be relegated to bullet-based weapons only, some matches feature the “instagib” parameter (a one-shot-one-kill mode), and other objectives come in both offensive and defensive varieties. The Tournament mode is much more fun than I expected, but still feels like an appetizer for the game’s meat-and-potatoes multiplayer.
Online matches with up to eight players come in three flavors: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag, and each mode can be modified with the same parameters found in the single-player tournament missions. In it’s current state though, DogFighter’s multiplayer is a bit problematic. The game currently lacks any dedicated server support, which means that trying to locate a match to join often yields few or no results. If you’re lucky enough to find someone hosting a game, latency can vary wildly, based on the host’s connectivity. It’s a shame, because multiplayer is the game’s main draw. That said, I followed up with Dark Water Studios’ Damien Gallagher and fortunately, the issue is being addressed via a dedicated server patch due in the next few weeks. In the meantime, those picking up the game would do well to join Steam’s DogFighter group to help coordinate matches.
DogFighter is quite fun and mechanically sound, but until dedicated server support arrives, I’d recommend coordinating with a few friends if you decide to pick it up, just so you’ll have an easier time experiencing the game’s multiplayer aspect.
Damien was also generous enough to provide me with three codes for a free Steam copy of DogFighter to give away. If you’re interested in a free copy of the game, just post a note in the comments for this post before 12PM (PST) on Friday, July 16. (You’ll need to quickly register and provide a valid email address.) We’ll select three winners at random, and notify them later that afternoon.
DogFighter was developed by Dark Water Studios, and is available on Steam for $16.99.
[UPDATE: Congratulations to readers lowpoly, K13bryant, and RL, the random winners of a free copy of DogFighter via Steam! Stay tuned for more reviews, news, media, and giveaways on the Indie Games Channel.]
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