Granted, DTG Flight School is not dedicated to helicopters. It doesn't even feature helicopters. But it may be a window to what's coming when DTG Flight Simulator comes out. I imagined the full-featured flight simulator will pretty much be an extension of Flight School and, after seeing Flight School, there's no room for doubt.
DTG's Flight School is an obvious continuation of Microsoft's Flight Simulator. The folder structure is pretty much the same as MSFS. Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. Lockheed's Prepar3D is based on MSFS and it's a pretty good product. DTG did the smart thing and started building on top of something that wasn't perfect, but wasn't bad either.
Something else cool about Flight School using MSFS as a base is that the controls and commands are the same as Microsoft's sim, drastically decreasing the learning curve and making you feel right at home.
The UI is very clean and very sharp. Very much different from Microsoft's Flight Simulator, P3D and X-Plane. It's a welcome refresh for those of us that have been looking at small text and edged fonts. The interface adapts perfectly to the different screen sizes and it's very smooth and easy to use. DTG did an excellent job.
Settings and options
DTG Flight School is not filled with settings. To be honest I missed some things like the ability to control the auto-generated scenery (autogen), which would help my poor computer to cope a little better with all the stuff that DTG throws at our screens.
Selecting an aircraft and livery is now also easy and a much better experience. Too bad you cannot rotate the model, though, but you can now see it in all it's splendor by means of an easy-to-use interface.
Wow. What can I say? The scenery is top-notch right out of the box. If this is a preview of what's coming for Flight Simulator, I am sold. The graphics are amazing, the mesh is brutally beautiful, the textures are of the highest quality and DTG managed to cram so much autogen without my computer blowing up that I could not stop being impressed.
I did not have the greatest framerate but I am playing with a (non-gaming) laptop with a Geforce GT650M. Even so I could play it with all the sliders maxed out. I could notice my computer fighting to cope with everything now and then but I cannot even start to imagine how the sim works with higher-end machines. And, guys, this is an ALPHA. So things can only get better.
I would like to take the chance to thank DTG for giving my country's capital some love. It's the first time that a sim represents Lisbon this well out of the box. The Vasco da Gama bridge is present as well as the Vasco da Gama tower (which is now different and an hotel -- maybe DTG feels generous enough to do the small update), the 25th of April tower, the Christ the King statue, the Tower of Belem and even the Cascais airfield got some love, even if a few buildings are not in the correct area. But they actually worried about getting some of this stuff in the sim and I cannot thank them enough. It provides an amazing VFR scenery for those that want to travel around Lisbon.
Planning a flight
DTG made flight planning fun. There's a world map in which you can zoom in to the area you are interested in flying at and then you simply point and click to add legs or intermediate points. That easy. That simple. You will not create a full-fledged plan but, again, this is not the flight simulator. This is Flight School. So it's pretty basic. But I can't be anything but excited to see how the flight planner will be in DTG's flight simulator.
The flight model
Here's the meat everyone's waiting for. Unfortunately there's not too much to say right now as we only have 2 different aircraft and not much that we can do relating to weather. Also, not being able to try an helicopter doesn't help either.
Nonetheless the overall feeling is very similar to what you would encounter in a GA aircraft in FSX of X-Plane. I know, these are different beasts altogether, but GA aircraft does not feel that different between these sims.
I changed the weather so that I could fly through a storm and I have to say that the physics seemed much more brutal than in FSX. I had much more difficulty controlling the aircraft through the rough winds than I usually have in FSX which is making me suspect that the flight model had some pretty hard work done on it.
The flight school
DTG flight school is... Well, about being taught how to fly an aircraft. You can do some nice free flying, but the reason for the existence of this sim is to bring new people into flight simulation.
The flight school is comprised of 5 lessons plus a Skills Test. After you do the lessons you will unlock another batch, with increasingly difficult skills to master, do some missions, or you can do some free flights and put your skills to the real test by trying to maneuver through different weather conditions, etc.
Unfortunately there's no way to reduce autogen so I had to try it with all maxed out. The good news is that my Intel Core i7-3630QM @ 2.40Ghz, 16 GB of RAM, and Geforce GT500M laptop could handle it quite well. Yes I had some FPS drops (down to 15 here and there) but this is an Alpha and I hope DTG adds the ability to control autogen so I can remove some polygons of out my screen.
Even so, I am impressed that my computer could handle it this well with so much going on the screen.
Although this is still an Alpha version, it seems to me that's pretty much done and doesn't need a whole lot of polish. I found some quirks that do need to be addressed but nothing that I could find it to be too intrusive with the exception of a graphics bug that, I'm sure, it's being taken care of already.
All in all, I really enjoyed DTG's Flight School and I think it's a pretty great way to bring new simmers to the market. Priced at €14.99, it's not expensive and it certainly has quite a few hours of fun for any flight sim lover out there.
I am personally very excited about this release and can't wait to see what's coming next. If Dovetail Games manages to get a hold on the helicopter flight engine and make it work right, DTG's Flight Simulator has the potential to become the next big thing in the flight simulation market.
Where to get Dovetail Games Flight School
You can pre-order DTG's Flight School at Steam.