I’m having a stupid good time with Warhammer 40,000: Dakka Squadron, but it’s a tough recommendation to players who aren’t immediately excited by the concept. Really it’s passion for the setting that carries this scrappy dogfighter, and it assumes you’re just as excited. If you happen to be in that target cadre of Ork enthusiasts who think strapping spikey bits to your nose and ramming enemy jets is more fun than learning the difference between pitching and yawing, I reckon it might just be a must-play.
Perhaps the most important incidental detail to know about Dakka Squadron is that you can simply press a button to perform a full 180º about-face. Instantly. I’m starting with this point because this single concession feels like a mission statement for Dakka Squadron’s entire design approach. In Star Wars: Squadrons, for example, I’m still learning how to properly boost drift for that perfect turn – an incredibly powerful manoeuvre in most flying games. Here, it’s just that one button. Dakka Squadron isn’t interested in making you learn how to fly, just letting you blow stuff up.
The lock-on reticle provides a marker to trace your shots, but if you don’t fancy aiming, no worries. You can ram enemy jets to death in an instant, providing you’re close enough, and providing you haven’t spent all your fuel on boosting or quick turning. It feels like the sort of thing serious flight sim enthusiasts would angrily splutter themselves into a choking fit about, since it basically jettisons the heavy flight manual along with your parachute. You’re often up against at least half a dozen enemy fighters, tanks, and turrets, though, and the ability to rapidly delete an evasive target really helps with the flow. It’s well Orky too, obviously.
That’s not saying self preservation or skilled flying isn’t a concern, mainly thanks to some incredibly busy maps that feel like a 3D love letter to the setting. While a few early game upgrades basically nullify the damage from ramming enemy fighters, the techno-gothic infrastructure and hulking scrap-palaces of the 41st millennium offer up networks of obstacles to navigate. The first crash probably won’t kill you, but the second one almost certainly will.
They don’t look ‘alf bad, either. Everything about Dakka Squadron is tuned more towards evoking the setting than being particularly visually stunning, but Warhammer 40k is all about scale, and the busy dogfights here feel huge. There’s a huge Squiggoth corpse in the first level as part of the background scenery, just laying there as a visual treat for fans. The grimdark is balanced out by the bright colours of both Orkish contraptions and the green lads themselves, and complimented by a metal soundtrack and suitably Orkish voice acting. These do tend to get repeated a lot, however.
Now, the most important thing: yes, you can be an Evil Sunz Ork, and customise both the look and loadout of the six unlockable jets. You can also be an Ork from one of the other, less good tribes, if you really want. Each plane archetype has a different special ability and loadout options, so you can go full bomber, or full fighter, or somewhere in-between. Completing missions earns you ‘Teef’, which you can spend on upgrades over five or so different categories.
Here’s the complaint section. In the spirit of Orkiness, I’m not going to bother trying to wrap these up as impartial observations. Oi. Devs. Here are some things wotneeds fixin’: Firstly, checkpoints, please. Some of these missions are far too long to have to start from scratch every time I get a bit too excited and ram into the ground. Secondly, let me turn off the button prompt tutorial. It was useful when I didn’t know what the buttons did, but now I do know, so you don’t need to keep on telling me. Wowzers. Third, I would very much like some risk/reward options with my loadouts, rather than just static bonuses. In the true spirit of Orkiness, I should be able to fly an absolute monstrosity of a jet that’s only held together by my fervent belief that looking cool helps me go faster and explodes if I press the wrong button.