Ah well. Looks like I was wrong. Shucks!
LL have just launched their latest Premium gift today, Thursday 14th November. That something was due today wasn’t a surprise, as they’d slipped out advanced word last month by accident. However, at the time, I thought it might be something else other than the next Premium gift.
Turns out – it is, so ho-hum on my part.
I will say, with hand-on-heart, however, that I’m not actually surprised by the nature of the gift – a biplane. I say not surprised, as the prediction curve was pretty clear over the last three gifts: boat, railcar, car (dune buggy) – so an aeroplane rounds-out the set. So what is the latest like?
Well, it looks like something out of the great days of barnstorming in the 1920s, when surplus WWI aircraft received a second lease of life. In fact, from what cursory research I did via the web, it looks like a cross between a Spad (beloved of American pilots) and the British SE5. Sort-of. Well, to me, at least.
As with all premium gift vehicles, this one follows the usual standard – get in and use it, with touching it bringing up a menu to adjust things like the colour scheme, the flight sensitivity, the controls, etc. When you up in, instructions are displayed in chat, and follow the normal layout – PAGE UP/ DOWN for throttle increase / decrease, arrow keys for nose up / down, left / right (or you can use WASD and E & C for the throttle).
Handling-wise, and to be brutally honest, I have to admit that I found the plane something of a mess. As there is no HUD, decreasing or increasing the throttle produces a spew of channel spam in the viewer’s chat console, which is both annoying and distracting. Further, and while this may be down to the fact I use my own camera defaults (although I don’t know why if so, as I use the same defaults to fly my other aircraft), I found it impossible to achieve stable, level flight in this plane even with the throttle reasonably set: I was either constantly climbing or descending (generally the latter – it’s as if the plane is terribly nose-heavy). Obviously, some adjustment to trim is going to be required in an old kite, but this actually grated on me in both basic and advanced sensitivity settings.
The plane is a single-seater, but that doesn’t prevent friends coming along for the ride – providing they are willing to hang on. Aerobatically, the plane is OK – I threw a couple of loops and rolled it a few times, although the aforementioned habit of it constantly wanting to get back on the ground meant that it was easy to over-compensate.
As with the dune buggy offering, the plane “includes” the use of a premium-only airstrip at Orville. This has been stuck on the south side of the premium sandbox group which includes Formonsa, Amoena, and others, and which appear to have gained two additional region splitting them: Limia and Arowana. As such, there should be a lot of flying space here – but for the fact that the runway is west- east facing, with no regions either to the left or right, which makes taking off and landing something of a pain, as there is no real opportunity for a lined-up descent on the latter or decent climb-out in the former. This was reflected in the fact that on my visit, there were a number of biplanes bouncing along the region edge…
The lack of flying space to the east and west may also reflect the fact that there were a fair few at the strip who were not flying their new LL gift plane, but were enjoying themselves dogfighting in Warbugs (one of which I just have to get – talk about cute!). These tiny little planes had no issue with the confined space.
While at Orville, I confess I took time out not to fly the new plane, but to take the Stingray out on the water once more – I tell you, I’m hooked on this vehicle!
Overall, the latest premium gift is pretty predictable; transportation appears to have been the theme for 2012’s gifts as mentioned above. It’ll be somewhat interesting to see what the theme will be for 2013. As to the biplane itself – well, like the buggy before it, it’s OK, but hardly on a par with offerings which can be had for free on the Marketplace; however, if it serves to get people who have no previously tried flying to give it a go, then it can be said to have served a decent purpose.
For my part, however, I’ll stick with my Stingray. And go get me a little Warbug. Those things look FUN!
Oh, and of course, this gift comes complete with the usual “50% (on your first quarter’s payment) discount” offer. For those who are curious as to general thoughts on premium, please feel free to check out my thoughts on the matter for those considering an upgrade.