First things first, Ace Patrol was conceived, designed and programmed by Sid Meier himself which is exciting and noteworthy in and of itself considering that these days good old Sid mostly just oversees the studio’s projects such as Civilization V and XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
Ace Patrol is an aerial combat game set during The Great War. Players get to command up to four pilots across four campaigns as the British, American, French and German forces each consisting of 24 randomized missions. Every mission is set on a similar-looking map with different objectives. Sometimes you need to defend your tanks or balloons, sometimes you need to take out enemy bombers. In reality, these are all just slightly different variations on the same thing and what you basically always need to do is take out the enemy pilots.
The combat is turn-based across a hex grid. As you progress through the game you will unlock new planes and various upgrades, but most importantly, your pilots will learn new useful maneuvers which will be of the utmost importance in controlling the skies. Naturally, the enemy will learn them as well. The combat is satisfyingly tactical, especially if the mission requires a lone pilot taking out several enemy targets. The trenches are always in the middle of the map. When you cross over to the enemy side, you have to deal with enemy anti-aircraft guns, so when you’re dealing with overwhelming odds, it’s a good strategy to lure enemy pilots (one by one, if possible) to your side. Both sides can also use clouds (if it’s cloudy) where they are perfectly hidden and cannot be attacked.
The game uses a colorful and pleasant cell-shaded art-style. The production values overall are rather modest, but they’re still nice. Ace Patrol was originally designed for iOS devices which is obvious both in its design and technical merits. But more importantly, it shows that it’s a Sid Meier game. It may not be anywhere near as deep or complex as other Firaxis games, but the addictive nature and elegant design is here in full force.