Certain names in the gaming world resonate in our ears. The very name brings us back to a time long gone and memories faded. Memories of shocked disbelief that playing a computer game could ever be that good. Civilization does this, Quest for Glory and for some Heroes of Might and Magic. One other such name is Wing Commander.
Chris Roberts is best known for not creating games but creating universes. He is the genius behind the world in Ultima V and Wing Commander and it is for good reason that the motto of the, sadly deceased company, Origin was “We create worlds”.
With his 1990 game, Wing Commander, Roberts aimed to make a game that made players feel as if they were part of an epic movie like Star Wars. To this end the game not only has groundbreaking space battles in which you try to defeat wave after wave of enemy ships but adds more in the form of real mission briefings and conversations you have with shipmates as you relax in the bar or stroll across the flight deck.
Wing Commander was a revolution when it came out. Graphics, sound and gameplay, the three corner stones of gaming, were all raised to new heights. The VGA graphics were used in all its glory to tell an amazing story. It took years to make this game, unusual for a time where games could still be written by one man sitting behind his home computer (although that was already becoming a thing of the past). The reason for this were the many setting that were made for the game, each one painstakingly hand drawn into the computer. The labour paid dividends as even today I cannot help but be amazed at how the game looks even in it’s cutscenes. It helps tremendously in immersing you into the story.
The story itself sounds unamazing. War has broken out between humans and an alien race called the Kilrathi bent on destroying the human race. The war has dragged on for decades and humanity is slowly losing the fight. This might sound like any other sci fi plot line but Wing Commander got there first to really tell it. You are kept apprised of how the plot unfolds by the dialogue and cut scenes, something never seen before to this detail. The game is simply huge.
And after that you strap yourself into your very own space fighter to bring it too the enemy. Wing Commander is not a 3D game but it tries to be. The game uses sprites for depicting the ships you see in combat. Not as detailed as true 3d objects seen in later games but this does help to maintain some cohesion between what you see inside and outside of the space battles. The missions are on the whole fairly monotonous. Fly to that point and destroy or drive off all the enemies you find there is about the only mission you will go on. The mission briefings before you fly add flavour to the mix as you know the reason behind the carnage.
It is impossible to overstate the impact Wing Commander had on the gaming world. Not only were there four sequels and countless copycats, of which the most successful were X-Wing, TIE-Fighter and Conflict: Free Space, but it was also an interactive movie “avant la letre”. Of all the critique that has piled up on the Wing Commander series over the years, the loudest and most underserved has been that it lacked gameplay. These people prefer the fast and furiousness of TIE Fighter over the slightly slower pass of Wing Commander. These people missed the point about Wing Commander. It is not trying to be an arcade shooter (although at times it is). It is telling an epic story and trying to drag the player along with it and succeeding marvellously at that. Something TIE Fighter never managed despite its heritage. Within the four sequels several games stand out. Wing Commander III Hart of the Tiger added full motion video and starred Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill (not a small sneer to Wing Commander’s great rival the TIE Fighter series). This edition of Wing Commander wrapped up the Kilrathi storyline but the series was not over. Just a year later my personal favourite was released, Wing Commander IV The Price of Freedom. The disappointing Wing Commander V Prophecy sadly ended the Wing Commander saga.
Outside of our computers Wing Commander has created an animated series for TV and a motion picture. Both were interesting but not great. The animated series can be downloaded of the internet (as abandonware here http://www.wcnews.com). The movie can no doubt also be downloaded but that’s not legal (it’s available in retail or rent).
Now onto the release. All the files you need are in the zip archive. This includes the information you will need to bypass the copy protection. I advise you to print out the section of the manual that details the schematics of the various ships in the game because this is what you will need most of the time. Happy gaming.
Run "loadfix -1" in DosBox before starting wing commander or the game will crash before the second mission!
Part of the Wing Commander Series