Wing Commander 1 and 2
VERDICT: Not two games in one, SIX games in one! It’s not enough to say these games are polished, these games DEFINED polish. Great music, atmosphere, and compelling universe. Gameplay is fresh as ever. Bad is the aged 3d graphics before 3d, and joysticks being unable to utilize analog effects. If you want a game with less challenge, go play Dark Souls.
Above: This game has an immersive atmosphere.
Above: This game is designed to be very challenging.
Above: There is an absurd amount of playtime in this package. It is not just Wing Commander 1 and 2 but four mission packs as well. It might as well be six games.
Above: Wing Commander 1 and 2 honestly could be in an arcade cabinet.
Above: You will keep playing just to find out what happens next in the story.
This game runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Linux requires Dosbox tweaking.
There is no multiplayer.
If you’ve never played Wing Commander, you’ve come to the right place. If you have played Wing Commander and think, “I remember those two old games with their bad graphics today. Yawn,” then you’re more ignorant than the person who has never played the game. There is a shocking amount of value here.
This is not Wing Commander 1 & 2. It is actually six games. The storyline works best when you play it all in order.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
THIS IS A JOYSTICK GAME. If you don’t have a joystick, don’t bother.
You CAN play with a mouse and even keyboard only. However, the experience will be awful.
The joystick will be able to do nearly everything. I only use the keyboard for communications.
I had no issues. However, people say Wing Commander 1 doesn’t perform well for them. Maybe GOG did a recent update. It played flawless for me. Wing Commander 2 crashed on me several times in the middle of a mission. Sometimes, the interface for saving and loading games is strangely ’sticky’ or sluggish. The biggest annoyance is that using the mouse buttons between missions sometimes locks (?) the right mouse button down, and you won’t realize it until the cutscene zooms past you since the computer thinks you want to skip it all. The solution to this is to not use the mouse during the Wing Commander 2 cutscenes.
WHAT IS IT?
Wing Commander is a first person space simulator. Imagine being an expert pilot at dogfighting during World War 2 where you are on a cruiser doing missions to win a war. Of course, it is not World War 2 but in space.
The game is composed of missions. Each mission, you go out in your fighter plane, perform the mission, and return to do another mission. That’s the game. But we’ve barely scratched the surface.
Missions vary in the tasks needed to perform-
Normally, you direct your ship to hit certain nav points (areas in space) and then return back to the home cruiser (Tiger’s Claw). Enemy ships are either at the nav points or halfway in between. Other obstacles like asteroid fields and mine fields abound.
Some are just patrolling missions. Others are escort missions. Some have you destroy a target like a capital ship. They vary.
You are the mission leader every single time-
You’re not alone. You have a wingmate. You instruct the wingman to attack the enemy, to attack the target, to return to base, and to generally help you out. The wingmates vary in skill and personality. One of them, Maniac, refuses to listen to anything you say and just afterburns at the enemy to attack.
You interact with the crew in between missions-
In between missions, you can talk to pilots or the bartender. They have gameplay tips and liven up the universe. Mostly, they serve as a nice breather to the heart racing missions.
You get promotions and awards-
Depending on your performance, you will get promotions and awards. Prior to achievements, your video game character would climb the social pecking order inside the game.
The missions branch and have no clear game over-
In most games, when you lose it is game over. Of course, if you blow up and die, it becomes game over as well. But what if you eject? The game continues on. What if you didn’t succeed in your mission? The game continues on.
However, there is a price to pay if you do not succeed in your mission. The war with the Kilirathi will get worse. Your missions will branch onto the ‘losing path’. You’ll be given plenty of opportunities to turn it around and get back to the ‘winning path’.
When you start a game, you’ll be in the simulator and witness your explosion. This is OK. There is nothing you can do to avoid destruction. The simulator asks for your NAME and for your CALLSIGN. Then you’ll find yourself at the bar.
The options you have at the bar are…
Choose four different types of enemy ships to fight against. They fight in waves. Starting at the easier ship (Sarthi) will transfer you over to the other enemy ship waves for a higher score potential.
I have no idea why there is a chalkboard in space. On it lists all the pilots’ number of missions (sorties) and their kills.
The bartender’s name is Shotglass. He’ll tell you what is going on inside the ship and any rumors he’s heard.
There are two pilots that sit in the table. They often give you tips. Sometimes they speak nonsense. They also reveal their personalities which arise when in battle.
The beds are where you save and load your game. The head and feet are where you load and save the game.
This exits the game.
View your medals.
STARTING OUT PART ONE: BIND KEYS TO JOYSTICK
You want to make sure you have the correct controls bounded to your joystick. Here are the controls of Wing Commander 1 I recommend you bind to a joystick. The key will be the default binding that should be changed.
Fire guns [Space]
Fire missile [Enter]
Action [button combination]
Cycle weapons [W]
Cycle guns [G]
Cycle targets [T]
Lock target [L]
These commands should be bound onto the joystick due to how often they will be used in dogfighting. Some are obvious like firing guns. But very important is cycling targets and locking targets. Being able to afterburn, accelerate, and decelerate on the fly will save your life and give your ship much precision.
The other commands are not as relevant to dogfighting so they can remain on the keyboard or placed on some buttons on the side of the joystick.
Full stop [backspace]
Look left [F2]
Look right [F3]
Look forward [F1]
Look behind [F4]
Chase view [F5]
Battle view [F6]
Tactical view [F7]
Missile view [F8]
Tail view [F9]
Damage HUD [D]
Comms select [C]
Nav Map [N]
I like to bind F1, F2, F3, and F4 to my HAT switch. That way I can easily look over my should in case someone is shooting at me from the rear.
You shouldn’t need to use eject. If you have to use eject, you’ve already lost.
Comm is used frequently, but it also requires the use of numbers to select a response so you might as well use the keyboard for that.
Also make sure you calibrate the joystick. The more precise it holds, the better your performance will be.
STARTING OUT PART TWO: LEARN TO DOGFIGHT
There’s really two parts of this game. There is the dogfighting and the mission commander (the stuff you do outside of dogfighting to complete a mission). Luckily for the new player, dogfighting can be simulated as much as you want on the simulator in the bar. You can try four different opponents, and you are in a modified Hornet.
Most of the combat is self-explanatory. Get used to how the radar works. You should be able to find an enemy on the radar and know how to position it in your sights immediately. Another important indicator is the ‘lock’ light that turns on when an enemy has a missile locked on you.
Movement is important to get used to. Speed yourself up or down (preferably speed yourself up since you are in a lightly armored fast ship). Use the afterburner when appropriate (such as when an enemy missile is locked on you).
Get used to how the missiles work. You have the Dart DF which stands for ‘Dumb Fire’. It just fires straight in front of you. The other missile requires a missile lock. In order to have a missile lock, press [L] to make the lines around the enemy ship become solid. As the ship is in your sights, you’ll eventually notice the computer trying to lock on. It’ll be hard to miss.
The simulator is like an arcade game itself. Get used to dogfighting here. You should be able to have top score fairly easily (especially in the first few missions).
STARTING OUT PART THREE: MISSION COMMANDER
As the Wing Commander, this is what you’ll be doing for each mission.
Click [N]. (This brings up the Nav Point, the little white cross, that should appear on your screen. When you point your ship towards it, you will be flying toward the Nav Point which you will want to do in asteroid fields or mine fields.)
Click [N] again. This brings up the map. (You can select different nav points if you like. The game doesn’t care if you do them out of order.)
Press [A] for autopilot. (Autopilot only works when there are no hazards near. Autopilot jumps the Human player either to the Nav point or to a hazard that cancelled the auto-pilot like enemy ships.)
Enemy ships detected! Tell your Wingman to break and attack. To do this, press [C] and then select  for ‘Break and Attack’. The Wingman will respond and break off your wing to pursue the enemy. You can use [C] to tell the Wingman to form back on your wing, to help you out, or to go back to base if he or she has taken too much damage. You can also [C] the enemy ships and hurl insults at them. Sometimes, this distracts them.
The enemy ships are destroyed! Press [A] to re-engage the auto-pilot. Nav point too close? Just get the white cross in front of you, put off a few afterburns, and you’ll hit the Nav point fast.
When all Nav points have been reached, a victory music will be playing. Set your Nav point to the Tiger’s Claw and auto-pilot back home.
To land, press [C] and select the Tiger’s Claw. Then choose ‘Ask permission to land.’ If you did this correctly, Tiger’s Claw will respond like below:
Point your ship at the front of Tiger’s Claw. When you get near enough, it should automatically land your ship.
Be very careful not to come at the Tiger’s Claw too fast. You don’t want to destroy yourself after a hard won mission!
If you find that you’re not landing, slow down, face AWAY from the Tiger’s Claw, get some distance, and try another approach. Always aim at the front of the ship. Try getting permission to land again.
There is a tip on how to get past asteroid fields and mine fields easier. Get used to ROLLING your ship. You have good vision side to side but not up or down. You should NEVER dodge asteroids or mines by moving up or down. Rotate your ship and keep moving left or right. This will greatly help in avoiding nasty ‘surprise hits’ and ‘surprise deaths’ in those frustrating areas.
THE VEGA CAMPAIGN
For the longest time, I was always confused about where the battlefield was in the Wing Commander games. Clearly, the Confederation was fighting for survival of Earth against the Kilirathi, but you were not in Sol. Wing Commander 1 is also called the Vega Campaign. What does this all mean?
Above: You can track the system jumps in the game with this map.
The Vega star system is the direct system in between the Confederation and Kilirathi main systems. There are other systems on the sides and alternative paths to get to each main system (explored in the expansions and Wing Commander II’s Engima Star System).
The mission structure in Wing Commander is complicated to say the least. The game starts in the Enyo system. Each system has a three or four missions in it. If you win them, you go to one system where the Confederation advances in the Vega Sector. If you lose them, you fall back to a previous system where the Confederation retreats in the Vega Sector.
Stolen from a FAQ:
Key: Series name (number of missions), Win goes to, Lose goes to Enyo (2 missions) W = McAuliffe L = Gateway McAuliffe (3 missions) W = Gimle L = Brimstone Gateway (3 missions) W = Brimstone L= Cheng Du Gimle (3 missions) W = Dakota L = Brimstone Brimstone (3 missions) W = Dakota L = Port Hedland Cheng Du (3 missions) W = Brimstone L = Port Hedland Dakota (3 missions) W = Kurasawa L = Rostov Port Hedland (3 missions) W = Rostov L = Hubble’s Star Kurasawa (3 missions) W = Venice L= Rostov Rostov (3 missions) W = Venice L = Hell’s Kitchen Hubble’s Star (3 missions) W = Rostov L = Hell’s Kitchen Venice (4 missions) You win Hell’s Kitchen (4 missions) You lose
If you end up in Hell’s Kitchen, you’re in big trouble.
One great thing about Wing Commander 1 is that even if you beat the game, you can play the game multiple times to see different missions and different plots. Sometimes, wingmen can die which also alters events (they won’t be available to fly in other missions, won’t be available at the bar to talk to, etc.).
A huge part of what makes Wing Commander so much fun are the pilots, your Wingmen. They all have different personalities, both in person and when flying.
Get to know these characters. They will be major players throughout all the Wing Commander games including the expansions. In Wing Commander II, they start having much more dramatic roles. A few make appearances in Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV.
Spirit will be your first wingman. She flies very defensively and only fires when the enemy is close to her. This Japanese woman is very pleasant, musical in nature, and follows orders well.
Paladin will likely be your second wingman. This guy is an old timer and is on the verge of retirement. Because he is on the verge of retirement, he flies defensively and fires only when he is sure of his shot. He follows orders very well. Paladin is Scottish and loves to talk about old war stories.
If you are doing well, Angel will be your third wingman. Angel loves numbers and loves calculating dogfights outside of the cockpit. She’ll bring her numbers into every conversation. As a pilot, she fights in a very calculating manner. She follows orders well. Angel is from Belgium.
South African in ethnicity, Knight is an annoying conversationalist which the other pilots complain about. Knight also calls for help too often during battle and doesn’t take orders too well.
This Taiwanese pilot is one of the most experienced pilots on Tiger’s Claw with 17 years in service. He gives good advice, flies well, and follows orders well. He has a sterling reputation among the other pilots.
Born on Proxima Centauri, Maniac is a talented pilot. However, he is very young, and he totally disregards orders. Being a Wing Commander to Maniac is a joke as he just afterburns toward the enemy immediately. Colonel Halycon once jokes for you to shoot Maniac.
Ian St. John
Loves to smoke, chews on cigars during combat, and flies for the adrenaline. Hunter is a very good pilot, and he takes orders well. Hunter is Australian.
Only flies due to hatred for the Kilirathi. Very quiet and very sure of his shot. Ice Man is an excellent pilot, but he doesn’t follow orders well. If called out of battle, Ice Man will ignore the command and stay out there in order to kill more Kilirathi.
What really fleshes out the Wing Commander universe is the incredible amount of detail that is put in the ships for both the Confederation and the Kilirathi. There are the regular fighters and the capital ships (the freighters and battle cruisers that launch the fighters such as the Tiger’s Claw). There are a multitude of Kilirathi fighter ships as well (more than four that can be chosen at the simulator). The game even throws in ace enemy pilots that have their own unique AI that might drop in on one of your missions.
The Confederation has three fighters: a light fighter, a medium fighter, and a heavy fighter. A fourth ship, a new medium fighter, becomes available in the middle of the Vega Campaign.
The first ship you fly is the Hornet whose role is primarily a scout ship. Rookies from the academy train on the Hornet. The ship is very light, very fast, and very maneuverable. However, it is also very light on armor.
Two laser cannons are on the Hornet. It will take you a long while to kill ships with these weak cannons.
For missiles, there are two Dumbfire missiles and one Heat Seeker missile. With weak lasers, your answer isn’t with missiles either (which you don’t have many). The Hornet is all about finesse and avoiding damage. Wear down the enemy.
This ship is the opposite of the Hornet. It is very slow and not maneuverable at all. However, it has heavy shielding to protect against the enemy. Scimitars also pack in greater firepower than the Hornet. Mass drivers rip apart ships when the shots connect. For missiles, the Scimitar has three Dumbfire Missiles and three Heat Seeker missiles.
Above: Scimitar has decent guns unlike the puny Hornet lasers.
The Raptor has serious firepower. It has the two mass drivers of the Scimitar along with two neutron guns. At close range, all four guns going off at once can blow up light Kilirathi ships within a few hits. For missiles, the Raptor has two heat seeking missiles, two friend-or-foe missiles, two image recognition missiles, and a mine. The ship also has heavy shields and heavy armor allowing the Raptor to withstand enemy fire to get in close to blast ships away. Being a heavy fighter, the Raptor is not very maneuverable.
Ahh, the new medium fighter that appears in the middle of the Vega Campaign. The Rapier has the speed and maneuverability of the Hornet but the shields match the Raptor (but the armor is still Hornet thin). For guns, it has two lasers and two neutron guns. For missiles, it has two dumbfire missiles, two friend-or-foe missiles, and two image recognition missiles.
Above: The final mission has you flying in a Rapier.
If someone asked me the most influential game ever made, I wouldn’t answer Super Mario Brothers, Wii Sports, a RPG, or even Doom. I would say Wing Commander.
Before, video games were design based. They often were made by people who made board games (strategy games), pen-and-paper games (role playing games), or novelists (adventure games). Wing Commander turned it all on its head and made games production based. This is the start of when video games tried to become movies or cinematic experiences.
To put this into perspective, consider the year 1990 when Wing Commander came out. In 1990, the Super Nintendo had not launched yet. Super Mario Brothers 3 had just come out in the West. Mega Man 3 had just come out. Sid Meir just put out Railroad Tycoon. King’s Quest V just came out. And then comes out this game. Consider Warren Spector who says, “We were in awe of what Chris Roberts was doing.” Wing Commander’s hit success made other game designers considerably bitter. If you know where to look, you’ll see some of those developers complaining about this game today. The reason why is that it was the turning point when games became production based instead of design based. The entire industry changed.
-3d combat before 3d.
-Lip syncing dialogue (although not too well).
-Lack of menus. (Roberts didn’t want anything to interfere in the immersion.)
-Taunts you can give to the enemy!
-Dynamic music (just like a movie).
-Widescreen display before widescreens were available (why the screenshots have black bars on the top and bottom).
-Winning and losing campaign trees with second chance opportunities.
-A wingman co-op AI partner who listens and acts on your commands (or not depending on their personalities!).
-In-game achievements with the medals and scoreboard where it tracks your kills.
-Between mission dialogue that advances the story and fleshes out details. (Over twenty years later, Blizzard is trying to replicate what Wing Commander did here in Starcraft 2.)
-Full cinematic feel from the beginning of the game to the end. There is no ‘game over’. It is only ‘End of Script’.
WING COMMANDER: SECRET MISSIONS
It is important to stress that Secret Missions is a MISSION PACK, not an EXPANSION PACK. What’s the difference? An expansion pack changes the engine of the game. A mission pack is just more missions. Secret Missions adds no new ships, weapons, missiles, or gameplay of any kind. Everything you saw in the first game makes a return here. What Secret Missions does add is around twenty new missions and a new story line.
After the victory in the Vega Campaign, the Tiger’s Claw was defending that sector. Suddenly, Colonel Halycon immediately sends the Tiger’s Claw on a series of jumps out of the Vega Sector and orders everyone off the bridge.
Iceman was on the bridge when he was ordered out. All he knows is that the Tiger’s Claw received an emergency order from HQ.
The destination of Tiger’s Claw is to the Goddard colony. The Kilirathi used a new type of weapon on the colony. Goddard cannot be raised. Tiger’s Claw is to investigate.
There are two to three missions before the Tiger’s Claw finds out what happens on Goddard colony. In the first two missions, you fly a Hornet with Hunter to get rid of the Kilirathi scouts. Coming from the Rapier and Raptor ending missions of Wing Commander 1, these first two Hornet missions are incredibly difficult.
Above: The first asteroid field has enemy ships in it. Secret Missions is for expert Wing Commander players.
Above: Secret Missions is very dark and invokes a 9/11 feel (noteworthy as the mission pack came out a decade earlier). Everyone becomes tense and serious. Even the bartender.
After arriving at Goddard Colony in two missions, Tiger’s Claw sends ships to land on the colony itself to find out what has happened.
Goddard Colony has been completely destroyed. Why didn’t Goddard’s defenses stop the secret weapon? The Tiger’s Claw technicians eventually discover that the weapon was a gravity weapon that increased the gravity of the world so much that everything was destroyed.
However, it remains clear that Goddard Colony was a weapons test. The ships responsible for the attack were caught leaving the sector.
Now comes the meat of the game. Tiger’s Claw is ordered to pursue the fleet responsible and destroy the weapon ship before it arrives back to Kilrah. This means the Tiger’s Claw must go deep inside Kilirathi space… alone.
Being completely isolated going deeper into Kilirathi space creates havoc on the psychology of the crew. Maniac keeps having nightmares and dreams of kamikazing himself. Shotglass enters a meltdown when he finds out what happens to Goddard. The pilots become super tense and begin to snip at each other. In the picture above, Paladin even speaks to Colonel Halycon during the briefing that Maniac isn’t fit for duty. Rumors spread among the ship.
Many begin to whisper that the Tiger’s Claw is on a suicide mission. “The colonel wouldn’t do that to us, right?” Asks Bossman worriedly.
While most of Secret Missions is story related that I won’t go into further due to spoilers, the missions are certainly tougher. In Wing Commander 1 you had about two, maybe three, dogfight battles per mission. In Secret Missions, it is three, four, and often five dogfight battles. Enemy capital ships appear in most missions. At the end of the run, I had shot down over two hundred enemy ships.
From a FAQ, here is the mission tree for Secret Missions. Unlike Wing Commander 1, Secret Missions is nearly entirely linear. You must win every mission. On some series, if you screw up by missing a nav point, you end up ‘retreating’ and the game goes to the bad ending. Save often.
Goddard (2 missions) Continue to Border Zone Border Zone (2 missions) W = Midgard L = Retreat Midgard (2 missions) W = Jotunheim L = Retreat Jotunheim (3 missions) W = Bifrost L = Retreat Bifrost (3 missions) W = Valgard L = Retreat Valgard (2 missions) W = Vigrid L = Retreat Vigrid (2 missions) W = You win! L = Retreat Retreat (2 mission) You lose!
Above: Iceman will be on your wing for the later missions.
This was the first time I played Secret Missions so it was quite a treat for me. They did things that I wanted to do in Wing Commander 1. You finally get to have Ice Man on your wing. He could be on your wing in Wing Commander 1, if I’m not mistaken, but he wasn’t on long.
While Hunter was the last wingman in Wing Commander 1, he is the first wingman in Secret Missions. But what of the early Wing Commander 1 wingmen like Spirit and Paladin?
Above: Paladin also joins you in the Raptor.
Secret Missions does the same ‘ranking up’ and ‘getting medals’ that Wing Commander 1 does. Pilots can still die. The strict cinematic storytelling hadn’t yet squeezed its grip on the series yet.
While it might be the absurdly hard missions getting tedious, but the Wing Commander 1 formula begins to get tiring here. Since there is no new engine changes, the game throws more capital ships and enemy ships at you. However, there are some shocking twists.
Secret Missions also begins to portray character traits in the pilots that explain their directions in the future titles.
Above: This is the first mention of Spirit’s fiance who becomes important to her future.
You are not allowed to mess up in the missions. Reaching every Nav point, destroying every ship and capital ship that comes your way, and delivering the escort ships intact will be having you pass every mission. There are two exceptions.
There is one mission with two freighters that you fly back past a minefield (where they jump) where one freighter always dies. It feels as if you screwed up as the Colonel becomes angry at you and then sticks you into a Scimitar as if you got demoted. The truth is that this is bugged and that freighter always dies. You’re never expected to save both freighters!
The second exception is a mission where you fly with Iceman. The nav screen looks like below (where the mine field is sometimes displayed or not).
Above: It’s easy to screw up this mission and destroy your entire campaign!
If you were listening to the Colonel during the mission briefing, he doesn’t just want you to go to the Nav points. After Nav 3, he wants you to hit Nav 1 and THEN return to the Tiger’s Claw. This is a nasty mission with capital ships everywhere (and several of them at Nav 3). If you return to Nav 1 like you are supposed to, you will find another wing of enemy ships escorting a capital ship. Destroy it.
If you fail to do this, you will go on to the next mission (defend Tiger’s Claw) as if you had won. And if you successfully beat that mission, you immediately go on the Retreating Missions and your campaign will be over. All because you didn’t return to Nav point 1 in that mission like the Colonel asked you to. Save often in multiple spaces. Always have a save file for the start of a new series in a system. You never know when you might have to go back.
Above: Colonel Halycon’s touching goodbye to each individual pilot.
You’ll know when you’re at the last mission when everyone is excited and the Colonel uses the mission briefing to give everyone individual good-byes. Iceman gets pissed off about this ‘wasting of time’.
Above: And there’s the big thing you have to blow up.
After playing Secret Missions for the first time ever (thanks to GOG and EA for including it with those who purchased Wing Commander 1 and 2 for free), what were my impressions? Secret Missions is like Wing Commander: Championship Edition. It is very hard. The story was pretty cool. I really enjoyed interacting with the pilots again and flying with Paladin and Spirit in Raptors (I’m so used to associating them with Hornets and Scimitars). The addition of no weapons or ships or enemy ships or tweaks to the game engine makes Secret Missions ends on a somewhat stale note. You’ve seen all this before. But that is what you get with a mission pack.
What I disliked most was being unable to fail any mission in Secret Missions. You could play Wing Commander 1 and just enjoy the ride. Here, you had to constantly save and reload, save and reload. Part of that is due to the linearity though much of that is due to the brutal difficulty. But it was such a fun ride. Unlike the original Wing Commander 1, you won’t be replaying Secret Missions anytime soon!
WING COMMANDER: SECRET MISSIONS 2: CRUSADE
While Secret Missions was little more than a mission pack, an extremely hard mission pack, it contained no new ships, characters, or anything. It was like an expert version of Wing Commander. Secret Missions 2: Crusade is also harder than the normal Wing Commander 1 game. However, it creates the difficulty differently. Instead of throwing a ton of ships at you and many capital ships, like Secret Missions 1 did, Secret Missions 2 generates the difficulty through new enemy ships, new pilots, and even new ships for you to fly. Secret Missions 2 feels almost like an expansion pack at times instead of a mission pack.
After the Tiger’s Claw successful mission in destroying the ships that destroyed Goddard Colony, the ship heads to Firekka. A race of bird people are joining the Confederation. The Tiger’s Claw is to be the Honor Guard. It is time for rest and relaxation.
Since the Tiger’s Claw duties are light, you’ll just be scouting. Therefore, you’ll be in a Hornet. However, you will start off with the mysterious Iceman as your wingman.
Your mission is to escort the diplomatic corps ship to the Tiger’s Claw. What is that red blip out there? It is up to you to find out.
What a surprise. It is the Kilirathi. Why are they here? There is no strategic value in this backwater sector?
Origin must have hired some writers because the writing has significantly improved with Secret Missions 2. One major change is that you talk more. There are actual conversations.
Above: Art reflects real life. Women talk about me all the time too.
The girls wonder about your shore leave on Firekka. It’s good to be the hero.
The good news doesn’t stop. The Scimitar has been retired from service. You will never have to fly that awful ship again.
What I like about this is that it shows transition and change in the fictional Wing Commander universe. The first Wing Commander game showed the prototype and then the arrival of the Rapier ships in service. It makes sense to see a ship be retired as well.
In Secret Missions 1, Spirit finds out that the starbase her fiance was stationed on was attacked by the Kilirathi. Since the Tiger’s Claw was out of communication range for the entirely of Secret Missions 1, she didn’t know anything more. Now, she knows he’s been captured. This is foreshadowing for Wing Commander 2.
More foreshadowing. Paladin will be retiring in a month, and he says he wants to visit planets.
Maniac went mad in Secret Missions 1. He is still in the Sickbay.
The writers are making you state opinions now. Secret Missions 2 is definitely the missing link between what Wing Commander 1 was and the movie-like mode of Wing Commander 2.
The Tiger’s Claw pilots are all beginning to go apart. Knight considers being a flight instructor.
I was stunned when I saw this. It’s a brand new enemy craft! I thought Secret Missions 2 was going to just be new missions with nothing new added. There have also been some new graphical additions such as that sun in the background. It’s not much, but after flying a hundred missions it is nice to see something new.
This is sweet! It’s another brand new enemy fighter! It’s the Khriss. Aside from the new fighters, the iconic large round Kilirathi (flying pancakes) have been upgraded with mass drivers. You don’t want to play chicken with them anymore.
This is foreshadowing for the events of Wing Commander 2. Prince Thrakhath plays a very prominent role in the sequel.
From here, the game truly begins. The mission set-up is similar to Secret Missions 1. Each series must be won. If one isn’t won, you’ll find people saying very little and that Maniac has been sprung from sickbay. Like Secret Missions 1, you will know that you are on the wrong track when you are flying with Maniac. Even if you win those two missions, you still lose.
I strongly suggest saving a save game file for the start of each series and using another save game file between each mission. You will know when you are at a new series because the Colonel will move you to a new ship and/or wingman.
The easy duty as Honor Guard and relaxing turns dark. The Kilirathi are suddenly everywhere. Tiger’s Claw is outgunned by five battle fleets.
And one of the pilots die. Poor Bossman. Though, you can tell it was coming when Bossman, a mission or two earlier, talks about vacationing on Firekka with his wife and daughter, and you happily agreeing with him. The red shirt guy always talks about a happy future family plan before the script kills him off.
Bossman’s wingman, Angel, blames herself for his death. She even refuses to talk to you.
Since I played Wing Commander 2 without playing any of the Secret Missions, I had no idea where the traitor Ralghi came from (“Hobbes”). Apparently, he defects with a Fralthi. Spirit and yourself go out to bring him in.
The missions get ridiculously hard because they are escort missions. Many of the missions are turning into multiple escort missions. When the auto-pilot turns off, you’re far away and the enemy ships are already in attack range of the Drayman. It is extremely difficult to succeed. It’s also never fun to hear Colonel Halycon get angry and yell at you like he does in the above image.
Interesting. After Bossman’s death, Angel wants you to be near her. This is definite foreshadowing to Wing Commander 2.
After the death of Bossman, Tiger’s Claw gets a couple new pilots from the departing TCS Austin (obvious named after Origin’s home in Austin, Texas). This is the infamous Jazz.
Born in Kansas city, Colson originally served on the TCS Austin. His brother was killed when the Kilirathi destroyed Goddard Colony. The callsign comes from that Colson is a very accomplished pianist. He makes an excellent wingman and is one of the better ones in the game.
Montclair is a New Zealand native which is why he has the marks on his face. He is a pessimist by nature. Very unpleasant company. When you order him to attack, he says OK, but what good is it going to do? We’re all just going to die anyway. The definitive cup-half-empty guy. (However, he flies all right.)
One day, Colonel Halycon calls you into his office like he normally does. You think you are going to get promoted like you often do. But then he whirls this line at you.
Things are getting more interesting.
Much more interesting.
I heard from friends that you could fly a Kilirathi ship in the Secret Missions and its a blast to be able to do so. Secret Missions 2 is so much more fun and engaging than Secret Missions 1.
This is not a sight you see everyday: a Kilirathi ship coming to land on the Tiger’s Claw.
There are way too many escort missions. They are a pain. What I dislike is how the draymen are being fired on when you’re barely in sight of them. The only way I could save the draymen is afterburning in.
With the undercover ship, you can fly in formation with the other Kilirathi ships. The undercover ship brings much needed variety to the missions as everything is getting repetitive with the second mission pack.
Iceman is shocked to learn that Terrans are beginning to betray the Confederation by giving the Kilirathi secret military information! They are called the ‘Society of Mandarins’ who believe they can live in peace with the Kilirathi and that it is the Confederacy who is to blame. This clearly shows where Origin was planning to go in Wing Commander 2 where the Mandarins are featured prominently.
In one mission, you are in a raptor and kill wavees and waves of light fighters (which blow up fast with the raptor’s nasty guns). It was like a duck shoot. One of the most fun parts of this mission pack.
There are two missions where you fly with Maniac which are the retreating missions. If you mess up in any of the missions, you end up with Maniac. If you do well on everything, you will still end the game with those missions. You’ll know if you’re still on the good path if Halycon informs you of his transfer and your promotion.
The last couple of missions before you fly with Maniac should be flying with Angel.
The marines interfere on the Kilirathi religious ceremony.
I’ve heard that wingmen in Secret Missions 2 cannot die. I wanted to see if that is true, so I killed Angel but did everything else well. It shows her funeral, but the game immediately put me on the losing track. It’s not that your wingmen can’t die, it’s that you will lose the game if the wingmen die. Such is the price for the cinematic story.
Medal of Valor is the best award you can get in the game. You can only get it on the Maniac missions.
Secret Missions 2 is primarily a bridge to Wing Commander 2. Bossman dies and Paladin retires. Jazz and Doomsday are brought in from the TCS Austin (they later return to the Austin). Angel is promoted to major and put in charge of flight commander for the TCS Austin. Halycon gets transferred to Tactical, while you get promoted to flight commander for the TCS Tiger’s Claw.
YOU get to run the mission briefings now!
Ki’thrak Mang, a major Kilirathi starbase in the Enigma sector, is the next major target to push back the Kilirathi. The Tiger’s Claw is assigned to take out the starbase. All pilots are assigned on patrols to make sure the enemy doesn’t intercept the Tiger’s Claw. However, a wave of ships finds their way to the Tiger’s Claw destroying it. The wave of ships came from your patrol route. You thought you saw some ships, but they disappeared from your radar. The only answer is that Kilirathi have cloaking ships! Your flight recorder mysteriously malfunctions so you cannot prove your story.
Admiral Tolywn blames you for the destruction of the Tiger’s Claw. But since you can’t be proven a traitor either, you get demoted to a desk job in a backwater system on the Caevernon Starbase. You sit at the desk for ten years while the Kilirathi advance. Eventually, the Caevernon Starbase begins to be on the front lines as the Confederation slowly lose the war. They need a pilot to scout out for enemies around the Caevernon Starbase…
WHAT IS IT?
Wing Commander 2 uses the same formula as Wing Commander 1. You have a briefing, fly a mission, then you land and report, repeat. A significant difference is that you will not always be stationed at Caevernon Starbase (i.e. one location) like you were always on the Tiger’s Claw in Wing Commander 1. The mission briefings and reports are not the same talking heads. They’re more cinematic and differentiated each time. There is also no bar, no simulator, no chalkboard, and no talking to pilots while drinking. You have two choices. Either look at the story script (one door) or head to mission (another door). The game will tell you which one to go to by opening or closing that particular door.
The game engine is significantly more polished than Wing Commander 1. It still isn’t true 3d yet it is the best pre-3d 3d you will find.
Dynamic AI- The better you fight, the better the enemy will fight. The more you lose, the easier the enemy becomes. This is to ensure the missions aren’t too easy or too hard.
Replay- You have a recorder which you can watch your previous mission and judge your performance. However, the replay cannot be saved and is deleted once you start the next mission.
Speech FX- Wing Commander 2 popularized the Sound Blaster due to the Speech Pak add-on. In flight, the wingmen and enemies will actually talk to you. However, chat between missions is still text.
Torpedos and Phase Shields- In Wing Commander 1, the capital ships were a joke. Now, they behave more like capital ships. The phase shields prevent anything from hitting a capital ship except torpedos. Torpedos can only be launched by bombers and have an extremely long time to ‘lock on’ to the target. Capital ships all have flak cannons now which makes it dangerous to stay in their range.
Turrets- The heavy ships like bombers have turrets on them (usually the rear). Instead of turning around, you just look out the rear and start firing on the Kilirathi who think they are clever for getting behind you.
Tractor beams- Only certain ships have tractor beams. They can bring in ejected pilots, flight recorders, other debris, or whatever the game wants you to get.
Particle Cannons- In Wing Commander 1, you had nice long range lasers or short range neutron guns. A recent Confederation innovation called the particle cannon has the range of a laser with the punch of a neutron gun.
After ten years, the Confederation ships have changed.
The Scimitar was officially retired in Wing Commander 1: Secret Missions 2: Crusade. In the following ten years, obviously the Hornet and Raptor were retired as well. But what about the Rapier?
While the Rapier was brand new in Wing Commander 1, it is now a relic in Wing Commander 2. The ship has had its design ‘refreshed’ with slightly better shields and weapons, but it behaves just as it always did.
Extremely fast ship. Unfortunately, it has no missiles and has very light armor. This is what the Confederation is using for scouting now that the Hornet is gone.
This is a strange fighter. It is faster than the ferret, has weak armor, has some missiles, and it carries a torpedo. Apparently, its role is that of a raider that is able to get it, lay down some missiles and a torpedo, and get out fast.
Massive ship. Has side turrets as well as rear turrents. Holds many torpedoes. Heavy bomber ship. It also has no afterburners because the ship is too heavy.
Just like Wing Commander 1, there are no menus. Starting out, this is what you will see:
Going from left to right, the options are Console, Airlock, Fly Mission Hatch, View Storyline Hatch.
The Console is where you save and reload your game. It also keeps track of your mission count and kills like the chalkboard did in Wing Commander 1. It is also where the replay mode is at.
The Airlock exits you out of the game.
The Fly Mission immediately sends you to the briefing and then to the mission.
The View Storyline is nothing but a cutscene or series of cutscenes.
What’s neat is when you are finished with a mission, the door to the ‘Fly mission’ will be closed while the door to the ‘View storyline’ will be open (it is Human nature to go through the open door). Once you ‘view storyline’, the door will close and the ‘fly mission’ door will open. You don’t have to view storyline, the doors opening and closing is just cosmetic.
When you start, the door of the ‘view storyline’ is closed. Why? It was the introduction showing you the destruction of Tiger’s Claw. Now it is time to start the mission.
The console looks like a console. I do prefer this over the bunks.
There is no simulator.
There is no bar.
There is no place to check out your medals. Sorry. Those things were seen as hurting the flow of the game and were removed.
You’re part of security on a backwater sector. You and your wingman, Shadow, get to fly a boring diamond shaped patrol “just to make the brass happy”. You tell Shadow you prefer this ‘joyride to the asteroids’ better than being at the desk.
However, you wish you were in something better than a Ferret. Shadow, though, likes the Ferrets.
Here is your boring diamond shaped mission.
What a surprise. Sartha light fighters greet you at Nav 1.
Two things surprised me going into Wing Commander 2. The first is all the talking. Hearing your wingman does make you internalize the voice with the personality. For Shadow, she’s apparently a Texas girl.The second is just how fast Wing Commander 2′s action is. Enemy ships don’t take forever to whittle down. They die fast. As the difficulty ramps up (there is that intelligent difficulty working in the background), they dodge bullets better but still die fast if you connect your shots.
Through the asteroid field! Asteroids actually look round now… or at least frozen brains in space. It’s not quite 3d, but it is a vast improvement from Wing Commander 1.
The mission debriefing shows Wing Commander 2 rattling the formula. Missions still exist in a briefing, mission, debriefing mode, but the briefings won’t always be on the deck of a carrier ship. Much of them will be when you’re still in your cockpit.
But what if you die? It is similar to Wing Commander 1.
At least you get the option to immediately replay the mission instead of witnessing your funeral every time.
When you continue script, you watch the Kilirathi win, and Earth be conquered.
Then the credits roll. What a sad ending.
Provided you don’t die, reporting your encounters with fighters, who shouldn’t in this system, alarms the station.
Shadow will confide with you that seeing enemy fighters is scaring her. She is just a reservist and will be retiring in a month so she can be with her family.
But you fly a desk. So you go back to your comm room and monitor signals for the next mission.
A distress signal appears from the Concordia, the flagship of the Confederacy, which jumped into the system. Their escort was destroyed and their flight decks have taken damage. They cannot launch fighters to protect themselves.
You and Shadow launch to save the Concordia.
Upon landing, you find the commander of Concordia’s pilots is Angel. Admiral Tolwyn, however, is the overall commander of the ship.
Angel invites you to the Observatory Deck for an old reunion.
All the survivors of the Tiger’s Claw are present except for Hunter, Paladin and Maniac. They are Doomsday, Jazz, Angel, Spirit, and yourself.
Doomsday is still gloomy. Spirit, though, seems much more optimistic than during Secret Missions 2.
Jazz, though, blames you for the destruction of the Tiger’s Claw. Furious, you leave.
Angel follows and apologizes to you for Jazz’s behavior. She explains it that Jazz is also jealous. He was the best pilot on Concordia until you arrived.
Sometimes on the Concordia, there will be the traditional briefings where all the pilots are in a single room.
These scenario scenes are pretty cool such as the repair deck.
This must be start of the ‘sexy mechanic’ staple of Roberts.
After flying a mission for Concordia, you walk in on a conversation between Shadow and Angel. Shadow is telling Angel that you need to be on the front lines and not flying a desk.
Angel asks you if you want to transfer. You say yes. But Angel has to put in the request to the admiral.
For now, you and Shadow must return to the space station and resume being security guards.
In this rare whiny photo of Blair, you express no hope of transfer. Interestingly, it is fun how the game feeds off the hatred the two characters have for each other. You don’t see that too often in many games.
Before you can land, the flight deck of the Concordia was sabotaged and fighters cannot launch (again). The flagship is under attack. You and Shadow turn around to save the day.
But Shadow doesn’t make it.
The landing scenes are very slick too.
Once landing, the admiral meets you where you tell him to go hell. He says Concordia is scheduled to jump before your ship is ready and he won’t delay the flagship for just you. So you’re going to the Niven sector.
With Shadow’s death, your friends try to comfort you. It’s neat how Angel refers to Bossman which occurred in Secret Missions 2 (where Angel was a mess).
Spirit even offers to fly with you. Of course, the admiral has given orders that you not fly combat missions. For this mission, you fly a Broadsword (heavy bomber) on a reconnaissance mission.
The capital ships still aren’t the size they are in the more modern 3d space shooters, but it is a far cry better than Wing Commander 1. It actually looks like a capital ship.
It has a rear turret too! It is so much fun to have the enemy fire at the rear where you just swivel around and blow them away.
The Broadsword isn’t that maneuverable so it has side turrets too.
At a Poker game with the pilots, you meet Ralgha who was the Kilirathi defector you saved in Secret Missions 2. Over the years, he became a pilot for the Confederacy.
Your character is not pleased with the next mission. “What am I? The admiral’s delivery boy?”
The combat of Wing Commander 2 is just so much more fun than Wing Commander 1. It’s nice when stuff blows up easily.
While you are gone, the comm officer had someone take care of the station while he went to get coffee. He comes back and sees the mysterious person talking to a Kilirathi. This person kills the comm officer. With the murder and the earlier bomb, there is a traitor aboard the Concordia!
However, you are nowhere at the Concordia. You’ve landed on Niven. You get a new hub screen as well.
You meet Downtown, one of Concordia’s pilots who has a different type of mission than yours.
On the way back, you get escort missions. Escort missions still suck. I think they are harder to defend than in Wing Commander 1 since stuff blows up faster in Wing Commander 2.
You learn of the murder only when you are asked to turn over your weapon as you land.
Talk of the murder and the sabotage makes the rounds. Jazz thinks it is a coincidence how it all started when you showed up.
But who is the spy? Obviously, you won’t know until near the end of the game. Chris Roberts knows how to make you keep playing.
On your next mission, you go solo and run into the cloaked fighters again.
Of course, your flight recorder gets destroyed again. Interestingly, you get into an argument with Angel and demand to know whether she believes you were responsible for the Tiger’s Claw. Before she gives you an answer, she says she will talk to you later.
Stingray was grounded lately. You find out that he was framed. His pilot wings were planted into McGuffin’s hands. Stingray eventually gets cleared to fly again.
When you do talk to Angel, she changes the subject and talks war strategy instead. While the Vega Campaign of Wing Commander 1 had to be fought since the Vega sector was between Kilirathi and Confederation space, what is so special about Enigma sector? Why is the Concordia there? Due to a black hole in the area, jump points go across the sector making Enigma strategically important. The Kilirathi can use it to bypass the frontlines and hit Earth.
Hobbes uses his pull to get you assigned to his wing. He is the Wing Commander for the next mission. And his order is to give you command to observe you in battle and your commanding style. Apparently, you are famous in the Kilirathi Empire.
That is not stars on the right view screen. My ship had taken so much damage that computers were going haywire. This attention to detail and having the cockpit fall apart around you is something you don’t see in games today.
You remain skeptical over Hobbes fighting against the Kilirathi, but Sparks sets you straight.
In the next mission, you are to escort the Bonnie Heather transport back to the Concordia. Aboard is your old friend, Paladin.
Paladin is ‘retired’ but he commands a freighter now. In the above picture, he comments on Angel. You reply: “I haven’t noticed.” hahahaha.
Decades later, I still can’t get over Paladin’s wild shirt.
Paladin goes to the admiral to bat for you. We also learn that Paladin and Hobbes were responsible for the Kilirathi colony on Ghorah Khar joining the Confederation.
You never know what is going to happen next. In the middle of a mission briefing given to you personally by the admiral, the Concordia falls under attack.
While you stay at the space station after saving it, Hobbes shares with you why he defied the Kilirathi. He felt it was against his honor for Kilirathi to have Human slave but the breaking point was being ordered to kill a Human child. The human child was the pilot, Downtown.
You’re so hated, everyone prefers to believe Hobbes saved the space station while you sat it out.
If you are successful at Ghorah Khar, the Concordia will advance to Novaya sector.
You’re given a big mission with Doomsday as your pilot flying Broadswords. You are to jump to another sector and destroy a Kilirathi refueling station. This is the first time you’ll use a jump ship.
There is a refueling station on the way. So many slick scenes.
And the station blows up quite nicely.
The spy hits again. Stingray’s wingman, Dallas, dies due to his ship systems coming apart. In the next mission, Stingray himself has to eject. You are given the mission to fly there and retrieve Stingray from space.
However, Kilirathi ships begin to swarm the system and the Concordia calls you off. You defy orders.
In order to turn on the tractor beam, press [g] (to switch from guns to tractor beam) and just shoot at the pilot. It’s that simple.
The admiral reprimands you. It is fun to watch the hate flow between both of them.
Ten years later, Spirit is still thinking of her fiance who was captured during Secret Mission 2. “Lucky in cards, unlucky in love,” Spirit muses.
The traitor is contacting Spirit. Why? She won’t say.
In another mission, you are to rescue a courier. He doesn’t make it when you arrive and sends out a data capsule. As before, you must use a tractor beam to reel it in.
Something is going on with Spirit. The Admiral keeps summoning her.
Apparently, command found out about the spy contacting her.
Returning from one mission, you find this out. But wouldn’t Hobbes fight with his claws and not his fists?
Spirit keeps getting on and off the roster. Now, she is sick and won’t fly with you.
Your first mission alone for a while and what do you get? More cloaking fighters.
After you kill off the invisible fighters, you escort the Mama’s Boy back. What a surprise that your mission recorder ends up blank.
Angel refuses to hear about the invisible fighters especially since your flight recorders keep getting damaged. Angel is keeping your reports of cloaked fighters to herself. She’s not letting the admiral know which is probably a good thing.
Spirit tells you what is going on. The spy informed Spirit that her fiance was alive and to blackmail her with his life. However, Spirit refused to betray the Confederation. Once realizing this, Command dropped all suspicions on Spirit. Emotionally, she’s a wreck.
Since Spirit didn’t play ball, she is the next victim targeted by the spy. Her sabre is sabotaged and the rear explodes. The gunner is dead. Spirit’s ship is losing pressure. You tell her to eject but that is futile since being so deep in enemy space means search and rescue cannot retrieve ejected pilots. Spirit tells you she will meet you in heaven while she afterburns into the starbase that holds her fiance captive. The torpedo on her ship erupts destroying the starbase.
Spirit’s death demoralizes everyone. Angel is thrown into a depression. And then… This is as good as any time to stop. You’ll have to play to find out how the story unfolds. This is about a dozen missions in, not too much, and so many events remain to be seen. Since the Wing Commander 2 expansion packs continue the story onward, I’ll try not to mention them as much to avoid spoiling the reader.
The plot is worth seeing unfold in game.
You never know what is going to happen next.
Inside the Concordia or outside.
However, this character in the target screen is Khasra. He is the Kilirathi who the prince talks to in the introduction (the one with the badass voice). You get to fight Kilirathi royalty.
Why is the Concordia hiding in an asteroid belt?
Sometimes Angel will fly on your wing!
The traitor is still at large.
Above: This prince is very much against this website.
Above: The final enemy starbase is huge.
Above: If you wait after the final credits roll, you’ll be treated with a small cutscene.
WING COMMANDER 2: SPECIAL OPERATIONS I
Special Operations is Origin getting people to buy Wing Commander 2 multiple times. Special Operations 1 and 2 number around twenty missions with each one. Some new enemy ships are added. A new confederation ship you can fly is added with each pack (Special Operations 1 has the Crossbow). There is even a new ‘setting’ added to the cinematics (the brig). Ultimately, though, this is just more missions and nothing but more missions.
Chris Roberts, being the sly devil he is, makes you want to play it because it continues the story. Special Operations 1 takes places immediately after the events of Wing Commander 2.
Having just played through Special Operations 1, I can say the gameplay is significantly harder (but not crazy hard as the Secret Missions packs). Special Operations 1 assumes you are a Wing Commander 2 veteran and throws you in tough situations.
The story, however, takes a very different approach from the seeming free-wheeling tight plot of Wing Commander 2. Most of the story appears to be setting everything up for Special Operations 2. There are a few new characters which don’t seem nearly as interesting as the characters we’ve already seen.
THE STORY CONTINUES
Wing Commander 2: Secret Operations 1 starts the storyline right after the end of Wing Commander 2. The Kilirathi prince ejected from battle (which you knew if you saw the credits in WC 2) and gets picked up. The animosity between you and the admiral is no longer present. Admiral Tolywn gets you to join the Special Operations unit which is made up of a few pilots (such as Angel and Hobbes).
The first few missions have you patrol with Stingray before you go on your Special Operations run. Along these patrols, you encounter brand new Kilirathi fighters such as below…
Several other new enemy ships will be revealed.
The traitor uncovered on the Concordia was working with the Mandarins. The early part of Special Operations 1 revolves around the Mandarins (the humans who are fighting for the Kilirathi).
Always nice to see new faces. Origin actually brought new art assets to this mission pack.
In this mission, you get assaulted by evil ferrets. They are quite fun to blast away with your rear turret cannon!
You even get thrown in the brig!
In SO1, you are rarely on the Concordia. In this mission, you launch from another carrier called the Gettysberg.
This is the new Confederation ship in SO1, the Crossbow. It is like the Broadsword but more powerful. Looks slick.
While I didn’t own SO1 back in the day, I recall watching some friends play through missions. I was amazed at scenes like this where you would have four wingmen.
Who could this Kilirathi be? You’ll have to play to find out.
If you see this screen, you are near the end of Special Operations 1. The left if your new ship, the Crossbow, and the right is the Bonnie Heather, Paladin’s ship.
It’s difficult to say anything about the story that would spoil it. The gameplay itself remains the same with you having three wingmates for the final battle.
Most of Special Operations 1 revolves around defending the Confederacy joined Kilirathi colony of Ghorah Kor. But unlike the ending of Wing Commander 2, Special Operations 1 doesn’t have a clear victory setting the stage for Secret Operations 2.
WING COMMANDER 2: SPECIAL OPERATIONS 2
STORY CONTINUES IN SECRET OPERATIONS 2
The first mission is different. You are alone, and you have to escort a freighter… that is carrying the traitor of Wing Commander 2 to where the person will be executed. You are happy to have your leave interrupted to do this. However, Mandarins hijack the ship and jump the freighter away.
The traitor is once again at large.
Concordia and the Confederacy are focusing on the Deneb Sector after the surprise attack by the Kilirathi at the end of Secret Operations 1.
Sparks is the first one to mention the Morningstar to you. Much of Secret Operations 2 revolves around this new Confederacy prototype ship.
Maniac finally makes an appearance! This is the first time he’s seen in Wing Commander 2′s engine. He looks… frightful with red eyes as if he is drugged. Apparently, he leads a team of test pilots.
One of Maniac’s team members has to eject. Your mission is to pick her up. Always nice when a new pilot is introduced.
Paladin appears from nowhere. And even he is talking about the Morningstar.
Special Operations 2 starts off very boring. You ‘assist’ Maniac and his team on Morning Star test patrols. Of course, you are still flying old Wing Commander 2 ships while everyone else is flying the cool ship. Why do you torture us, Chris Roberts?
This guy is another member of Maniac’s squadron.
And so is this guy. His name is Crossbones. It’s good to see Origin doing some work on new art assets for the mission pack. Wing Commander’s appeal largely revolves around the interesting pilots.
God, I feel old here. Idiot young punks.
The missions are the same as always from Wing Commander. However, this is one mission where when you are approaching Nav 3, Concordia messages you. They tell you it is a bomb, and you better fly away from it immediately. I ignored it the first time, and saw a unique cutscene of all of space blowing up and me with it! Hahaha.
It is nice that a new game dynamic was added for the mission. Running away from Nav point before it blows up was refreshing as all the missions seem to be the same thing over and over again.
Minx throws herself at you. Cheating on Angel? Come now!
Apparently, there is lots of kissing in Secret Operations 1. Next scene, you’re liplocked with Angel after you save her life.
Right when I thought Special Operations 2 was becoming a snore fest, it gets very interesting. Saying any more would spoil the story.
Very interesting as you can imagine.
It will be no surprise that you eventually get to pilot the Morningstar. The ship is very nice. It is very fast, well armored, fires three particle cannons at once, and carries a nuke. There are no side turrets or rear turrets.
Morningstar looks pretty cool too.
Don’t ask why you are landing on that Kilirathi freighter. You have to play to find out!
For over twenty years, I’ve been wanting to do something like this. In the above picture, I am nuking Maniac. You have to love the little touches in this game. The radiation knocks out my targeting display. Would other games think of that? Of course not.
Who knew Concordia had a cannon? Then why must I fly out defense around her so often!?
This is the last picture you’ll see before the game ends. The ending took me by surprise (though the mission did not).
In the credits, it says ‘TO BE CONCLUDED IN WING COMMANDER 3″. If you stick around after the credits, you’ll see something cute.
There is a large amount of nostalgia for Wing Commander I and II. However, I don’t think it is affecting the review. The games truly do hold up especially with GOG getting the DOSbox speed near correct. I have never played the mission packs so there is no nostalgia there.
JUSTIFICATION FOR RATING
Despite its historical significance, Wing Commander remains fun for two very important reasons. The first is that gameplay is still compelling. It is fun to shoot enemy ships and twist around them in a dogfight. It is fun to be in a military campaign and work your way up by earning victories. It is fun to figure out how to use your guns and missiles effectively against different enemy fighters and situations.
The other significant reason of just how much fun these games are today is the detailed universe. The detail is extraordinary. Everything feels like it was placed there intentionally.
What I enjoy most are the personalities of the pilots. Everyone feels real. They don’t feel like cliches. However, if they do feel like a cliche, it is likely because other games have tried to copy what was done.
The story is reason enough to plow through this game. Epic stories are commonly said to be about everything these days. But this one is probably in the top five of all games made. The storyline and characters starts in Wing Commander 1, continues in the two mission packs, continues directly on in Wing Commander 2, as well as its two mission packs, and the main characters again appear in Wing Commander 3 and 4 (with live actors). I remember thinking Ninja Gaiden (NES) had a pretty good storyline to it that made you want to go to the next mission just to see what happens next. But Wing Commander (especially Wing Commander 2) just makes Ninja Gaiden seem like a toy in comparison.
The game’s challenge becomes a significant problem when you just want to see what happens with the story. Luckily, there is a cheat mode in the game that will allow you to fly through the missions and easily succeed (invulnerability for the player. If that is not enough, pressing [ALT] [Del] when an enemy ship is targeted instantly destroys it). I won’t say what the cheat code is here. I’ll make the reader have to search for it because you shouldn’t use it until absolutely necessary. Even if you totally suck at Wing Commander, cheating through this entire package will take several hours. There is just so much stuff happening! So much story.
Joysticks’ analog support will not work in Wing Commander 1 and 2 (but is supported in 3 and 4). This issue is more due to the time period of this game. Analog support didn’t even exist on joysticks back then.
The biggest obstacle to get into the game is this:
Above: 3d before 3d is quite ugly up close.
Chris Roberts used bitmaps on pre-rendered ships in order to create the 3d objects. It looks terrible up close. It will be very difficult to come to Wing Commander from a more modern game like Wing Commander 3 or 4 or Freespace 2.
Depending on what type of gamer you are, the steep difficulty of this game is either a plus or a minus. During the Star Citizen pitch video, Chris Roberts said he wanted Star Citizen to have the difficulty of ‘Dark Souls’. The reason why he is saying that is because Wing Commander already had that difficulty. As someone commented when playing the game recently, “I can breeze through legendary difficulty modes on the consoles, but I have to grind my way through Wing Commander’s tough as nails difficulty.” There are no difficulty options (as there are no menus). There is just one difficulty.
Wing Commander 1 and 2 may be a modern game in its ambitious attempts to create a cinematic experience, but it is oldschool in just how incredibly challenging the gameplay is. “I just beat Wing Commander 1. I didn’t think it was that hard.” Wait until the Secret Missions. “Oh, geez!” Exactly.
Above: In the Secret Missions, you have more than one wingman. Here, I have THREE!
If there is any doubt to the value of this package, know that it took over a month just to write this review. You know that I finished both games and all four mission packs due to the evidence of the photos. This package is massive, and would have been worth over $200 when it was currently released.
Wing Commander is one of the defining experiences for PC gaming, definitely in the top ten and probably in the top five. A PC gamer who hasn’t played Wing Commander is a sad creature like a console gamer who hasn’t played a Mario game.
Who should buy this game?
Anyone who is looking forward to Star Citizen, this is a must buy. Don’t fall for forum dwellers telling you to play Wing Commander 3 or 4 or Freespace 2 first because of the ‘age’ of this game. From what Chris Roberts has said, Star Citizen will be more like the original Wing Commander (and Privateer) than any other game.
Do you enjoy single player immersion games? The detail of the universe is rarely seen in games.
Do you enjoy games with story like the Final Fantasy games? Then you will enjoy this package greatly.
If you enjoy arcade gaming, then Wing Commander 1 and 2 will be up your alley. There is tons of burst gameplay and heartwrenching action here.
If you don’t have much time in a busy life, a Wing Commander mission doesn’t take long at all. A few minutes?
Do you enjoy difficult games like Dark Souls? Then this is the game for you. Secret Missions 1 will make Dark Souls seem like a kiddie game.
If you wish to play Wing Commander 3 or 4 or Privateer, you really should start with Wing Commander 1 and 2.
Who shouldn’t buy this game?
It will be people who do not own a joystick. Wing Commander can be played with just a keyboard or a mouse, but it is not recommended. Wing Commander comes alive with the joystick.
People who hate difficult games where you have to try again and again at times. Not counting the missions packs, both Wing Commander games are set up for you to succeed even if you screw up. They’re not that hard.
Anyone expecting an RPG or a ‘slow’ game they can play half drunk, don’t bother.
Those who are prejudiced against old games’ graphics will have a problem here. Wing Commander 1 and 2 use ‘before-3d’ graphics before the 3d revolution. I don’t have a problem, but the bitmaps may be frustrating to people.
Above: Halycon seems like such an imposing figure. The one time he makes a funny face, I snapped a shot. It is one of the few times he won’t be glaring at you!
So what is the value of this game according to the Post Console scale? The game is certainly not the best of its kind available. Gameplay and graphics have been surpassed by Wing Commander 3, 4 and the Freespace series. It is no Tanooki or Metroid.
Above: Shades of Return of the Jedi here…
What surprised me was how replayable the Wing Commander games are. While the Mission Packs are tough as nails hard and very linear, Wing Commander 1 and 2 are not. There are multiple endings. There are multiple paths through the game. Wing Commander 1 can be especially complex in its branching. The replayability pushes it to Zelda status. Also, consider that there are two full games here (Wing Commander I and II) along with four mission packs. There is just so much stuff here.
Above: The game constantly surprises. Here, Angel is on your wing.
Wing Commander I and II have been out of sight for most PC gamers due to lack of joysticks in our modern day (how many games use a joystick?) but mostly being unable to get these games running properly on modern machines. Thanks to GOG’s secret sauce, the games are running around the level what I remember. (This game is no fun if it is ‘too fast’ or ‘too slow’. It must be just right.)
I was totally enraptured by Wing Commander I and II. While the graphics have aged, you can still feel the ambition in the game. The music, oh God, the music is incredible. And it is not just bombastic stuff. Take a listen and see for yourself:
I missed the mission packs the first time around, so this was the first time in my life to play them. They are extremely difficult and extremely linear. I had to resort to cheating through them (I didn’t cheat through the main games).
While I really enjoyed the mission packs expanding on the story, it never had the punch of the main games. Still, they were all engaging. Secret Missions 2 was the most memorable of the mission packs.
The problem with the mission packs is that the gameplay becomes very tedious. You shoot ships, dodge missiles, play dodge the asteroids, and you can only do that so many times before it feels old. I believe the problem is re-using the game engine. When I play Wing Commander I or II, I go “YEAHHHHH!!” By the first mission pack, I am like “Ugh” and at the second mission pack, I am going “Is this over yet?” If there is any serious fault with this game package, it is that the mission packs don’t diversify the mission gameplay, and it feels like you’re constantly retreading old ground.
But then again, at the end of Secret Operations 2 you will have flown like 200 or 300 missions. Can such a number be played without it starting to feel samey?
Wing Commander I, Secret Missions 1, Secret Missions 2, Wing Commander II, Special Operations 1, and Special Operations 2 is a fantastic package and constantly overlooked by many. Now that GOG recently added the mission packs, even veterans of Wing Commander should go back and take a look.
“But I am scared to go back! If I do, it might ruin my memories of how awesome the game is.”
Do not worry, my friend. It will confirm just how brilliant Wing Commander is.
And to those who have never experienced Wing Commander, get a joystick and try it out. Even if you hate it (unlikely), you’ll get a good story out of it (complete with some cheesy parts). Unless you hate arcade games, sci-fi games, or games that use a joystick, I can’t see anyone not liking Wing Commander I and II.