The Let's Play Archive

Wing Commander

by ivantod

Thanks! We like it too.Why not check out some similar LPs from our recommendations?
What would you like to tag this LP as?

Original Thread: Die Furball! Let's Play Wing Commander



Let's Play...

Wing Commander is the first entry (published 1990) in a series of "space combat simulation" games designed (well, at least the first four) by Chris Roberts at Origin Systems, Inc. He previously worked on RPG games for them and then came to work on Wing Commander series with the very high concept idea of "World War II... in space!" (it was supposed to be based mostly on the Pacific theatre as far as I know).

In the first game, the story is set in the year 2654 at the point where humans have already been involved in a war with the cat-like Kilrathi for a couple of decades. You take on the role of an (at this point unnamed) rookie pilot assigned to the Terran Confederation Ship "Tiger's Claw" during the Vega Sector campaign and end up flying a variety of missions--the amount of success you have influences the outcome of the campaign.

Wing Commander was actually a bit innovative in this respect as you didn't need to finish every mission successfully--instead they were divided into several "series" of 2-4 missions and individual missions mattered less as long as you won the series. However, even if you failed that, all was still not lost as WC1 featured a branching tree of missions, so you could continue playing, and if you played well you probably would still have been able to get back on the winning branch.

Somewhat ironically, the game designers eventually found out that everybody was still mostly replaying missions until they succeeded, so this whole idea of a branching tree was more or less abandoned first with the WC1 expansion content and then in WC2 (although it featured a very simplified version). We won't be visiting most of the losing branches here (with one possible exception, you probably know what I'm talking about) as 'deeper' ones feature missions where you are in more and more desperate situations fighting against impossible odds (realistic maybe, but not so much fun).

The game was also praised for its technical achievements, specifically the graphics (although the sound and music was also pretty great--apart from various sound cards it even supported PC speaker, but of course no music was possible in that case). This being 1990, the days before widespread 3D accelerators, the designers came up with a cool trick: all objects in space have been pre-drawn in several different orientations thus creating 2D sprites--the graphics engine will pick one of those and was also capable of scaling and rotating them, thus increasing the number of angles and distances that can be shown, making the game look almost 3D. This works well for dogfighting, but isn't 100% great when it has to deal with larger ships, as will be seen. However, in my opinion the game looks a lot less dated today than some of the games from a few years later precisely because it doesn't use low poly models/low res textures like many of 3D games from mid-late nineties.

Another fun aspect of the game is the contents of the box itself... Included in the package was a set of large format detailed blueprints of all the Terran fighters that you get to fly (not to mention that they also doubled as part of copy-protection check)! It's better than Sierra style copy protection for sure.

The manual itself came in the form of a shipboard magazine called "Claw Marks" written almost 100% "in character" (there was a brief gameplay section that deviated from this), complete with advertisements. The history of the war before you came into it is related mostly via this manual as the game itself, incredibly, does not contain any kind of cinematic intro! The rest of the plot is told via the conversations that you have with your fellow pilots between missions and via the mission briefings/debriefings. The first game doesn't really have all that much of a plot (although that starts to change already with the first expansion set and certainly with WC2), but the characters come across as very real and the sense of being part of the team is quite incredible. When I first played this game in early 1990s it was obvious pretty quickly that it was something special.

Briefing and conversations will be covered mostly via screenshots since they are basically just unvoiced talking heads, while missions will be recorded as videos including any post-mission scenes such as promotions/medals etc.

We'll cover various aspects of the game as we come across them, but in the meantime, let's begin with the intro video (well, I said there is no actual intro so it's mostly just the credits preceded by the famous Origin orchestra logo!).

With that done, let's get started.

Alright, looks like we are being dumped straight into a combat mission. Let's see...

So far, so good...


...that was quick.

Oh, it was just a simulator! Phew.

Like I said, at this point our character didn't have a name so this is just a fun way to get us to choose one, plus a callsign. We'll go with the canonical name here. You might think that Blair, being just a player avatar without specific personality (at least in this game, he gets one later) doesn't ever speak, kind of like Gordon Freeman--however, he does speak although he doesn't really say much. This is what he looks like (and hence why the Origin dev team nicknamed him "Bluehair"):

And here we are on "Tiger's Claw". There are a couple of locations we can visit, the first is the rec room that you see here. On the left side is the simulator that we saw and that you can use to practice; it's mostly useless as it only allows you to fly in the weakest fighter craft, so we won't be touching it any more. Between missions, you can talk to the bartender and to the other pilots that you will run into here.

Behind the table is the killboard, here we can see the number of missions we flew and enemies killed. Looks pretty sad right now, but this will change quickly. Unlike some of the later games (Prophecy), other pilots' scores won't be artificially inflated to keep up with us, so in just a few missions we should be able to take the first place. We'll be meeting these other people whose names are listed over the course of first couple of missions.

If we take the door on the right we reach the somewhat grubby looking barracks. In an amusing touch, beds are actually saved games. When you save a game, a person appears in that bed. Game load function is actually called "awaken"! Hallway on the left gets us back to the rec room, the door in the middle with a red warning on it is airlock (exit to DOS) and the hallway on the right takes us to the briefing room so we can fly the next mission.

The lockers on the opposite wall allow us to see the date and location and also our rank and medals/ribbons that we have earned (more on all of this later). At the moment we have none (although we do have a couple of ribbons that we earned basically just for showing up here!)

Before we move on to the first mission, some details about our home carrier.

TCS Tiger's Claw

Class: Bengal - Strike Carrier
Length: 700 Meters
Mass: 80,000 tonnes
Max Velocity: 130 kps
Cruise Velocity: 100 kps
Acceleration: Poor
Maximum Yaw: 1 dps
Maximum Pitch: 1 dps
Maximum Roll: 1 dps
Weapons: Dual Laser Turrets (8x)
Shields: Fore: 21 cm equivalent; Aft: 21 cm equivalent.
Armour: Front: 24 cm; Right: 25 cm; Left: 25 cm; Rear: 20 cm.
Fighter Complement: 104

Links of interest:

Download the Wing Commander 1 game for free, LEGALLY, here: (it is available to download on that link with permission of EA!). Note though that it's the Kilrathi Saga version of the game so it requires Windows to run and cannot be used via DOSBox! Download is 121Mb as it includes the enhanced music which takes up most of that space.

Download the Secret Missions 1 and 2 expansions for free, also legally, here: Note: It requires the above Wing Commander base download to run, and as such is also Windows-only. Also, it needs some manual fiddling to install, the instructions are in the link and its comments.

Table of Contents

Note: missions 103-113 use a special version of DosBOX with built in Roland MT MIDI emulation and feature better quality music and sound effects!
Archive Index