Part 5: Mission #5: 27 April 2654, McAuliffe systemMission #5: 27 April 2654, McAuliffe system
Previously on Wing Commander: Destroying a destroyer was pretty easy this time around... hopefully it will stay that way in the future.
Our friend Paladin is back here again...
I'm glad to see you and Paladin gettin' along so well. He'll be retirin' soon, you know? Been flyin' fighters for twenty-odd years, and now they're puttin' him out to pasture. He and I used to fly together back before the war started. Darn good man, the old Claw'll miss him.
Somehow I don't think we'll be seeing Paladin's back any time soon...
I've been watching the way Dralthi maneuver, and I think I've noticed something. Seems to me that when you're hot on a Dralthi's tail, and he pulls a loop to shake you, he always goes up or down, never to the side. Ever notice that?
That's true actually, I did notice that!
Pretending to be Gordon Freeman there for a moment...
Well, they do... always up or down, never left or right.
...but above and below - between the wings - their vision is clear.
Well that's interesting info except we kind of knew it already. Why they even need wings in vacuum is another question with no answer. Let's check in with Paladin though, who is still our wingman!
We'll be pullin' outta McAuliffe soon, an' the Colonel likes to shake up the wings every now an' then. So let me give you one last piece of advice, a young wingman ain't goin' ta stick by you the way I have, lad. That's no criticism of 'em, lad, just a fact. A youngster's got a name to make and a career to think on, 'e'll be lookin' to make a hero of 'imself. An old man like meself, on the other hand... well, I'm just wantin' to make it back so I can retire in one piece.
Oh come on, chin up, it's not that bad.
Let's see what we have to deal with this time around.
...but first, we've got a half-dozen 'sports and tankers coming in. With at least one Kilrathi carrier in the system, we're expecting the hairballs to make a play for most of the 'sports. Here are the assignments for transport escorts…
Computer, display Psi.
As soon as it arrives, the tanker will head for the Tiger's Claw. It'll be moving at top speed, and won't deviate from its shortest course. So you'll have to protect it from any attackers. Stay close, don't let enemy fighters draw you away from the tanker.
Intelligence indicates Bhurak Starkiller may be in the system.
Our records credit him with 64 kills, counting fighters and battleships. So let's all be extra careful out there, all right?
This is the last mission in this series, so once more we are in a Scimitar with Paladin. This Bhurak Starkiller guy is a Kilrathi Ace pilot, one of four you can encounter in this game; they have predefined missions where they can appear. If you already killed them previously, then they are replaced with an ordinary pilot (this can happen because of a branching plot as they appear in multiple branches). In general the ace pilots are supposed to be skilled pilots with a more distinct flying style and thus harder to kill than regular ones. In reality I guess this means a more detailed AI script, I suppose. In any case, here he is (details from the manual):
Best-known among the Kilrathi aces is Bhurak, called Bhurak Starkiller. He is regarded as the best living pilot among the Kilrathi in this sector. He flies a Salthi-Class Light Fighter.
Strengths: Bhurak's an excellent pilot and shot. He has optimal reflexes and there are no serious weaknesses to be detected in his flying style.
Weaknesses: Psych profiles indicate that Bhurak is probably addicted to speed, thrills, and sport. Though a courageous pilot, he is not without a survival instinct: A sufficient number of opponenets or a sudden turn in fortune could panic him into retreat.
Tactics: Bhurak likes the dogfight. He prefers a maneuverable foe and standard dogfight tactics. He almost always uses his ship's laser cannon, reserving his standard dumb-fire missile for stationary targets.
Recommendation: If possible, put several pilots on him at once; deny him a fair fight or anything he would consider fun. He might become disgruntled and choose another target, or rout. If you're forced into single combat with him, don't try to outfly him: You might do best by going stationary, spinning to keep him in your sights, and trading licks. He doesn't appear to consider that fun and may choose a new objective.
So, time to launch!
The other problem with Bhurak, if you really want to bag him, is that he's quite good at avoiding damage and even outmaneuvering missiles, but also as soon as he does start taking damage, he'll run away and you'll probably not manage to catch him. I did manage to do it in this mission, but only because I noticed when he started to run away--with any headstart from him you have no chance.
Other than that, we got a Silver star medal (the minimum requirement to get it is to save the tanker plus kill ALL enemies), and again got promoted to Captain (didn't we just get promoted a couple of missions ago!).
We got our first plot branch cutscene where Warren Spector and his motley gang of scientists manage to overpower a platoon of Kilrathi commandos (see bonus below for the losing version of the cutscene). McAuliffe system is done, we are moving down the winning path and crossing over the front lines into the Kilrathi territory (I'll post the map next time).
Of course, next time we get a new ship and a new wingman. I'm not going to tell you who it is, but I'll give you a hint: we may end up having a lot of statistical data told to us by our new wingman.
Our new shiny medal:
And the killboard:
If you lose in McAuliffe, you get a "subtly" different cutscene before sliding down to the losing side:
Next time on Wing Commander
If you had only 60 seconds left to live, what would you do?