Wing Commander Review

Wing Commander Featured

Wing Commander Boxart

Developer:  Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Consoles – 3DO, PlayStation, Sega CD, SNES, PC – Amiga, Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG*

Wing Commander is a series that flourished in the 90s and helped bring about a whole new style for space sims to come. The first Wing Commander, released in 1990, was a revelation. The pixel graphics were crisp, the action was incredible, and the dynamic soundtrack kept excitement going. Over 20 years later, the game is still impressive.

You begin as the newest member on the TCS Tiger’s Claw. The crew of pilots are tasked with stopping the alien race Kilrathi’s plans of domination. Over the course of a dozen or so missions, you’ll have to fight against them time and time again. The meat of Wing Commander is dogfights, so you’d best be prepared.

The game is pretty tough. Battles are displayed from the cockpit, meaning less than half the screen actually shows what’s going on in space. However, the cockpit has multiple readouts that are necessary for skillful play. You can fly in any direction, speed up and break, launch targeted missiles, and order your partner about.  If you can’t shoot down the enemy then they’ll take you down. You always have a partner during missions but they can die too, or save your hide.  Whether you win or lose partners, the game continues. This is perhaps the strangest and most “modern” feature.

Wing Commander Screenshot

Shooting is difficult in part because of imperfect mouse control but also because of having to judge where bullets will land. After enough fights you get the hang of it, but sometimes it doesn’t seem correct. At least an audible cue sounds when a bullet collides with an enemy ship’s exterior.

The biggest letdown when playing Wing Commander is that there’s very little story to dig into. Although characters have been set up, they hardly bring anything noteworthy to the table. Instead, the focus is 90% on missions and battles. As entertaining as these are, the game is simply too short. Those who buy the GOG release gain access to the expansion packs The Secret Missions and The Secret Missions 2: Crusade which add more playtime via new missions.

Considering its age, Wing Commander is still an excellent introduction to the series. It offers an incredible amount of replay value (missions change based on your performance) and excellent fight sequences. Just don’t jump into the cockpit expecting a deep storyline. It seems that is only implemented later in the series.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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