Wing Commander: Unknown Enemy is a fan made mod for Special Ops created by the team that went on to do Standoff. It’s not a game I know much about and if I’m going into a game not knowing much I prefer to keep it that way rather than picking up any spoilers. I do know it was released about 10 years ago and created as an attempt to be the best WC fan made game available at the time.
To this end, it comes with a fiction viewer as well as the game itself. Completing a mission gives me a password which opens up a bit more of the text. This is a nice idea – it’s a pity it couldn’t be incorporated into the game itself but it’s not a big deal to exit and restart the game after each mission. The writing quality is fair, positively good for fan fiction but you probably wouldn’t get a book published writing like this. I could level the same criticism about the plot in most games, having said that. For a fan game, this stuff is well above what you would expect.
In brief, the plot revolves around a Border Worlds ship called the Dauntless where I am a Wing Commander.
The game even has an introductory movie. From what I can see, this looks well done but it speeds by at 1000mph and is over in a couple of seconds presumably due to my processor speed. I can see it’s more for show than anything else so I don’t worry about missing it.
There is a bit of an intro showing my carrier and a few ships taking off. The first things I notice here are that all the models are new and that this game is going to be set around the WC2 timeline judging from the ships. The Dauntless bares a strong resemblance to the Concordia only we get to see it in full 3D. There is new voice acting as well – the acting isn’t always too strong but it works better than you might expect.
The first mission is a simple patrol, with the option of inspecting freighter craft for contraband.
I get a choice of ship – a Scimitar or an Epee. I remember both well from Wing Commander 2 – I’d rather be in a Broadsword but maybe I’ve got that to look forward to. I go for the heavier Scimitar.
I get a better look at a few of the new models when I take off. They aren’t up to the level of detail of the original Secret Op’s models. However, they do look very faithful to the WC2 originals. It does look as though the sprites of that game have been brought to life, with perhaps a small loss of detail but even so it gives the game a retro feeling instead of just being amateur. It was a good choice to take the game back in time.
I can literally just autopilot 3 times and complete this mission but if I want to do it properly I discover that I have to inspect all the transport ships and one has contraband. It refuses to surrender and we get into a fight.
It’s joined in the fight by mining ships. These have no shields and are extremely slow. It’s a reasonably easy start to the game. My biggest problem is getting them in my sights but they drop in a few hits when I do. I’m also having to get used to actually aiming again after playing Starlancer.
I should mention the music which is all original to UE. It’s in the spirit of WC2 and while it loops more than I would like it wouldn’t be too out of place in that game. It changes track during battles just like WC2 picking up the pace. A lot of the radio chatter is original too but the taunts are taken from Secret Ops – some of these are out of place as they mention bugs or Casey but it’s easy to ignore this.
After wiping out the fighters we strip the transport of all its guns at which point it surrenders.
We escort it to a base and fly off to complete the patrol.
After completing the mission, I get my first password for the fiction. I’m struggling a little to tie the fiction in with the mission I’ve just flown + the one I’m about to fly. The story talks about the Dauntless losing all its squadrons as they are transferred out and the ship itself it prepared for retirement.
Mission 2 is capturing a Fralthi. This is the first time I’ll have been up against the Kilrathi in a while.
There is another example of the branching mission system used in UE early in the mission. There are two incoming groups of fighters and I have to pick which one to intercept in an attempt to find the Fralthi. I go for the Dralthis/Vaktoths. I don’t remember any Vaktoths in WCP – the models appear to have been stripped from WC3/4 and copied over into the new engine.
As soon as I arrive, I get a message saying the Fralthi is withdrawing into the asteroid belt and I have to afterburn to locate it before we lose it’s signal.
When I do see it, it just sits there and there is no sign of an asteroid belt but I’ll suspend disbelief for now.
Taking out the turrets on this thing is phenomenally hard. The ships in UE are more like those in WC2 in that you can die in a few hits. This makes taking on turrets nearly impossible.
I try this mission over and over again until eventually I luck out and my wingmen come through for me. We are also joined in the final battle by some more ships. They all have a habit of getting themselves killed which is where the luck comes in.
This gets me another password. I think this mission stepped over the line between challenging and frustrating. If the missions continue to get harder then I’m going to have problems finishing this game. I guess I have to bear in mind that this whole thing is only 11 missions long and would be over in no time with the same difficulty level as Secret Ops.
So far UE looks pretty good. It’s not in the same league as Starlancer but it’s not really fair to compare a fan game to a commercial release. At least this runs in XP, I just hope it gets a little easier.