Wing Commander Standoff – Day 5

I’ve been wanting to play this all week and I’d probably have got around to this last episode sooner but I’ve been messing around installing a RAID-array of hard disks, then reinstalling XP, then Windows 7 this week which has eaten into my time and then some. It’s all working now, apart from some slightly dodgy Win 7 sound drivers anyway.

Mission 1 is a two part mission and this is going to be a bit of a theme for this final episode. First I have to escort a load of fighters (being flown by techs) back to the Firekka, then I have to go and inspect a Kilrathi fleet. It sounds innocuous but on the winning path I’ve played this mission is the hardest in the game by a mile.

I fly to meet the Rapiers without incident. There is a nice big space station here and I guess the Kilrathi know better than to attack but on the way back we are ambushed first by a load of Salthi and then by some Drakhai in some fancy new ship. Trying to keep the tech’s (or even my own wingmen) alive here is a nightmare.

The Drakhai ship’s are extremely tough in the fighter I’m in and taking them out without using a missile is near enough impossible as my guns just don’t seem to hurt them all that much before running out of power. I manage to get back only losing a couple of the tech’s (eventually) which seems to be enough to complete this goal.

The second part of the mission is bound to be easy after that….. I suppose it’s easier than the first part but it’s still a nightmare. I have to fly into the middle of the Kilrathi fleet and inspect a ship. That doesn’t sound too hard except the inspection takes about a minute all of which time I have to stay within 5000m of the ship whilst being turreted + having a load of fighters come after me. I just about manage to survive after a few attempts and do my best to afterburn away with the little fuel I have left. I swear that the autopilot light comes on half a second after my afterburners give out. I’m not sure if this was by luck or designed into the mission but I don’t hang around to ask questions.

This mission was the Wing Commander equivalent of I Wanna Be The Guy. If this was the first mission it begs the question how hard it’s going to get but I’m glad to say it gets easier, maybe not much but enough.

Next mission, it’s straight back out there to take out some of these capships. This time I’m flying a Crossbow and it makes all the difference, although this mission is more about taking out capships than fighters. There are a lot of ships to take out but I complete this mission first attempt without any drama.

When I get back one of our support ships isn’t looking too clever which makes the next mission a little harder.

We have to scramble again to meet a load of incoming fighters and bombers. This mission is another tough one but this time it’s more about figuring out the strategy. I have to concentrate on bombers (which probably goes without saying). The biggest Jalkehi ships are trying to take out the Firekka and since this can take some punishment I have to leave them till last and instead go for the Gothri’s then the Grikhath’s which are aiming for the more vulnerable support ships.

The first time I follow this strategy, I complete the mission without losing any of our fleet.

There is another cutscene of me talking to my log and sounding confused about my feelings for Sparrow…

That doesn’t last long and then I’m given another tricky mission. This is an interesting one. We have to go after a Kilrathi carrier but we only have 3 Broadswords to escort + my small fighter wing. We are being joined by a load of civilian pilots who will act as cannon fodder for the operation.

They weren’t kidding about the civilians being cannon fodder and they get blown up in large numbers. They all have there own little speeches when they go. The only trick to this mission is to take out the fighters quickly enough that the bombers can get their job done. It’s tough and takes a few attempts.

When I get back, I’m out of missiles + most of my fuel but get sent off on more work without landing.

The Concordia has been damaged and can’t launch fighters so we have to go and help. I’m in no shape for this. I help out in the fight but after I run out of fuel I hang back and let the rest of the fighters clear up. This strategy works ok once I figure it out. In the middle of the battle the Concordia uses it’s main guns to take out the Fralthi so we don’t have to worry about anything except the fighters.

Our last strike was just a diversion. Now we are to proceed with the real plan. The marines are going to plant mines inside the enemy capships and we have to escort them.

The plan has to be put on hold as a wing of Kilrathi attacks the Firekka and we scramble our fighters.

The Firekka doesn’t seem to be in any real danger in this mission. The only real challenge is staying alive until the support arrives from the Lexington. My old strategy of hanging around the capships works well here.

At the end of the mission we get to keep the fighters from the Lexington + I get to rearm. Actually landing to rearm is a pleasant surprise as I’m expecting to have to go straight back into the fight.

I get straight back out after landing and fly out to meet the predictably huge fleet of Kilrathi. The marines have already taken out some of the ships. I have to attempt to escort the second wave in.

There may be some good tactics for this. I try a few things but in the end I just resort to killing the nearest ship as quick as I can over and over. There is no way to keep all the marines alive but I manage to get about 2/3 of them there safely. They make very short work of all of the ships when they get there but I’ve got plenty of fighters to keep me busy in the meanwhile.

I afterburn out after the mission. I’m expecting this to be the last one but there is still more to come.

I have an email telling me that my jump drive has been swapped for extra fuel. Since I’ve not used my jump drive in the whole game so far, I wish someone had thought of it sooner.

There is a video cutscene to introduce this final mission. Basically we just have to blow up as many Kilrathi capships as we can, especially their final super-carrier.

There is a huge wing for this mission and we will be meeting up with even more pilots from the Concordia. We have to face a wing of bombers on their way to Firekka on the way out but this many of us make light work of them.

The Kilrathi fleet is bigger than ever and they are joined by Prince Thrakhath who I get to fight. He comes straight for me so I can’t just ignore him and leave him to the others which is my usual strategy with the ace’s in this game. He’s quick but not too difficult and I get him with a dumbfire at short range.

After this I attempt to concentrate on the super carrier. I don’t have that many torpedoes but I use what I have to take out it’s engines and the rest of our fighters finish off everything else. It’s actually a fairly easy mission and I finish it on my first go destroying everything in sight.

The fleet is waiting for our return. Why they didn’t join us in the battle I don’t know…..

After completing every part of the last mission, I’m expecting the good ending.

The final cutscene shows me congratulating the crew, the Commodore gives us a couple of days off before we go on the counterattack and I give Sparrow the brush off to end the game. It’s a slightly downbeat ending considering, I’m assuming this is as upbeat as it gets and I’ve not got the middling ending.

This final episode has thrown a lot of capships at me, and mission after mission was packed with more ships than ever seen before in a Wing Commander game. The variety in mission design was kept up to some extent although destroying the huge groups of capships would have started to get old if there had been another episode. I liked the mission with the civilian pilots especially and the ending battle was suitably large. It felt like the real battle was escorting the marines the mission before and the final mission was just hammering home our advantage as we destroyed everything in sight.

The storyline didn’t really go anywhere in particular in the end and it finished on something of an anti-climax. I’m not saying it was badly done, there just wasn’t a lot to it. It reminded me a bit of the Wings of Glory or Pacific Strike games where it was very secondary to the action. For a fan game, I think this was the right decision. They could never take on WC4’s movies but the story we got helped to keep the game interesting. The movies that we did have were very well done with some decent voice acting. The worst acting was probably the main character which is a bit unfortunate but it wasn’t so bad as to be a problem.

I’m nitpicking here as usual. This game is good enough that you forget it’s been made by a load of WC fans when you are playing it. It’s more along the lines of playing a game that’s a few years old (which is still newer than most of the stuff I play). Any Wing Commander or space shooter fan should give this a go. I hope we haven’t seen the last from the Standoff team but after 10 years I could forgive them if they retire from WC mods.

Wing Commander Standoff – Day 4

You’ll have to excuse the thumbnail sized screenshots in this post. I’ve been getting my PC set up for Windows 7, which included a reinstall of XP + Hypersnap. Unfortunately, it reset my image size to 200×200 when I swapped from crop to resize in the settings and I didn’t notice until I’d played through the game. It’s a pity as there are some impressive sights in this 4th episode but I don’t fancy replaying the whole thing again.

The episode starts out with us attempting to clear a path to attack the Kilrathi supercarriers. This means taking out some capships, a lot of capships. In fact the most even seen in one place in a Wing Commander game.

I just have to concentrate on fighters myself although I do have just enough torpedoes to take out the remaining capships after the cover is gone. There are a lot of floating husks when we are done.

Next we get to go after the carriers. I finally get the choice to fly a Crossbow and I’m not about to turn it down.

The cockpit has the familiar white bulges at the side that I remember from WC2.

It’s a decent ship which is just as well as we have to go against a supercarrier. This thing has god only knows how many engines to take out and seems to launch fighters indefinitely. I start out trying to take out the fighters but it doesn’t get me anywhere so I decide to concentrate on the engines instead. This isn’t too hard although it does take a while to fly around to get to them when I’m going around a ship this vast.

After the mission, I get a new landing sequence for the new bomber, this time at a different angle.

I’m struggling to remember details of the next mission in all honesty (thats why I need the screenshots) but I think it involved escorting a confed capship to the fleet. Sparrow and Spoons get sent off on another assignment early on anyway so we have to fly with reduced numbers but we do get helped out by the fighters already there. We win the battle but the capship has suffered too much damage and has to evacuate. The fighters are sent back with us to the Firekka.

When I get back I discover that Spoons was killed in the last mission.

We are called to scramble as I’m being told. No one wants me to fly the mission in my current mood although you would think a Wing Commander would have seen this a few times after years of fighting. I steal another fighter and fly out into the battle against everyones advice.

I have to defend the Firekka from a small attack then I’m eager for more work and despite the comm officer wanting me to return I head out to save another ship which is under attack but can’t launch fighters. This is actually the first mission in this game that I don’t complete on my first go but it’s still easy, I just have to go after the Grikhaths and ignore everything else to stop them taking out the capship. I realise this and complete the mission second time around.

Since my little stunt didn’t backfire, I get away with it but still have to hold Spoons funeral when I get back.

Now Spoons isn’t around to warn me off, the inevitable love interest provided by Sparrow comes to fruition…

We have been separated off from our fleet. For now we are going to attempt to rejoin with another nearby carrier. We get to see what the Kilrathi have done to one of this systems planets in the meanwhile. The mission is a straightforward one just taking out some fighters.

The final mission in this episode is a similar one where we have to escort both ships to the jump point where the rest of the fleet is waiting. This time we have corvette escort but we also come under attack from a silly number of Kamekh’s. I just go for the fighters and leave the corvettes to take care of each other. After the mission we meet up with the Concordia. I’m not so sure about the model for this, it looks a bit different than I remember but I don’t get a really good look at it from this distance.

In the most impressive cutscene so far (but you wouldn’t know it from my titchy screenshots) the start of the final chapter shows a little of the Kilrathi’s last assault on Sol and how much larger the force they have mustered this time.

This has been the most fun episode yet with lots of frantic action, a good bit of storyline and some interesting new ships thrown into the mix. It’s also been the easiest with me completing every mission first time except for the one escort mission which only took a few attempts. Despite it being relatively easy, I always felt challenged at the time and the storytelling and mission design were exceptionally well done. There have been some monumental battles in this, which begs the question just how large they are going to get in the final episode.

I’ve got a feeling that Lazarus will top it when I actually get around to playing it but this is by far the best fan made game I’ve ever played, and I’d have quite happily have paid a few quid for it. The old WCP engine has held up amazingly well with the enhancements they have managed to work in. I can’t wait to play the last chapter but its likely to be the weekend again before I get around to it.

Wing Commander Standoff – Day 3

I’m called straight into action with no briefing at the start of Episode 3. We have to help out another ship in the fleet while its fighters are out on patrol.

There are some new Kilrathi ships to fight in this mission, or at least new to WCP as they are familiar to anyone who played WC2. These Grikhaths have rear turrets which have always been the bane of my existence in Wing Commander games.

This first mission is relatively straightforward. Afterwards we escort the Verdun back with us.

Mission 2 has us chasing down some of the Kilrathi capships. There is a small fleet of them in the system including a Snakeir which hasn’t been located yet. We are meeting up with Concordia pilots for this which finally places the game in the WC timeline for me. They are flying Broadswords and the like which have been modelled up to the usual standards. I always liked the Broadsword in WC2 – fingers crossed I get to fly one in Standoff.

We have to take out a Ralatha to start the mission and then get word on the Snakeir and go after that as well. This is the trickiest mission in Standoff so far and takes me a few attempts. If I lose too many wingmen the mission is aborted which is a problem when taking out the Snakeir.

One of my pilots is steaming drunk when I get back – the action here is taking place over Xmas and he is missing his family. I thought people got drunk pretty often in Wing Commander games but my character doesn’t have much sympathy for him.

The third mission is a bit different. We have been ordered by Tolwyn to retreat but are mining the system as we go. I have to protect the mine laying ships at 3 nav points. This is another tough mission with all my wingmen getting blown up in seconds at the final nav point. I retry a couple of times and the final time the last nav point is really easy without me really doing anything different.

I can’t help but notice that the mines are as wide as the ships laying them so I don’t know how they manage to fit so many in. I can only think that they must be inflatable.

Some of my wingmen have been off helping a convoy in the meanwhile and have recovered some new fighters. It’s about time I got to fly some new ships.

Unfortunately these new ships still need assembling so I’m stuck with the usual suspects for now. For this next mission, I have to rescue two more capships that have missed the retreat. Rescuing the first of these is really tricky.

When I arrive at the nav point the ship is under heavy attack already. In fact it dies so quickly that I assume at first that I’m not supposed to be able to save it until I get a mission failed when I arrive back. If there is a key to this mission, it appears to be attacking the Grikhath heavy fighters rather than the lighter Dralthi which presumably don’t carry torpedoes. The problem is that there are more of them than I can possibly take on by myself and they are spread out over a large distance.

After enough attempts I luck out and attack the right ships. I escort it back then have to go and save another one. Thankfully, saving the second ship is easy.

Spoons has been moaning about flying with Squealer due to his defection to the pirates but Squealer wins him round by helping him out during a tight spot and he comes in to apologise at the end of the mission. He is still not happy about Sparrow though.

Episodes 4 starting scene shows the Kilrathi advancing toward Earth. We’ve been retreating but are now finally making our stand.

This episode took me quite a long time to play through. The difficulty level was more along the lines of WCUE but it was probably about right – it shouldn’t be too easy as an episode only came out once every year or so. I’m looking forward to flying some of the new ships in the next episode – I’ve been a bit surprised how few I’ve got to fly so far, although I’ve probably missed a few in the alternate missions.

Wing Commander Standoff – Day 2

For this series of missions, I’m going to be chasing after a Kilrathi capship. To start off we need to pick up some incoming fighter ships that are going to be strengthening our squadrons.

I run into Squealer who showed up as a Militia pilot to help out during the base attack in chapter 1. I’ll be flying with him for a lot of these missions – he’s the sort of guy who really enjoys the killing aspect of our job but he is useful to have around.

Our mission goes all too smoothly until we get called out to help out a ship under attack by retro’s. There are a lot of these retros but their ships only take a couple of hits so this is a fairly easy start to the chapter.

We jump into the next system and I have to go out on a recon mission while we await more incoming Rapier fighters.

The recon mission is something of a non-event but the incoming Rapiers run into Kilrathi and we have to go and help.

Sparrow is one of the Rapier pilots, she had to turn up at some point. The fight itself is a tough one with a lot of my wingmen ejecting and a serious number of Kilrathi to contend with. I’m expecting the mission to be a failure after all these losses but fortunately enough ships survive for me to keep going.

Sparrow is hanging around back on our base ship but I’m not ready to talk to her yet.

Now we have to go and take out two Kamekh capships. These were of the the smaller capship type so should be vulnerable to laser fire if this plays the same as the original Wing Commander games.

Sure enough the ships don’t take much destroying. The graphics for the Kamekh’s are very nicely done as ever. The Gothri fighters impress me more than anything out of the Kilrathi ships with the HDR lighting showing up the curves on the ships.

The final mission for this chapter has me flying against the capship we have been chasing – a Ralathra.

Sparrow is in the team for this mission and Spooner isn’t happy about flying with her but continues with the mission. This is the hardest mission of this episode. The key seems to be the encounter with the light Salthi fighters at Nav 1. They can take out my bomber wing in no time but if I hold back and let the fighters take them out I can get to the main encounter with my wingmen intact.

Getting to the final battle with a wingman makes all the difference. We have to use torpedoes on the capship which is the usual WCP engine, bridge affair. I take out the bridge and my wingman deals with the engine. It’s a reasonably simple mission now I’m not on my own.

In a brief cutscene, Sparrow wants to thank me for helping her out before.

We jump out of system and into Chapter 3.

The Kilrathi are attacking in force and we are seriously outnumbered. No doubt Chapter 3 will have us dealing with this threat.

I’d been putting off playing this chapter on the basis that I wanted to have enough time to get through the whole thing in one go, then when I did play it the whole thing only took me an hour. This was a lot easier and shorter than the first episode. I expect it’s all the branching that went on late into episode one. There must be a load of alternative missions that I didn’t see. I wasn’t expecting the diffculty level to drop though and with me completing all but one mission on my first go.

It was still fun and the new versions of the Kilrathi ships were very well done but I don’t feel like I got very far in the games 4 missions. It was more setting up for things to come. I’m more than a little curious about the alternative missions. I can see myself finishing my run through blogging this and then replaying the whole thing again straight away making different choices.

Wing Commander Standoff – Day 1

Standoff is a Wing Commander Prophecy mod that has been in progress for about as many years as it took Origin to release Ultima 9 with the final episode coming out a couple of months back. It’s done by the same team behind Unknown Enemy which I played a while back but from what I know is seen by the team themselves a much more polished product, having learned a lot from their first efforts. UE was good fun in its own right so that bodes very well for this sequel. I’m told that the game has been hugely enhanced with the final episode of this mod and been brought bang up to date despite still using the aging Prophecy engine.

I don’t know anything about the plot or gameplay which is just as I like it. With the lengthy development time, I’m expecting something pretty special. With EA holding the Wing Commander license this is probably the nearest I’ll ever come to a Wing Commander 6 but this is still an amateur fan mod so I probably shouldn’t get carried away.

I know that there are numerous branches for the plot in the game. I’m going to attempt to choose what seems like the right/winning path at all times and see how it works out rather than attempt to follow each of these. I may go back and replay the game later but I’d prefer to keep it simple while I’m blogging.

The game starts with an in-engine cutscene with a voice-over of my journal entry for the day. I’m serving on an about to be decommissioned ship called the Lionheart. We are in a truce with the Kilrathi and our ships are being decommissioned as they are no longer needed. One of our ships has just been raided by pirates and a load of Sabres stolen and a few hostages taken including an ex-girlfriend called Sparrow.

All this intro is done with voice acting which isn’t too bad for an amateur game although my character does come across as a bit whiny when he’s going on about Sparrow and doesn’t strike me as a battle hardened Wing Commander.

The graphics in this intro look awesome though, far better than I’d expected. That ship flying by the Standoff logo looks so good in a screenshot you would think it was pre-rendered. The engine has been modified to work in Widescreen with HDR effects and increased detail and you just wouldn’t think it was based on Prophecy.

After the main intro is over there is another scene of me (that’s me in the screenshot) chatting with my engineer about the upcoming missions where we will be going after the pirates to recover our ships and hostages. The detail on the faces in these is well done. There is more than a hint of Thunderbirds about the animation but again this stuff is way beyond what you would expect and just having it there at all is impressive.

From this screen I get to make all the usual choices you expect in a Wing Commander game and it works just like any other game in the series.

One slight change is that my communications are now inside the game whereas I had to use an external viewer in Unknown Enemy. I’ll also say that the writing quality is a big improvement on the previous game. The previous efforts were obviously fan fiction whereas the communications here are at least as good or better as you would expect in a commercial product.

The briefing screen is the same as ever and our first mission is a simple one – escort the Lionheart to the jump point to go after the pirates. Despite my state of the art PC this screen runs a little slowly but nothing too bad and the rest of the game is as smooth as you like.

I get in the cockpit for the first time flying a Stiletto. We have a whole new set of virtual cockpits and ships to fly in this game and the background music appears to be enhanced versions of the WC2 themes which is fine by me.

I’m struck again by just how good the graphics are. The starfield in the background is immensely detailed and the ship models have far more detail than anything I’ve seen before in a Wing Commander.

Predictably enough the mission gets sidelined as we receive a distress call and have to go and rescue a freighter. This gets me into my first combat of the game and its a bit different to anything in Prophecy. The ships all appear to be around WC2 technology and the behave in a similar manner, firing massive projectiles and the shields being paper thin but recharging quickly. It makes it difficult not to sustain a lot of damage in these fights but the mission is still easy enough.

There are new video landing sequences for landing, just like WC2. This is almost like playing an updated version of that game.

We didn’t make it to the jump point in that last mission so the goal in Mission 2 remains the same.

We have to defend the Lionheart from some of the stolen Sabres in this mission but again it’s not too tricky and unlike UE this game is giving me a gentle introduction.

After the battle is over, I’m sent to investigate a lone ship which turns out to be a Kilrathi. I’m not sure if this is potentially a branching plot point as I could shoot him down or not inspect his cargo as ordered if I felt like it. Since the truce is on, I carry out my inspection and leave him alone.

We still haven’t gone through the jump point but are about to do so. I have to secure the entry area then patrol some asteroid belts.

I get to fly against some Tarsus’s, which look suspiciously like the ship you start out in for Privateer. They are an easy target anyway. There is a bit of a Privateer feel about a lot of this game. The locations are taken from that game and a lot of the pirate sound effects have been ripped from there also.

While patrolling the asteroids, we find the pirate base. We are ordered to retreat for now which I do. I was hoping that the asteroid field might have born some resemblance to the WC2 ones but no such luck. We haven’t had decent asteroid fields since the move to 3D.

My ship got truly beat up on this mission and this is shown in the landing sequence. I do like little details like this, you can tell that the guys who did this game were huge Wing Commander fans.

The next mission is escorting the Lionheart to near the pirate base.

You just know there will be a surprise when a mission briefing is that straightforward and at the end I have to go investigate a signal in the asteroids.

In the asteroids I run into my ex co-pilot and assumed hostage Squealer who has infact defected to the pirates. He doesn’t want enforced retirement and tries to persuade me to go along with him. There isn’t really much incentive here for me to go with him, we could have done with a few missions where I got to know the guy if this was going to be a difficult decision. It’s an obvious plot branching point but I choose to stick with the side I’m on. I leave Squealer and claim not to have found anything when I get back.

I tell my engineer that my flight recorder shorted out and she seems to believe me. My wingman Spoons is less convinced though.

There is a bit of a cutscene again here where I pine about Sparrow some more and speculate about who may have gone over to the pirates.

I have to get on with flying though and the next mission is taking out the pirate base. Squealer is here and tries to talk us out of it but that isn’t going to happen. We clear out the fighters then go after the bases turrets.

The turrets deserve a mention as they are the best in any Wing Commander game by a mile. They are detailed and turn moderately slowly meaning that I can see where and when they are going to fire. They absolutely rip through my shields if I do get hit making destroying them quite a tactical affair and a lot less about luck and perseverance.

This mission takes me a few attempts. The winning strategy turns out to be an old favourite of staying near my capship at the start and using its turrets to help take out the fighter cover. After the mission one of the Sabres which is supposed to be returned to us flies off.

I have to go after it and get to choose my ship this time. I go for the Sabre since its clearly the best ship here.

The ship has been taken by Sparrow of all people and I now have to fight her.

The fight is very easy indeed and she ejects afterwards. I get to make more choices here. I could leave her, shoot her or beam her in. I choose to beam her in but then lie about her defection when I return saying that she was a hostage.

That ends this first chapter and the final cutscene shows me arguing with Spoons who had guessed that Sparrow defected and that I’m covering for her. He’s also not happy about me not telling him about Squealer.

The chapter 2 intro cutscene starts before I can stop it. It jumps forward in time a bit and we appear to be at war with the Kilrathi again and the Lionheart has been decommissioned. We are under-equipped and outnumbered. I’m on a Firekka for this ship which means more new graphics and possibly new ships but I don’t get that far for now.

Playing this has been a blast. The plot is genuinely interesting and the game is extremely polished for a fan mod, especially the missions themselves. I’m enjoying the retro feel combined with modern graphics. This plays like WC2 or WC1 and has far more in common with them than WC3 did. It appears as though every aspect of Prophecy has been modified with everything from the in flight commuications and videos, through the ship screens, ships, sound effects, music, etc being new to this game. It’s an amazing effort and I can see why it would take so long. I can only hope it will improve as the team builds upon its experience for each new chapter. If that does happen this could ultimately be a better game than Prophecy itself.