Wing Commander : Unknown Enemy – Day 4

Today starts with a cutscene showing the capship blocking the jump point being destroyed. I was expecting to have to go after this myself but this makes life easier.

The next mission is instead escorting the Dauntless and the now fully operation Fralthi into the asteroid field.

On the way we have to protect 5 shuttles as they travel between the space station and the Dauntless with supplies. This part of the mission is fairly simple, the only trick is to fly out to the first shuttle at the start of the mission and take on whatever is closest.

We escort the Dauntless to the asteroids and then get sent to have a look at a radar reading that shows a huge ship approaching.

When we get there our ships systems go haywire due to some funny looking buoys and one of my wingmen crashes into it.

At this point 7 fighters jump in and I have to fight them in this crippled state.

My radar is showing dozens of false targets and my ship stops responding every few seconds and also gives off random commands. My wingmen are useless here and I have to take out all seven targets myself. I struggle with this a bit then try swapping my ship to an Epee at the start of the mission. The Epee has a stormfire which is seriously powerful in this game. I save all my ammo for this fight and get through it first time.

I then blow up the buoy. I guess I could probably have done this earlier and got my systems back but finding it might have been a problem.

I fly back home and get the next password. I discover that I can avoid having to retype all my mission passwords in the fiction viewer if I use the drop down box to select my name rather than just typing it in. This is a bit of a bug with the viewer if you ask me.

We are still hiding out in the asteroids so I have to make sure we stay hidden in the next mission.

The twist here is that I’m flying one of the Kilrathi asteroid ships from Wing Commander 3.

These ships are actually seriously powerful and have the best guns of any ship I use in the game. They take down a Manta from full shields in 5 hits and I breeze through this mission. The only real problem is at the first nav point where 2 mantas try to escape. They are faster than me and I have to know they are going to run before I arrive so that I can head straight for them.

When I get back there is another cut scene showing some of our pilots being attacked and scooped up by a Manta.

Our reinforcements are on the way but they are in the next system and we have to go looking for them for some reason. To this end we are going to send a modified Avenger through the jump point. I have to escort it to the point then hang around waiting for it to come back.

We have plenty of fighters to take out on the way in but the real action is at the jump point with a cap ship in the way.

The Avenger jumps out quickly leaving us to deal with the fighters. The fighters keep coming endlessly and I lose both my wingmen early on.

The Avenger arrives back having completed it’s mission a few minutes later. It brings a Vampire fighter with it but we could have done with a few more of them. There are far too many fighters to take on here so I end up afterburning away as soon as the Avenger shows.

I’m slightly surprised that this tactic works and the Avenger is still with me when I can finally autopilot. There is another skirmish at the Dauntless but this one is fairly easy.

That gets me to the games final mission. We have to head for the jump point to meet up with our reinforcements.

This final mission is basically an excuse to put as many ships on screen as possible it what is a monumental battle.

We have a load of capships to deal with just getting to the jump point but I do get to land and refuel after the battle. I’m flying a Kilrathi ship again and its quite slow for dogfighting. I end up being something of a spectator for large parts of the mission while the hordes of ships battle it out among themselves. I concentrate on getting a few torpedoes fired into the capships.

There are even more bugs at the final jump point. I’m told to take out the fighters which I do. I get a few but my wingmen are doing most of the work.

The reinforcements start to arrive after a while and things get a bit easier.

When the Eisen shows up with its squadron of Devastators and Vampires the enemy are beaten in no time. I actually finish this final mission on my first attempt which is a surprise given the earlier difficulty level. The final few missions have been considerably easier than the early ones on the whole.

The game finishes with a string of cutscenes. The first shows an Admiral arriving. The Dauntless is no longer going to be scrapped thanks to its performance here.

We then get to see the fleet taking the fight to the bugs and the plan working perfectly as their fleet is caught by surprise. That completes Unknown Enemy. This has been one of the more challenging games I’ve played in this blog and I’ve definitely enjoyed it. It suffers from perhaps being a bit incoherent in terms of story and missions. It seems that everything was thrown at this just because it seemed like a good idea and it was made to fit into the story accordingly. This isn’t such a bad thing but it certainly shows the games fan-made origins. I couldn’t honestly say anyone should play this over the original Wing Commanders or the likes of Freespace but it’s a great attempt for a fan game. If you’ve finished WCP and Secret Ops and want a real challenge you could do a lot worse. I gather Standoff improved on UE in many ways and I’m looking forward to giving it a go. The final episode still hasn’t been released yet though and I’ll hold off until it is.

The first episode of Tales Of Monkey Island is out today. I’m not sure how confident I am in it being any good but I’ll be playing that before I get back to this blog again. It had better be an improvement on Monkey Island 4 but I’m not too optimistic from the gameplay trailer. I preordered it ages back though so I may as well give it a go.

Next: Thief – The Dark Project

Wing Commander: Unknown Enemy – Day 3

This is going to be a short post but represents a good 60-90 minutes of gaming. First off I complete the mission I failed at yesterday. There was nothing more to it. I still lose one of the ships at the jump point but 2 out of 3 is good enough to complete the mission. The fiction at this point mentions going back to finish off the cap ship but that has to wait as we scramble to protect the Dauntless from an attack.

Speaking of the fiction, one annoyance here is that I have to type in the password from every mission before I can read the new stuff. It’s a good job I’ve got the screenshots from here.

The scramble mission just involves me protecting the carrier but its much harder than the first one and I spend ages on this. The first wave of fighters is no problem but the second wave brings 3 Barracuda’s that keep launching torpedoes. Along with these a second smaller wing pops in 30 seconds later much closer to the Dauntless. I have to know this is coming and wait for it to arrive. I initially try to destroy it but this doesn’t leave me enough time to intercept torpedoes from the first wing so I just have to fly defence. Once I go fully defensive the mission isn’t too difficult.

The other problem I have is that the shields on the Dauntless seem to extend miles away from it at times I and can get trapped in them and bash half my armour away. Since I need to stick close to intercept torpedoes and take advantage of its turrets this causes a few problems but I get through the mission in the end.

Wing Commander : Unknown Enemy – Day 2

It turns out the the Fralthi in Mission 2 was just a support ship and we still need to take out a Ralari in the next mission.

We get to fly captured Gratha’s from the Fralthi. These don’t really handle any differently from anything else I’ve flown but I do get a new HUD.

I fly against Salthi’s for the first time in a while. They are really small in this game and remind me of the little ships that broke away from the Manta’s in WCP.

We are supposed to go searching for the Ralari but get called back as it attacks the Dauntless.

This mission is tough but not to the extent of the previous one. The biggest problem is taking out the Ralari as the fighters are easily dealt with. My wingmen can take out its engines but the torpedoes are always shot down when going for the bridge. On one pass the Ralari just ignores me and I get in to point blank range and take out its turrets without it shooting back. As soon as these are down the torpedoes get through and its gone in seconds.

I get my next password for the fiction. I notice today that each type of fiction can have several sections. I managed to miss this yesterday and missed quite a bit of the story. It makes a bit more sense now. It is actually set in the SO time period. The border worlds just have to make do with old technology which is why we have all these ancient ships from WC2. Why we are up against the Kilrathi I don’t know but the main part of the plot concerns the Border Worlds mobilising to withstand the bug invasion which is where all our ships are going and why we have to make do with Scimitars.

There is another cutscene after the mission but they all skip by in seconds so I can’t tell you anything about it.

In addition there is an in-engine cutscene showing the Intrepid from WC4 being attacked by bugs.

Mission 4 has me investigating what happened to the Intrepid.

I get to choose a Banshee if I want this time. WC4 technology has to be better than WC2 so I go for this.

When we get to the Intrepid there is nothing but wreckage. One of my wingmen flies over to investigate and a load of bugs fly out of the hangar.

After fighting these then defending some transports, I’m called to defend the local starbase. I’m going to be seeing a lot of this place. This mission is pretty tricky and I try it quite a few times. Eventually I get the idea that I just need to hang around the base and take out any torpedoes launched at it. As soon as I go for this tactic, only one torpedo is fired which I take out and my wingmen + the Kilrathi from the Fralthi who are now helping us out take out the bugs in absolutely no time.

I get to dock and refuel before carrying on. Next I have to defend more transports, then its back to the base to defend that again, then off to the Dauntless to defend that, then back to the base escorting the Fralthi to yet again defend the base and finally back to the Dauntless . As soon as I go defensive, this mission is really easy but I hardly take out any torpedoes so I’ve no idea why it made such a big difference.

The next mission is a straight scramble and protect the Dauntless. This is the easiest mission in the game so far by a mile. I complete it first time with no trouble at all.

Mission 6 involves escorting two sets of transports to a jump point.

I get the first set to the point without any real difficulty.

I then have to refuel by docking with an Avenger. The technique for this seems a bit hit and miss. I’m supposed to close within a certain distance and slow to a particular speed.

This is easier said than done and doesn’t seem to trigger the docking. In the end rocking my throttle back and forth when I get close does the trick.

The second escorting proves to be harder and I lose two ships. I have to defang a capship as it closes on the jump point and the transports but don’t start this until too late. I’m aiming for the winning path so I’ll have another go at this mission before I go any further.

The difficulty level of this game has varied today but for the most part these missions are still extremely tricky. Some of them are really epic in length and failing at the last point is galling to say the least. None of the missions have been as over the top as the Fralthi mission and have been a bit better judged but you couldn’t aim this game at anyone except serious WC fans as they wouldn’t be prepared to persevere. I am going to get about a weeks worth of decent gaming out of UE by the looks of it though. When I started I was expecting to breeze through 11 missions in one night.

Wing Commander : Unknown Enemy – Day 1

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.