Wing Commander 2 Review – Gamesmaster

This is a 30 second review of Wing Commander 2 from the first series of Gamesmaster. Gamesmaster was a video games program that ran on Channel 4 in the UK for 7 seasons. It focussed on games-playing challenges but had a short reviews section with 3 games a week for various platforms. You couldn’t take the reviews too seriously and Wing Commander 2 doesn’t get treated very fairly here. I’d already bought the game at this point, so I’m glad to say I knew better.

I’ve been watching a few of these shows recently. I’m sure I remember a feature on the filming of Privateer 2 at some point which I’ll post if I find it.

Day 67

I had another go at the final mission tonight. It took a few attempts but I finally managed to clear all the fighters. After this the base is a sitting duck – its just a case of retreating, locking a torpedo then closing in to fire it.

Two torpedoes later and it blows up.

The end sequence kicks in – its surprisingly brief given the length of some of the other cutscenes – the admiral finally decides I’m not that bad after all and promotes me to Colonel and the end credits come on. This could be the first of the games that actually had end credits – I’m struggling to think of another anyway. I suppose movies have scrolling credits at the end so Origin followed suit.

For anyone who sits through the credits there is a final cutscene where the emporer floats by vowing to return and gets tractored in by a Kilrathi ship.

I’m less impressed than I thought I would be with WC2 really – the plot was just too trite and predictable and it didn’t give enough new over WC1 most of the time. Its fun in a mindless sort of way but this is my 4th Wing Commander game in 2 or 3 weeks and I could do with seeing something new other than a few cutscenes. I remember it far too well also from playing it years back so I knew what was coming the whole way – a lot of the fun the first time round was just following the plot along, corny as it was. I’m much less familiar with the mission packs so hopefully they will spark my interest a bit more. 

Next: Martian Dreams

Day 66

There was a bit more Wing Commander 2 left than I thought so I got as far as the final mission today but gave up when the game crashed – again. It behaves a bit odd under Dosbox in general. The speed of the game seems to change with the number or ships and the firing rate sometimes gets really quick. On one mission where I had to destroy 2 cap ships they suddenly fired lasers at me with the rate of a machine gun every time I got close killing me instantly. I tried swapping to the Kilrathi Saga version at this point (the savegames are the same) which still acts oddly with very slow autopilot animations and ridiculously fast cutscenes. It got me through the mission anyway and I swapped back to the original in Dosbox. Its good to know I can do this if I have more problems.

I’m stuggling to find much to write about in these Wing Commander posts. You go out and shoot stuff and thats about it in the gameplay. Its fun but doesn’t give me a lot to write about – its like trying to blog space invaders. There is the storyline but I really don’t want to try to cover the whole thing so I’m skipping anything insignificant (which is most of it).

After finishing up the mission where Spirit dies, the inevitable love story part of the story plays out with Angel. There then follow a series of Rapier missions with Stingray which are easier than the first Rapier mission but still a challenge.

After these I get to fly some Broadsword missions with Angel. This is definitely my favourite ship – I like the tactical use of turrets and the huge firepower. Waiting for shields to recharge is a pain though – they are ridiculously slow. Something you get a lot of in these mission is huge capships that can only be killed with torpedos. The torpedoes take forever to lock on – the only viable tactic is to kill all the fighters, lock on the torpedo just outside firing range, then fly in at full speed, fire the torpedo and get out asap. Apart from waiting for shields to recharge I quite like this change in pace to the usual dogfights.

The capships in this are a lot more deadly than the WC1 equivalents ever were. Apart from the flak cannons they can have varying gun turrets which can wipe out your shields in a couple of hits. It feels much more realistic. Any missions defending the Concordia now, the Concordia will be taking out loads of ships rather than being a sitting duck.

As you gradually work towards the big Kilrathi base the Concordia ends up hiding in an asteroid field for a couple of missions. This is a bit of a pain when you try to land as the asteroids seem to pass right through the Concordia and you can’t see them coming. I’m not impressed when this kills me off at the end of a mission.

The next jump takes us to the system with the Kilrathi base where the Tigers Claw got blown up at the start of the game.

Before we get there, a few plot threads are tied up. In a mision I fly with Jazz I finally get back to the Concordia with a flight recorder disk showing the stealth fighters.

Next mission after I launch, Jazz attempts to attack Angel after she discovers he is the traitor. She fights him off..

.. but he steals a ship and I have to get him back.

The fight with Jazz is pretty easy. He flys with afterburners all the time and I just have to get off shots every time he gets close. It takes a minute or two but its more about patience than anything else. He ejects and I’m about to blow him up but Angel tractors him in before I can shoot.

Aparently he’s taking revenge on the whole Tigers Claw crew for not getting to Goddard in time in SM2 and letting his brother die. Its not that convincing – why would this make him help the Kilrathi anyway?

Next mission is the attack on the Kilrathi base. Even though I’m now innocent Tolwyn doesn’t want me to fly the mission.

So in typical hero style I go out and fly the mission solo.

When I get to the base, Prince Thrakath himself comes out to fight me. He’s in a unique ship but is no harder than Jazz. It feels like the same fight really. I blow him up in no time but then the game crashes again. Not good timing but its enough for today. I think I can safely say I will finish it tommorow this time with just the one mision left.

Day 65

Coming back a day later the mission against Kur didn’t seem all that hard and I finish it after a few attempts. I think the biggest problem is I just don’t like the rapier all that much .

Next mission I have to escort Paladin back to the Concordia. Thanfully I don’t get too many more Rapier missions after this and I’m upgraded to a Broadsword.

The first mission in a Broadsword with Doomsday as my wingman is a bit of an epic – I have to jump out of mission and destroy a supply depot. Jumping out of system is a first for this mission but its not much different really to just autopiloting to the next point in effect.

At the other side of the jump I have to refuel before taking out the depot. This is another really nice 3D animation.

Doomsday ends up ejecting halfway through the mission. You can actually tractor him into your ship using your rear turret ensuring he survives for the next mission.

The next mission has me jumping out of system to escort a courier back in with some data but she blows up the moment I get there ejecting a data capsule. I have to kill everything then tractor it back in. The game is definitely getting more interesting with these Broadsword missions. The ship is perhaps not the most fun to fly as its really slow – I do get to use the turrets a bit to compensate but the front mass drivers on this ship are lethal if you can get something in your sights.

A mission or two later and I’m flying solo and run into a load of stealth fighters again. Once more my flight recorder malfunctions.

And Angel doesn’t believe me still. The next few missions I get to fly an Epee with Spirit wingmanning. This is a really fast ship but with decent firepower and very fast charging shields. Its quite a fun ship to pilot – theres no waiting around for shields to charge and requires more skill than just aiming like the broadsword. I breeze through all these missions in no time.

A few mission later and we discover that Spirits fiance captured 10 years ago is still alive and the traitor tried to blackmail her with this information. She refused but has therefore condemned him to a slow death.

Spirit learns that her fiancee is on the Heavens Gate station which we both get sent out to destroy. This is the first time for me flying the games best ship.

Partway through the mission, Spirits ship has some sort of explosion – premably sabataged by the Mandarin.

Rather than eject she flys into the station and takes it and herself out. This leaves me with a pretty tough fight – I take out most of the fighters but get blown up so I’ll be back to this one tommorow.

Its picked up a bit since the first day I feel . The new ships are much more fun than the Rapier and the difficulty level seems about right. I must be 2/3 of the way through it now at a guess and will try to finish the game up tommorow night.

Day 64 – Wing Commander 2

Wing Commander 2 followed hot on the heels of Wing Commander just 1 year after the original had come out. It was by far the largest game in terms of data size Origin had produced to date and there was even an optional speech pack. The speech pack added speech for the pilots in the combat sections and also full speech to a few cutscenes. I bought both of these when the game came out as did pretty much any PC gamer who had the hardware back in the early 90’s. What Origin started with Wing Commander was taken to new levels here and from this point on near enough every Origin release would push new hardware to the limits. 

On starting the game, the first obvious advancement from Wing Commander is the difference in the cutscenes. Wing Commander was completely rigid in its cutscenes, in that they all involved just talking to people in the bar or your standard briefings with a few one off scenes thrown in occasionally. This didn’t really give much chance for story development. In WC2, Origin were aiming for a movie-like experience and right from the start you get a lengthy, well animated introduction setting the scene for the game.

The first part of the intro shows the Tigers Claw (your carrier from the last game) being destroyed

Next we get to see the Kilrathi for only the second time since the cutscene at the end of SM1. We are introduced to the emporer + his heir Prince Thrakath. The Kiltrathi in the system where the stealth fighters are made are rebelling so they destroy the stealth fighter manufacturing facilites setting their use back years.

I am being blamed for the loss of the Tigers Claw however in the meanwhile as no one believes there were stealth fighters and get demoted + relegated to being a security pilot for the next ten years by Admiral Tolwyn. All the introduction has full speech which is fairly badly acted in all truth and probably done by Origin staff. At the time I remember I was impressed though.

I import my pilot from the last game – not sure if this makes any difference to anything but since its there I use it.

The game starts with another cutscene introducing me to my wingman Shadow on our way to fly a routine patrol.

If anything the launch sequence looks better than the previous game, although you will soon end up skipping it when the novelty wears off.

In the cockpit itself things are all-in-all pretty similar to WC1. Its perhaps a little better looking. There are a whole new group of enemy ships to shoot however and all the Federation ships are new for the most part. The graphics don’t appear to be any higher-res but there are way more angles for each ship. This makes a big difference as you can now see when a ship is turning and it just feels a lot better.

In terms of difficulty these opening missions are really really easy after playing SM2. Everything just seems to blow up in a couple of hits and its a piece of cake. The game claims to adjust to skill level. I’ve no idea how this works but it does seem to get a lot harder after a few missions.

Even the asteroid graphics have been redone.

Mission completed, there is an inflight cutscene before I land – this never happened in WC1. This is the major difference really to WC2 – cutscenes can happen at any time and it just opens up the story possibilities.

The landing sequence is just as nice as the taking off one with a pre-rendered 3d ship gliding into its bay.

Next mission, there is a mayday call from the TCS Concordia. Me and Shadow go off to help.

After the mission we land on the Concordia and half of the Tigers Claw pilots seem to be on it.

I get assigned temporarily to the Tigers Claw and fly a couple of missions from here.

I get sent back to my security job again but before I land a bomb explodes on the Concordia and we are called back to help.

I save the Concordia but Shadow doesn’t make it..

On the bright side, the claw had to jump straight out of system so I’m now stuck on it. I finally get a new ship (for just the 1 mission) and get put in a Broadsword bomber.

This has turrets for the first time in Wing Commander.

Its also got a little gadget to tell me where to aim which helps no end. The ship is really slow to turn however and has no afterburners. All the ships in WC1 felt a bit similar – this really is nothing like the ferret I was flying before.

Back on the Concordia I meet Hobbes, who defected back in SM2 and is now a pilot on the Concordia.

Next mission, I’m sent to a station with a delivery for Tolwyn. While I’m gone one of the communications officers is shot while some unknown traitor is talking to the Kilrathi. For once I’m in the clear since I’m out of system.

Next mission, I run into a load of stealth fighters. My flight recorder coincidentally gets damaged however.. when I get back noone believes me.

I’m assigned Hobbes as my wing leader although he swaps roles as soon as we take off. I’m also in another ship the Rapier. I don’t know if its just the ship but at this point the game got a lot harder for me. I come across my first Kilarthi ace – Kur complete with his own speech and insults. The ships I face in this mission all have rear turrets and its really hard to blow something up when its shooting you when you get on its tail. Eventually it crashed and I gave in for now. The game seems a bit unstable in general – it must be something to do with Dosbox as I don’t remember having any problems when I played it first time round.

All in all, I’m fairly impressed with WC2 but in a modern light its perhaps not as good as it was. The plot is pretty cliched and not that well written and there doesn’t seem to be all that much new from WC1 other than the cutscenes although its still early days. I played this game to death at the time so it could just be that I’m pretty much going through the motions playing it again now. I’ve had quite a lot of Wing Commander close together also – if I’d waited a year for this to come out since the last game it would seem less repetitive. Its still fun anyway and I think it picks up when I start getting capships to kill.