Wings of Glory was the third and final game in the series of simulators based on the Strike Commander engine. We’ve been working backward in time throughout the series and this time we go about as far back as planes were involved in combat to WW1. The planes in Pacific Strike weren’t exactly advanced but these things are just frames covered in canvas so its really back to basics.
I had a bit of trouble getting this to run in Dosbox. Up to now I’ve just been using the last release which hasn’t been a problem. Wings of Glory is another matter. I can’t get it to run without crashing unless I use the full core option and even then I’ve got problems with the game not being as fast as I’d like + stuttering digital sound.
I decided to give one of the CVS builds a go instead and I have to say I’m impressed with the progress that’s been made. I need to turn off EMS to get this to run but after that its stable with the dynamic core, running smoothly and only using up about 20% CPU. I tried throwing a few of my more demanding favourites at it like Magic Carpet, Pandora Directive and Realms of the Haunting and they all run fullscreen, full detail in SVGA as smooth as you like. I should have been using this ages back. I’d be quite keen to try out a few of these games which I’ve not been able to play in years but its on with the Origin ones for now. At least I now know I won’t have any trouble running System Shock which will be the next game after this.
I’m playing the CD version of this game. I’ve never actually seen a disk version but I gather one did exist from wikipedia. The intro certainly looks like the sort of thing that you would see on a disk game. If anything the cutscenes are less impressive than those for Pacific Strike although I do get full speech throughout the game. I can’t help but notice that it says 1995 on the caption when I’m still supposed to be on 1994 games…. I’ve been going off the dates on mobygames. I’ve started now though so I’ll stick with it.
In this game I play an American pilot who has come over from the states to help the French fight the Germans. Its typical that the protagonist has to be an American, I presume for marketing reasons. I mean Richard Garriott and Chris Roberts were both born in England and we still get the same thing. I suppose Origin were aspiring toward movie like games at this time and shoving an American into the lead role of a British story has been going on there for years. The missions are all based (so far) from the same airfield in France.
The interface is immediately familiar to anyone who played any of this series or Wing Commander. I can walk around the base talking to the characters that happen to be there at the time. At the start of the game me and my English buddy Charles are being reprimanded for coming back so drunk that we missed this mornings flight.
Charles is an upper class English stereotype who joined the war for the adventure of it, much to the disgust of his father.
The commander chews us out for drunkenness and our pass to town is withdrawn so we have to hang around the base all the time. He sends us up on the afternoon flight instead.
The base has a bar/lounge where everyone hangs out between missions. This has the usual killboard and a veteran Scottish pilot hanging around at the back. Wonder where they got that idea from….
Exiting the bar gets me to the exterior of the airfield. For now at least the only place I can go is into the hangar.
The mechanic is sometimes in here and I expect I might get a choice of planes later on. Right now the only one is the Sopwith Pup. This is a basic affair with just the one machine gun.
I climb in the plane and there is a really brief cutscene showing my propeller being spun up.
The engine looks immediately familiar – its possibly a little nicer than Pacific Strike. Everything is textured now although I can’t help but notice how the whole world appears to be perfectly flat. Maybe this region of France really is that flat as I know the engine handles hills and the like from the last game.
Inside the cockpit, there isn’t a lot to look at. I won’t be seeing this much as the first thing I do as a rule is turn the cockpit off. There are a couple of basic instruments which I can live without.
The virtual cockpit is back and looking better than ever. There is hardly any detail lost when panning around.
The plane models are similarly detailed and look the business. All in all, this game looks about as good as a VGA flight sim is ever going to and its a lot better than Strike Commander from just a year before.
Combat is a very basic affair. The machine gun is actually quite slow at firing making hitting anything tricky. I’m expecting this game to be along the lines of Pacific Strike where all the difficult missions were at the start of the game before you got a decent plane to fly.
Wings Of Glory doesn’t disappoint in that sense and I’m struggling to fly in a straight line, never mind actually hitting anything in this first mission.
Its a very simple mission to get you started and we only have to shoot down a couple of planes and return. I don’t help at all but my wingman does all the work for me. I realise now why if there was a disk version of this game it never got a speech pack – there are no radios in the planes. I can only give instructions to my wingmen when I’m close enough for them to hear/see me. Even our airstrip is just a bit of earth.
There is a bit of a cutscene after landing then I get to talk to my wingman + the mechanic. All the pilots even have dirt on their faces – there are no enclosed cockpits on these planes.
To save the game I go upstairs from the bar and click on the bedroom door – another door loads. There is also a mirror for admiring my medals when I get some.
Talking to the commander gets me a briefing on the mission and a newspaper headline spins into place.
I’ve got the pattern of the game now – its the old formula we’ve seen in about 10 games by now. The next mission is a simple patrol. I actually manage to get on the tail of one of the enemies on this mission and even get a couple of hits. I don’t kill any myself of course but I’m getting a bit better.
My wingmen get me through again. Back at base I get to meet another pilot – Ned. This guy looks like he has goblin blood on one side of the family.
I get a new newspaper heading every time I talk to the CO after the mission showing the progress of the war. Talking to him again gets me my next mission – blowing up some enemy balloons.
This is the first mission that I fail on my initial attempt. The aim is to shoot down some observation balloons but I must be too slow the first time around as I concentrate on enemy planes and there are no balloons in sight. On my second attempt, when we get to the area with the balloons I head straight for them. They are sitting ducks. My wingmen take care of the planes again.
I’m introduced to Lisette who is a French woman who helps out around the base. She is blatantly going to end up being the love interest later in the game. For now my next mission is to escort a new 2 seater plane which is carrying out reconnaissance with the guy in the back taking photos. This takes a few attempts. We are placed in between the escort plane and a wing of 4 fighters on auto-piloting in. Attempting to stop the whole wing is tricky and takes a few attempts. In the end its more about luck than anything.
I’m starting to get the hang of fighting to some extent by this point. It’s a bit different to Pacific Strike in a few ways. First off my plane won’t roll very easily so changing direction becomes a slow process. However, once I’ve rolled I can pull back and turn extremely quickly. This makes it very important not to overshoot if you can help it when you are turning to get on the tail of an enemy.
The enemy don’t appear to be as maneuverable so getting on their tail isn’t all that hard. Maintaining the right line to get a string of hits in is tricky though. I have to attempt to match their roll so that I’m flying directly behind them. It’s all very delicate and requiring tiny little adjustments rather than the usual swinging the joystick all over technique that works in Wing Commander. It’s also slow after flying faster planes – it does feel at times like you are playing in slow motion making it a lot more tactical with the extra time to think.
Once you get a hit in the enemies plane starts to smoke – each hit and the smoke gets worse and/or darker so you can always see how damaged the enemy is. It only takes about 5 hits to down a plane but with the machine gun being so slow getting 2 hits in a row really isn’t all that easy and I’m not managing it for a few missions yet.
Next mission, I get to take out 3 zeppelins. I go into this thinking that the zeppelins would be sitting ducks. I couldn’t be more wrong and getting anywhere near to them I’m bombarded with gunfire and shot down in seconds.
A quick read of the manual and I realise that I’m given rockets for zeppelin missions – it might have helped if they had been mentioned in the briefing. It’s still a tough mission getting to the zeppelins again as there are a load of planes to take out first but by the end of this mission I’m starting to get reasonably competent. The zeppelins go do in a blaze of fire when hit with a rocket.
The zeppelin disintegrates as it falls in a scene vaguely reminiscent of the Hindenberg. It’s impressive for a game of this era – someone should try this sort of scene in the next Call of Duty game (assuming they haven’t done it already).
After the mission I get my first medal…
.. the flying cross.
Me and Charles are still confined to the base and to relieve the boredom Charles suggests we go off and blow up an airbase. The commander is clearly not going to like this but I don’t get a choice.
This is the first ground attack mission. My planes armed with bombs this time. Aiming them seems to be guesswork but its not too hard at the speed that these planes move at to hit the target.
Sure enough when we get back the CO is not pleased. The French on the other hand award us their highest honour (who’s name I’ve forgotten) and I also get an award for downing over 10 enemies. We are saved being sent home by the French award so its a good job we completed the mission.
The next mission is another ground attack taking out enemy artillery near Lille. These are quite small targets with my novice bombing skills but its safe enough to fly backward and forward trying over and over once I take out the gun emplacement.
Next its more zeppelins. I get to fight some sort of fancy new red German fighters. These have the benefit of being incredibly easy to spot. Other than looks, I don’t notice any obvious difference between these and anything else I’ve shot down. The German planes all seem to have more guns than me but they turn slowly – as long as I can stay out of their sights they are easy to tail.
The zeppelins are over the sea. Every one of these games has used a different sea – this one is sort of wavy and an unlikely shade of blue.
I get another medal for becoming an ace when I return. This seems ironic given my attempts to fly so far but I won’t complain.
The final mission I attempted today was bombing a staff car and/or the building its by. Its supposed to be somewhere in this town but I can’t spot it for the life of me. It could be that it ran off before I saw it – I have a couple of attempts but call it a day when I get shot down.
I’ve spent a good while on this game today but don’t appear to have gotten too far yet. I know there are 5 planes I get to fly in total and I’m still in the one I started the game in. The storyline hasn’t really gone anywhere yet either. I’ve flown a few missions and chatted to a few people but thats about it – the story has been more about introductions. It all adds to the atmosphere anyway and I’d miss it if it wasn’t there. The general presentation of these scenes is OK but its not as good as I might expect from Origin. The music is especially uninspired and its the same all the time I’m in the base.
Something that has changed from Pacific Strike is that none of my wingmen can get killed off as far as I can tell. They may get shot down but they are always there to talk to back at the base. This has to be a change for the better – in Pacific Strike every new wingman I got introduced to was dead within a couple of missions.
I’ve really enjoyed this first day and this looks like being the most playable game in the series. It’s a little slower than I’d like with combat taking a while but these old planes are a lot more fun than their modern equivalents and I expect things will speed up as they get more advanced.
The branching missions are gone, as far as I can tell, which is going to make for a much longer game as I play through around 40 missions. I’m a bit concerned that with so many missions to go at, things might get either too hard or too repetitive before the end but if that doesn’t happen this could end up being something of a classic that I missed out on first time around.