Day 157

I thought I was in for a short night last night but it took me longer to get through CD#3 than any of the previous ones leaving no time to write it up in the end. I only just managed to get it finished.

I bump into Rollins in the lift. He has intercepted a load of coded transmissions which he thinks look suspicious. Tolwyn is onboard now and his transmissions are supposed to be coded but Rollins thinks that these look different and it looks like Tolwyn is up to something.

Tolwyn is on the bridge. He congratulates me on my flying so far and points out that I should now realise that my transfer to the Victory wasn’t just chance.

At the next briefing things are back to normal and Eisen is back in charge. He points out that things will never be normal while the Admiral is onboard and that it takes a certain sort to be an Admiral.

The mission is to mine 4 of the 5 jump points in this system so we can head out with the Behemoth through the systems final point.

The mines are located on my hardpoints just like a missile. Mining the point consists of no more than firing 2 of these off. Its a particularly uninspired mission with the same 4 enemies to fight at each of the 4 jumps points.

Theres no one to talk to back at the ship – the next mission involves going after some fuel for the behemoth. We are going to disable some Kilrathi transports travelling through an asteroid field. I get some new ships to fight in this mission that are actually made from the asteroids themselves.

These ships have thin shields but being made of rock are well armoured. Their shape makes them easy targets however so they are no problem unless they attack in large numbers. Disabling the transports just seems to involve firing on them like anything else which is something of a cheat. Maniac sorts this out for me while I’m dealing with all the fighters.

When I land there is a cutscene showing a traitor sending details of the Behemoth to the Kilrathi but we don’t see who the traitor is.

Rachel is on the flight deck and I can’t help notice that she’s working on an Excalibur. I’m hoping this means I get to pick one for the next mission but there is no such luck.

Rachel has been ordered to smarten up her act by the Admiral himself but makes no mention of the Excalibur.

Vacquero is trying to sell tickets to the opening night of his cantina and reckons that with the Behemoth on our side the war is almost over.

At my next briefing, Tolwyn has assumed command of the ship and Eisen is nowhere to be seen.

We are going to test fire the Behemoth on a Kilrathi planet orbiting a quasar. The quasar will block all communication so it cannot alert the Kilrathi to our presence. Before we fire the Behemoth we need to clear out the fighters in this system.

This mission turns out to be pretty difficult with waves of Vaktoths to cope with and I need several attempts. It would help if I wasn’t stuck flying either Hellcats or Arrows. This is going to continue for the next few missions making them the hardest ones in the game.

I manage to clear out the Behemoths route in the end and head for the bar. Maniac thinks Tolwyn is about to steamroll another career (Eisens) and doesn’t believe that his own lack of promotion is down to flying style but that I poisoned Tolwyn against him.

Cobra is still working on that knife in the barracks and is seriously worked up about the chance to wipe out Kilrah with the Behemoth. She finally explains her obsession with destroying Kilrathi explaining how she was in a Kilrathi slave camp from the age of 10 until she escaped at 20. She had to spend 2 years undergoing psychiatric treatment but even then she can’t forget it all.

Tolwyn is hanging around on the bridge. I point out that his assumption of command hasn’t exactly helped ships morale – he says he is the natural choice to act as guardian angel for the Behemoth having been with the project since its inception 10 years ago.

Eisen, with nothing else to do is moping about on the observation deck. He is not happy at losing his ship.

The next mission briefing is short and to the point. Cover the Behemoth while its fired.

The scale of the Behemoth is brought into play here – those fighters at the rear of it are practically directly above it. The size of this ship is truly monumental – you would think you could destroy a planet or at least make it inhabitable just by crashing something this big into it.

I only have to kill a few ships before the Behemoth fires. Everything works and the planet boils away into space.

There are more ships to kill off after this before I can land but all in all, this is the easiest mission I’ve faced tonight.

Everything worked so its off to Kilrah as quick as possible to end this war. Hobbes has mixed feelings about what we are about to do but is taking it a lot better than I would in his position.

At the next briefing, we are heading straight to Kilrah via the nearest jump point.

I’m told this will be the most important mission I’ll ever fly and if it goes well will win us the war.

When I get to the Behemoth its already under attack from a wing of bombers. I afterburn in to get to them asap.

I’m too late though and it explodes into nothing.

When I’m back in the cockpit again, after the cutscene, all the ships have gone and Thrakhath has appeared. He taunts me about how I have failed my race and Angel….

He transmits Angels fate to me. This appears to be some sort of honourable ritual death among Kilrathi but I’d have preferred disintegration.

Thrakhath challenges me to a duel but the Victory is retreating to the jump point. I ignore the taunts and head back to the Victory.

We retreat back to the Alcor system the moment I land.

Tolwyn leaves the ship. He is not happy and insinuates that the Kilrathi knew exactly where and when to strike and that Eisen has a leaky ship. Eisen stands his ground and points out that at the time the Victory was Tolwyns ship.

Tolwyn clearly sees the war as lost and his final words are “Fight well, the struggle will only get harder”.

All in all its not been a good day. I head for the bar and hit the bottle hard. Rachel attempts to talk me round and I have the option of listening to her or getting drunk. Straight after I make this decision the Victory comes under attack and we have to scramble all fighters. Getting drunk is a very bad idea as this mission is tough enough as it is. If I’m drunk my controls go nuts making it near enough impossible to hit anything.

In fact I take a good few attempts at this mission as it is. I’m stuck in an arrow – the smallest ship in the game and yet have to take out loads of capships and wave after wave of Kilrathi. I get there in the end but there is no way I’m taking on these Sorthak at the end of the mission and I leave it to the Victory to look after itself.

Flint has a few consoling words when I land about how well I’m holding up but I’m still not in the mood to listen.

In the bar Rollins has picked up more coded transmissions and is going over them with Cobra. She is suggesting that he rigs ships internal sensors to pick up movements on the ship. She clearly doesn’t want him to tell me what its about when I approach the table but he trusts me enough to tell me whats going on. Whatever it is, Tolwyn is gone now so it was nothing to do with him. I order him to keep working on it.

I head for the observation deck and see a shuttle coming in carrying Paladin. He joins me and I’ve guessed somehow that he already knew about Angel. In fact he confesses he knew right back at the start of the game when we were looking at the Concordia. I’ve got the option of hitting him at this point but I don’t think it makes much difference to the plot. He says he was under orders but was also protecting me from myself. Before he goes he says that Angel may yet help us win this thing…

Paladin is as the next briefing which is a long one. He tells me how over the last decade work has preceded on a tectonic frequency weapon. The idea behind this is that if a bomb can generate the right resonant frequency it could trigger an explosion that would shake a planet apart.

This plan became more of a reality once Angel reached Kilrah. She planted several transmitting probes some at ground level and some in space which analyse the planet. These probes are all cloaked and send a signal back to us via a distance com sat.

It turns out that Kilrah is a pretty fragile place with the layers of the planet constantly shifting over each other. He speculates that it was this seismic activity that made the Kilrathi such an aggressive space-faring race. Since the entire Kilrathi hierarchy is centrally based here on Kilrah, destroying it would win us the war despite the large numbers of Kilrathi deployed elsewhere.

The weapon itself is called the Temblor bomb. The reason we aren’t using it now is that it doesn’t exist yet. We have the pieces but the chief scientist on the project is in a Kilrathi prison and we can’t put the pieces together without him. We are therefore going to attempt a rescue. Before that we have to clear our path so I have another routine patrol type mission.

After the mission, Vagabond is in the bar and it turns out his classified past is related to the guy we are rescuing. He used to work for Dr. Severin when he was performing munitions tests – there was some sort of accident where millions died. He thinks it was no accident and that Severin knew exactly what he was doing but Confed covered it up as it only happened on a remote backwater world.

I’m called to the flight deck where Cobra is not looking too good.

She caught Hobbes trying to send this communication so he was the traitor all along.

Hobbes has taken a ship and left – she wants me to go after him but Eisen says that would jeopardise the whole operation. I get the choice here but listen to Eisen in the end. If I fly the mission Vacquero will be dead by the time I get back.

Eisen is clearing out Cobras locker. Usually he would have to write to family at this point but we were the only family Cobra had. He has no idea was happened with Hobbes. There is a scene that was cut out of the game at this point for some reason. It was something along the lines of a holo-message from Hobbes about how he had been programmed and the phrase “Heart of the Tiger” had reverted him back to his true character. This scene offers a bit of explanation so it seems strange it was removed.

I get to conduct Cobra’s funeral. There are a whole load of these for each pilot on the Victory, most of whom become liable to die around this point in the game. They are pretty much the same scene with a different speech from Blair each time.

It’s time to extract Severin from the Kilrathi prison. Paladin stresses that this will be the most important mission I’ll ever fly. We are actually going to fly down to the planet, remove the defenses and then a shuttle will land to rescue the doctor.

I’m getting an Excalibur for this mission, and not before time.

I’ve no wingman for this mission but the darkets I run into are so easy to wipe out in this ship I don’t need one. After killing these off, I fly down to the planet.

This is something new to Wing Commander, a ground mission. The flight dynamics are exactly the same as in space – gravity has no effect at all. In terms of graphics, its actually simpler than Strike Commander with no textures on the ground. Despite this you still needed a monster of a PC to run these missions in SVGA.

The Kilrathi use different ships to defend on planets and I’m faced with a squad of about 8 of these to take on by myself. The Excalibur on full guns can take one out in a couple of hits – I just need to make sure I get on its tail first so I still have enough gun energy to do this and all my shots hit.

I autopilot to the next nav point and its surrounded by tanks. These don’t move but do fire back. I can’t target them so I’m stuck with aiming manually. They only take a few hits but it hurts so I have to retreat and recharge my shields at one point.

With the defenses gone, the marines move in and rescue Severin. Vagabond turns up uninvited, runs straight up to Severin, decks him and says “Long time no see”. He’s grabbed by the marines but tells them to take it easy as hes done what he came to do.

Rollins tells me that Vagabond has landed himself in the brig thanks to this little stunt, which is hardly surprising. Paladin heads straight off with Severin to work on the bomb and we jump to Freya in the meanwhile.

There is another cutscene on Kilrah. The emperor wants to know why the humans risked rescuing the 1 prisoner and what his specialist area of knowledge was. He is told that this was not fully explored as his breadth of experience was vast but that it is irrelevant as the Kilrathi have amassed a huge armada greater than any in their history and are getting ready to attack Earth. The emperor reminds the Prince that “it is when an enemy is near vanquished that he is most dangerous”.

That ends CD #3. In hindsight, attempting to finish this game in 4 nights was a bad idea as I must have spent nearly 4 hours on this CD alone not including writing it up here. There isn’t that long left now + I’ve got the Excalibur so I should be able to finish up tonight/tomorrow and move onto the next game this weekend.

I complained yesterday that not much happened in the story. That definitely hasn’t been the case today where we’ve had murder, betrayal and planets exploding. The cutscenes have been excellent and really driven things along nicely – its taken this long for things to get going but it was worth the wait. These cutscenes are a lot better than the Wing Commander movie ever was, even with the static cameras.

In terms of gameplay, the missions have been difficult but I’m not seeing much new. We are having to take on insane numbers of enemy each time and sometimes even having to face off destroyers in Arrows. The planet mission offered something different but this in effect played exactly the same as being in space. The only real novelty was shooting a few ground targets but I’ve seen all this before (and done better) in the Strike games.

WC3 is really relying on the graphics, plot and cinematics. I could level the same criticism to some extent at the rest of the series but I think the dogfighting was somehow more fun in the earlier games and there was nothing to compete with it at the time. Where WC3 comes into its own is where cap-ships are concerned. The individual turrets + the fact you can damage cap-ships with lasers this time around offer strategic possibilities that were simply not in WC2. The ships also have a sense of scale rather than simply being another sprite floating in space. It would have been nice to be involved in some large battles with loads of capships at once but I expect this would have stretched a 1994 PC beyond breaking point.

Overall, the gameplay is quite basic and the novelty has worn off by this point. If I didn’t have the cutscenes to urge me on I’d be getting bored in all truth. It doesn’t help that this is the umpteenth time I’ve played this game of course, but I think the basic problem is that there isn’t enough variety. Its also not helping that this game has exactly the same formula as the 6 games in the main Wing Commander series + the 4 games in the Strike series before it.

I can still play this now and enjoy it but it’s had its day. It relied far too much on being the latest thing and has dated because of it. System Shock pushed the technology but combined it with original gameplay and is as much fun as ever because of it. WC3 hasn’t quite pulled this off and is merely an update/variant of what I’ve already seen 10 times before. WC3 is still well worth a go but playing through it now I’d be tempted to advise dropping the difficulty level right down, zipping through the missions, and just enjoying the movies.

One thought on “Day 157

  1. I totally agree with what you said about the movie. Even the TV show did way better than the movie did (shame, it had so much potential…).

    Anyway, if you want a lot of battleships, you should try Standoff mod. It’s just great and it has a lot of branching missions. It’s almost complete too. It’s a five episode game, and onle 1 is left to end it. I really recomend it to you if you like Wing Commander games (it uses the secret ops engine).

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