Catscratch and Sosa seem to be getting friendly. Catscratch has realised now that we are doing the right thing in helping the Kilrathi. They tell me that some new guests have arrived and are in the hold.
Our squad of marines has turned up at last, led by Lieutenant Colonel Dekker. Blair has a mission for them and wants them prepped straight away.
The Kilrathi space station is being occupied by enemy forces. We have to clear out the area and send our marines in to secure the base.
It’s a routine mission and Dekker and team clear the base out in no time.
When I land there is a cutscene showing some border worlds pilots running into enemy forces and having problems with their radars and guidance systems being jammed. Wilford sends us to look into this.
The moment we get there we lose all shields, communication, and radar. I order us to try to back away from the blind zone.
We manage to get clear of the zone but still can’t see anything inside it.
Our first mission here is just to look around and try to find out what is causing the problem.
I talk to Pliers on my way out. He has beefed up our shields and recommends that we move our shield power into engines to compensate for the extra weight we are carrying.
This is a strange sort of mission with no shields and its vital that I try not to get hit too much. On the bright side we can take down the enemies with less hits since they have no shields either but there are a lot more of them than us. There are some new bear fighters which are especially quick and tough.
At the end of the mission, one of the pilots ejects and Dekker suggests I tractor him in.
Hawk and Panther are giving him the 3rd degree when I land. The pirate is actually the vet that wanted cash in the bar right back at the start of the game. Since I helped him out then he agrees to help us in return. He’s not happy about the work he’s doing anyway. He tells us the jamming caused by some sort of secret cap ship which moves around on a preset couse which he plots for us. It is cloaked most of the time but comes out of cloak to fire its engines.
Wilford is presurising us to sort out this problem as it is seriously hampering our war efforts.
It means another mission flying without shields. The missions are definitely getting tougher today – we come up against serious opponsition including more Bears + Excaliburs. We find the capship at the end – we can’t use torpedos but a full salvo of dumbfires will take it out. The moment its dead our shields start recharging – I find it easier on my second attempt to take out the fighters first when they don’t have shields and then take the capship at the end.
The moment the capship dies a space station comes into view which had been cloaked. Someone is escaping from it in a shuttle and Dekker heads out to capture them.
When I land, Maniac seems to be in shock about who Dekker has hauled in and suggests I go take a look.
We’ve captured none other than Tolwyn himself. He claims to be out here investigating but it all looks very suspicious. He says we are still on the same side, both wanting to prevent war. He mentions various black ops that took place during the war that he is only just finding out about including the genetic enhancement program.
I get a choice of whether to release him or not. It’s not much of a choice as if I don’t, Maniac will so I choose to let him go.
Dekker doesn’t think I made the right call but I point out that we’d wouldn’t have a chance if we imprisoned a Confed admiral.
Wilford has another message with more instructions. He gives me a choice of two operations, one helping to defend a planet which is under attack and the other trying to get supplies from a Confed shipyard. There isn’t a right or wrong choice again. If I go for the shipyard missions, I’d get some ships and weapons which are unavailable elsewhere in the game but I go for the other option.
Whichever choice you choose, you get a nice FMV to set the scene. This one shows the tank battle raging on the planets surface being supported by space based fighters.
Before we fly the missions, I get to see Maniac and Dekker arguing about whether marines or fighters are tougher. Maniac manges to pick a fight with Dekker which is pretty stupid even by his standards – I step in to stop it but Dekker isn’t too happy about me standing up for Maniac. There isn’t any winning with this decision as I’m going to annoy one of them.
Not only do I get a choice of campaigns here, but I also get a choice of 3 missions. I’ll get to fly 2 of them.
I pick the first in the list which is to try to take out the tanks attacking a target on the planet surface. This is a tough mission as I don’t get long at all to take out the tanks + I have four fighters to deal with before I can even start on them. Once the fighters are out the tanks are sitting ducks but they still take a while to kill off as there are plenty of them.
Panther is cleaning her gun in the hold and warns me that I need to do something about Maniac as he is having a hard time understanding the words “No” and “Not interested”.
My next mission is escorting shuttles evacuating people from the planet to frigates that are in orbit. This is much easier than the last mission and I finish this one first time.
Maniac is offering flying tips to Catscratch and it looks like he is actually listening. I warn him against it but I don’t think he’s listening.
We get a thank you from one of the people down on the planet we’ve been helping. They have a listening network left over from the war and send us over a load of data for Sosa to look through.
Wilford pulls us off these missions. He has discovered that the Confed supply route, which goes through the middle of a nebula. We are ordered to shut it down. There is also a sattellite sending out some strange signals which Catscratch volunteers to pick up.
After a couple of nav points, we get a message from Sosa that Catscratch has had his craft disabled and is a sitting duck. I get to make a call on whether to scrub the mission or not and decide to go back and save him.
He’s already tractored in the sattellite. We wipe out his craft and tractor his escape pod in.
He’s looking sheepish when we land. This is what happens when you listen to Maniac. He’d fired off a couple of missiles as decoys as he suggested but then missed when it counted. I give Maniac a warning and mention Panther while I’m at it. I put Catscratch on probation for now as we are too desperate for pilots to ground him.
Pliers has been busy and has got his cloaking device working, thanks to a bit of Kilrathi help. I decide to take it on the next mission.
Hawk and Panther are discussing our chances of success. Its been 46 hours since Eisen left and we have heard nothing. We just have to hope that he gets to the right people.
The supply line still needs shutting down but Wilford also has an alternative mission taking out a command center deep in enemy territory. He has other forces to handle either mission – I get to pick which makes the best use of our resources. Since I have the cloak I pick the command center mission.
The cloak is working much better this time round but this is a really hard mission and I have to try it over and over. I’ve no wingman which doesn’t help but the first part isn’t too bad. I have to take out the defenses around the base then send Dekker and his men in via MIPS.
Once the mission is done, Wilford is on the comm again sending me to look into some sort of extraordinary Confed ship. I have to disable it.
The ship is guarded by Dragon fighters – these are the things I saw in the intro scene. I’m not sure that the Vindicator I’m flying is capable of taking one out. They tend to go into cloak and then come out again in full health. Even without that, their shields, speed and firepower are way more than mine. The only chance is to come into this with full missiles and take them down with IR missiles. I have to take out 2 in the first wing, then disable the capship with my leech gun and fire dekker in there. There are then 2 more to take out.
I get there in the end but this mission was a real challenge. Ironically when I do complete it, I don’t take a single bit of damage.
Pliers is looking round the captured ship and finds one of the disc weapons but he still doesn’t know what it does. We’ve also captured some Dragon fighters. These are truly state of the art and have a whole new power system which doesn’t need fuel for afterburners. I ask him to get one ready for my next mission.
We’ve received a distress call from a frontier planet and are going out to help. The plan is for Dekker + me to land on the planet to see what is going on.
The Dragon has a nice new red HUD. It has auto-aiming just like the Excalibur + a new fusion weapon which I can charge up by holding fire and then release in one blast (great for cap ships). It’s really an awesome ship and there is no reason to fly anything else from here on out.
By flying Dragons, we manage to bypass much of the combat as the enemy thinks we are on their side. We land on the planet and the people there think at first we are attacking due to our ships but we talk them around.
It doesn’t matter though as we are too late. The pirates have been attacking with bio-weapons. Rather than your usual virus, this is in the form of nano-probes which are analysing DNA and selectively weeding out the population. 90% of the population is dead and there is nothing left to do other than pull out.
I get back to the Intrepid and Sosa is lighting some candles for the dead.
This leaves Maniac on comm duty and he is struggling to get a message in from Wilford.
I show him which button to press. Wilford has managed to do some triangulation and figured out that the pirates must be amassing a force in the Axius system. We are to go and investigate.
We set a course for the system next to Axius rather than blundering straight in.
I’m going to go in on my own and try to have a look around. I’m hoping that I won’t attract too much attention in one of the Dragons.
We have to take out a few ships on the way to the jump point but the Dragons are a lot easier to take out now we are on equal footing.
I jump into Axius and the plan works. Everyone ignores me and I’m able to land on some sort of giant base.
I steal a natty black uniform from one of the guys on the flight deck and go to have a look around. I see the Vesuvius outside which is something of a shock and shows how deep the corruption in Confed must go.
There is also a big cache of weapons + the same cannisters that killed 90% of the planet I was just on.
Everyone is heading in one direction. I tag along and Seether is just in the process of introducing their leader to a gathering of Black Lance troops. It’s none other than Tolwyn himself.
Tolwyn goes on to make a speech about how our victory over the Kilrathi was a fluke and no clear verdict of our superiority. Some day we will face an enemy greater than the Kilrathi and we must be ready for them. A fundamental universal rule is “The strong will survive”. We need to seperate the wheat from the chaff and the Gen-select device is the tool for the job. Soon he will reveal the existance of the Black Lance and they will get the praise they deserve. He also commends Seether and holds him up as an example of what the genetic enhancement program has to offer.
Tolwyn leaves to go to the assembly. Seether spots me in the crowd and I have to run. He sends guards after me and there is a bit of cat and mouse in the corridors outside. I run into the bio-convergance scientist I rescued back at the start of the game. She is being forced to create weapons and helps me to get to the flight deck so we can get away in our fighter.
I manage to take out the guards but not before she is shot in the back. She hands over a datacard before she dies.
I take off with the information and now have to run for the jump point. I’m followed by the Vesuvius and have to make a run for the Intrepid as fast as possible.
When I land, there is a cutscene showing Seether informing Tolwyn of the security breach. He says I can try to catch him if I want but it will do no good.
That finishes off CD 5 leaving me just the one to complete tonight. The game has kept up the same standards and is building nicely to the big finish. It possibly lost a bit of pace around the optional missions early on – the choices you make here forced to story to slow down a bit for a couple of missions but it soon got going again. I notice that Catscratch doesn’t appear in any cutscenes after I rescue him also. This is to allow for the possibility of him getting killed if I hadn’t gone after him. Sosa was a bit cold on the comm when I got back the next mission also. This sort of thing is an inherent problem with interactive movies – they usually work best when the movies are just static cutscenes. I’m nitpicking as there have been a good few plot branches and it all works very well on the whole. It’s only really noticeable if you are looking for it.
The missions have been tougher on the whole today and required a bit more effort. This is as it should be now I’m getting further into the game although it was possibly taken a little too far with the mission where I had to capture the confed ship – I don’t think there is any way I could defeat a Dragon without using missiles. I still had to drag myself away from playing the last CD and there is no way I’ll be stopping before the end tonight.