Day 198

I managed to finish this game off on Sunday in one of the longest gaming sessions of this entire blog. I then had it all written up and ready to cut and paste onto the site and managed to lose it and am having to write the whole lot a second time. This hasn’t put me in the best mood so this post is probably going to be a bit more negative than it was the first time around.

The first mission was going after an alien communications facility. I have to blow up some nodes on it using torpedoes.

Maniac has lost more wingmen while he was out. I resume my ships counselor role and cheer him up a bit.

With the communication center down, the bugs can’t get messages back to their fleet any more. We need to stop them from escaping and warning anyone about us so its another seek and destroy mission next. We can’t let a single ship escape.

This mission was the hardest in the game by a mile for me. The only 2 ships trying to escape are a couple of transports which aren’t tough in themselves but I can’t damage them without torpedoes and am relying on the bombers I’m escorting. They have a nasty habit of getting themselves blown up though. The numbers of enemy on this mission is huge and I run out of afterburners before the end – the only mission where this happens. After several attempts I just scrape through it.

I’m rewarded for my efforts by being recommended for the medal of honour.

We’ve got some intel on a bug ship killer which is a giant plasma weapon which can destroy a whole fleet in one shot.

One of these is in dry dock being repaired and we are going to go and capture it.

The graphics for these cap ships are really nice. At a distance like this its easy to forget you are playing a 13 year old game.

Partway through the mission the ship powers up and starts to leave its dock. I have to take out its engines quickly to stop it shooting the Midway.

Maniac has resigned as squadron commander in favour of the “carefree life” of a wing commander.

I collect my medal in the meanwhile.

And also a promotion to the newly formed Wolf Pack squadron (along with all my other buddies).

Elsewhere the bug gate is finished…..

… and something very big comes through it.

On the bright side we do have a new plasma weapon ourselves.

We have some intel on this bug dreadnought and also on the gate itself. The gate has 7 cooling towers which dissipate the heat produced keeping the thing open.

I get a choice of ship for the next mission – I have to choose before I know what the mission is. I’ll be in these two ships now for all but one of the remaining missions and they are the two best in the game. The Vampire is a superb fighter which is the fastest ship in the game but also has great firepower. The Devastator is arguably the slowest ship ever seen in a Wing Commander, rivalling the Broadsword from WC2. It has load of turrets which helps but its major redeeming feature is its giant plasma gun – this is strong enough to punch through capship shields and work like a torpedo and it will take out most fighters in a single shot. The recharge rate is slow but its still a devastating weapon.

I choose the Vampire and get to fly support in the mission which is to try to clear the path to the Kilrah jump point.

There are plenty of capships and bug fighters but our new ships are far better than any we have flown before and its not too difficult.

Next mission is clearing out mines but I can’t say I ever saw any myself. I just killed all the fighters and got a mission complete.

Next mission is clearing another nav point. We are starting to incorporate alien technology into our weapons now and have some advanced missiles for this mission.

I get my first good look at the Midways new plasma weapon.

Partway into my mission I get a call to go and investigate another ship killer we have detected.

Its unguarded but with no torpedos all I can do is look at it for intel

Next mission is to go out and destroy it. I’ve got new shield technology for this mission.

This is my first time in a Devastator. It’s a very nice ship as long as a quick alien doesn’t lock onto me as I’m so slow to turn it can be impossible to get it in my sights.

We are clearing out the jump to Kilrah next so its time to finally use our plasma weapon. The snag is we need to drop a priming device on a transport in the middle of the fleet first.

I have to take out the fighters first to have a chance at this mission. The priming device take just about forever to lock on so I can’t just nip in and fire it off. I’m in a Devastator and could just as easily take the capships out myself at this point but I stick to the plot.

The fleet is pulverised and I arrive back to celebrations.

These celebrations are dampened a bit when the Captain shows up and tells us that we won’t be able to use the weapon again as there is a 2/3 chance it will overload. We will have to do things the old fashioned way.

Blair is trying to talk the CAG into letting him fly but she isn’t having it. He doesn’t rate himself as a staff officer and wants to do his bit.

Capships are still coming through the gate so we have more to kill in the next mission.

The ruins of Kilrah can be seen in the backdrop in space now which is a nice touch.

After this mission we get a scramble to protect to Midway from attack. I’m back flying a wasp but they are nice ships so I don’t mind too much. I have to take out 4 capship missiles before they hit the Midway which is easy enough. I then have to take out all the bombers which isn’t so easy. There are loads of trebled up skates attacking – I just have to shoot them enough to split them up so they can’t fire torpedoes. I manage to get them quickly enough on my second attempt.

Next we are attacking more capships for a change.

Kilrah is getting nearer all the time.

For the next mission, we are attacking yet another capship for a change. This time its the giant dreadnought we saw coming through the gate in an earlier cutscene.

At Blairs suggestion the Midway fires training missiles to draw off the fighters. I’m only in a Vampire for this mission so I can’t actually destroy the ship. I just have to take out the turrets. I could just as easily be blowing the thing up if they had put me in a Devastator but I get on with the task. It’s surprisingly easy and I just fly around the ship at point blank range taking one turret after another. The ships seem to leave me alone.

When I get back, its straight back out again to finish it off with bombers. I don’t even get to save my game. This is a bit trickier than part one thanks to a Devil Ray which latches onto me right at the start and blows me up pretty quickly. I’m wise to it second time around but I have to replay both missions again. With that out of the way, the plasma gun chews through the engines and bridge of the dreadnought in no time.

That gets me to the final mission of the game.

We are seriously close to Kilrah now and it fills the whole screen.

The gate looks suitably impressive. The plan here is for Dekker to land at a tower, then in two teams work both ways around the ring taking down the shields at each tower.

I have to fight off wave after wave of fighters in the meanwhile. He gets the first set of shields down quickly.

The tower blows up with a single shot, then its back to killing off fighters.

This carries on for a while but he gets stuck before the final tower.

Back on the Midway, Blair sees the situation and gets to play the hero one more time as he sets off to the final tower to drop the shields himself.

I get to refuel in the meanwhile. This is really contrived. We kill off the last of the aliens, then autopilot away to refuel, then come back and they are arriving in endless waves just like before.

Blair goes in and gets the shields down. I’ve killed off dozens of fighters in this mission but its been surprisingly easy and I’ve never been in danger of being killed. Blair tells me to go in and blow up the last tower but someone must beat me to it as the end cutscene starts before I’ve done anything.

Blair is poking around on the gate still and has a close encounter with one of the bugs. It jumps him from above and thats the last we know for now as the gate collapses. The tower is shown still in one piece as the gate blows up so it was definitely being left open to bring him back. Since we never got the sequels though, this is how Blairs story ends – being squashed under a giant cockroach. This is pretty unsatisfying and he hasn’t been treated well in this game in general – I didn’t get this guy through 4 games just to have him end up like this. Still it could be worse, if you want to see Mark Hamill meet an even worse fate, try watching the film Guyver (as if being in that film wasn’t bad enough on its own).

Casey isn’t joining in the celebrations, partly because of Blair and partly because he knows the bugs will be back.

The end credits have some rubbish music playing over them which reminds me a bit of U9 but at least the engine is being shown to good effect on the other side of the screen as a battle plays out.

This is a game that I’ve gone off the more that I’ve played. The engine and alien design are both superb but other aspects of the game are not. The gameplay got repetitive before the end and there wasn’t enough there to keep it fresh. WC4 managed to keep the mission variety up far better and despite the new engine this is actually a simpler game than its predecessor. The branching movies have gone, the planet missions have gone, there are no capships on our side other than the Midway, I can’t choose my ship, loadout or wingmen any more, cloaking ships don’t exist anymore, etc.. There is enough there for the game to be great at the start but it doesn’t change a whole lot. Sure we get some new capships to blow up but these all play the same and none of them are a serious threat – they are more there to look pretty.

Its the general storyline that bothers me most of all. The missions are good enough that a great storyline would carry the game but there just wasn’t very much to it and especially on the final CD there was little plot FMV and it felt like the game wasn’t quite finished or that corners were being cut. A lot of the FMV was like watching a soap opera, in that nothing much happens except a lot of people not getting on very well. You could skip a load of it and pick it up again and have no problems figuring out what was going on. I didn’t like the way some of the long standing characters were treated and the new characters were not especially interesting either. Maestro struck me as really annoying which isn’t a good trait in someone who is supposed to be my best buddy. Finally, the ending is completely unsatisfying – I really hope that Secret Ops offers some resolution but I don’t expect it will.

I’ve come full circle in the course of playing this game and I’m pretty much back to the opinion I had of it before I started. It’s good fun for a while but I’d prefer to think of the series ending with WC4 as it just provides a much better resolution. It’s still a shame we didn’t get the sequels, for all that. The potential was definitely there and this game was consciously being used to set the scene for the games to come. On its own, this is probably my least favourite of any of the main Wing Commander series but it could easily have been the beginnings of a decent trilogy if things had worked out differently.

Next: Wing Commander – Secret Ops.

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