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..
..so 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.