Starlancer – Day 1

After directing Wing Commander, Chris Roberts broke away from Origin and started work on Freelancer which I’ll be playing at some point in this blog. He also took his brother Erin along who had previously worked on Privateer 2 and it was Erin who headed up the Starlancer team. They may have left Origin but this is hardly a change in direction and was very much on the lines of Wing Commander.

Things start well enough in that I can actually run this game on Win7 without any problems. Hypersnap have released an update and I don’t have any trouble capturing the video screenshots either this time.

The intro is fairly lengthy and impressive for the time. The action doesn’t rely on aliens to provide the opposition as is Wing Commander and this time the war is entirely human. It shows a peace treaty being drawn up between the Western Alliance and the Eastern Coalition. The East were just using this as a ruse though and a load of ships uncloak and wreak havoc. A news bulletin describes the devastation and calls for volunteers which is where I come in. I’m flown to my base ship and given the introductory talk.

The interface for the game in interesting in that I walk around my bunks in first person, 7th Guest style. It’s nicely done actually and adds a bit of atmosphere. I can just click to skip the animation if I’m feeling impatient and when the novelty has worn off will no doubt do exactly that.

My commander gives me a tour of my bunk via the video screen. It has all the usual areas seen in games like Wing Commander or X-Wing.

First stop is the flight simulator for some training.

There are 3 training missions. I start at the beginning with HUD training. I’m shown being shoved out of my base ship by a giant metal piston – this is nowhere near as nice as the Prophecy launch sequence.

Once in the cockpit I’m talked through all my instruments. This is a long process and the mission takes about 15 minutes in all. The interface is quite nice in that it slides in relevant bits as and when. These then vanish when nothing is changing giving an unobstructed view.

I get to blow up my first ship as part of the mission. The animation here is well done with the ship being blown into polygons.

I then get to blow up my first cap ship. I can blow turrets and things off this in the same manner as prophecy. The turrets are a bit more detailed than the octagonal blobs from WCP but its not a huge improvement. The ship is arguably a lot less interesting than the giant alien destroyers from that game.

After enough shots the capship blows up into pieces. I see electrical sparks and things but I’m too close up for a good view.

I dock back with my capital ship at the end of the mission. I know this is only training but I have to admit to being a bit underwhelmed by my first mission. This game came out years after WCP and I’m not entirely convinced that it doesn’t look worse. There is nothing new whatsoever in this first mission either and I know the story elements will be weaker also so this isn’t a good sign. It’s early days though so I push on to mission 2.

The second training mission is much shorter and deals with navigation. Here I have to assume escort formation by flying into the red box.

After a bit of escorting I then have the obligatory flying through rings bit. The rings are a long way apart even using afterburners and this is not any sort of challenge. It certainly pales compared to Xwing or Tie Fighters mazes.

I can’t get the 3rd training mission to start as the game just crashes. I decide to just press on and start the real missions. The first person FMV here even has me walking all the way to the briefing room.

I do like the first person FMV a lot – the video quality is excellent and far better than for the introduction. The mission briefing uses more FMV and has me escorting the British fleet.

I get to choose from one of four ships which is surprising at this stage. It looks like this is a game with a lot of ships from but I stick with the default option for now.

There is another FMV showing me running to start the mission.

The first mission has me taking out fighters initially, then intercepting torpedoes. It’s pretty tricky for the start of the game although I just about manage it on my first attempt with severe damage. At the end of the mission the game crashes. I’m sorry to say this was a bug that was also present in Vista and I haven’t managed to find a solution to it. I expect I’m going to have problems repeatedly with this blog and if I’m going to make any serious attempt to play these games I’m going to be forced into setting up an XP partition. This is going to delay things a bit but I’ll be back as soon as I get XP set up.

This post is a day late as it got left on my pen drive. Since then, I’ve set up XP in a new partition on my hd and the process was fairly painless if lengthy. The only problem I had was during the first attempt to boot from the hard disk. I had to use the Win7 CD to repair the boot record, then boot Win7, add the XP partition as an extra boot option, before booting it to continue the install. 1gb+ of driver and update downloads later and I’m all set up. Starlancer is running and the 3rd training mission works now so it looks like the hanging is fixed and I can get on with the game again.

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