Wing Commander (often referred to as Wing Commander I or 'WC1) is the first, eponymous game in Chris Roberts' science fiction space simulation franchise. The game was first released for the PC (MS-DOS) and was later ported to the Amiga, Sega CD and the SNES. In August 2006, GameSpot reported that Electronic Arts would also be porting the SNES version to the PlayStation Portable as part of EA Replay. It was released in the United States on November 14, 2006.
Released by Origin Systems in 1990, the game was a marked departure from the standard formula, bringing space combat to a level approaching the Star Wars films. Set in the year 2654 and characterized by Chris Roberts as "World War II in space," it featured a multi-national cast of pilots from the "Terran Confederation" flying missions against the predatory, aggressive Kilrathi, a feline warrior race. Most impressively, cockpit performance affected gameplay: going above and beyond the call of duty resulted in medals, promotions in rank were awarded at regular intervals, and success or failure on certain critical missions would even decide the player's plot progress, "winning" or "losing".
Plot synopses Edit
The player takes the role of a nameless pilot aboard the TCS Tiger's Claw, a Bengal-class Strike Carrier. The player gets to name the pilot and choose his callsign. The pilot (known to Origin personnel as "Bluehair," after his most notable feature) quickly rises through the ranks of the flight wing, and (presuming the player performs ideally in the cockpit) eventually leads a strike on the Kilrathi High Command starbase in the Venice system. On the other hand, if the player does not perform optimally, missions become increasingly defensive in nature and eventually the Claw is forced to retreat. Of the two endings, the "winning" path is established as canon by the game's two expansion packs, as well as the sequel, Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi. In 1994, Wing Commander was retroactively renamed Wing Commander I in a bundled re-release of both games, in preparation for the release of Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger.
Wing Commander: The Secret MissionsEdit
Wing Commander: Secret Missions was an add-on campaign from Origin, notable for being one of the first expansion packs in video gaming history.[Source?] It requires the WC1 software to run, but adds new missions, new ships, a new storyline, and an increase in difficulty. The game was also released for the Super NES as a stand-alone cartridge.
The Tiger's Claw, on maneuvers in the Goddard System, receives an abortive distress call from Goddard colony. When the Claw arrives, though, nothing is left but wreckage and corpses; a quarter of a million colonists have been killed. Confed realizes that this is the work of a new Kilrathi weapon, the "Graviton weapon," which is able to increase the power of gravity by over a hundred times. Clever work by the Claw's crew and pilots allows them to capture a Kilrathi courier ship, which reveals that this weapon is mounted on an entirely new class of ship; C-in-C codenames it the Sivar-class dreadnought, after the Kilrathi god of war. Bluehair leads the strike against the Sivar and destroys it in the Vigrid system; for unexplained reasons, ships of that class and armament are never seen again.
Unlike the original game, The Secret Missions does not feature a branching mission tree; every player plays the same missions in the same order. However, if the player does not the fulfill the mission requirements at any system, he immediately plays the two losing "retreat" missions that are not on the winning path.
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions 2: CrusadeEdit
The second expansion pack for Wing Commander, The Secret Missions 2 continued with the tradition of a new narrative, new ships and more difficult missions. It broke new ground by adding two new wingmen as well.
The Tiger's Claw is in the Firekka System, whose native intelligent lifeforms — the bird-like Firekkans — are negotiating to join the Terran Confederation. Tensions are high, and will only get higher. There is an unusual Kilrathi presence in the area, including their upgraded Dralthi II and ships that have never been seen before: the Hhriss-class heavy fighter and the Snakeir-class heavy carrier. This presence develops into a massive battle group, and though the Firekkans sign the Articles of the Confederation, the outnumbered Terrans have no choice but to retreat. Adding to the mess, a Kilrathi lord, Ralgha nar Hhallas, defects, bringing his Fralthi-class cruiser, the Ras Nik'hra, and word of a rebellion against the Empire on the Kilrathi colony of Ghorah Khar. Finally, almost overlooked in all the chaos, Captain Kien "Bossman" Chen is lost while flying on Jeannette Devereaux's wing; the nearby TCS Austin transfers over two pilots, Lieutenants Zachary "Jazz" Colson and Etienne "Doomsday" Montclair. All this happens in the first six missions of the game.
The Kilrathi presence in the Firekka sector is eventually explained by an all-channels transmission from the Crown Prince of the Kilrathi Empire, Thrakhath nar Kiranka: Firekka has been chosen as the site of this year's Rite of Sivar, a holy festival that involves feasting, worship, and lots and lots of live sacrifices. Seeing the chance to strike a heady blow to Kilrathi morale, the Confederation assigns its Firekka-sector resources the task of disrupting the ceremony. The Dralthi medium fighters from the Ras Nik'hra are put to work on reconnaissance missions, and Terran troops begin landing in secret. Between these, the Firekkans' warrior spirit and some of the Confederation's best pilots and tacticians, the Sivar ceremony is utterly wrecked and the Kilrathi forced to retreat, though they take a number of important Firekkans with them as hostages.
Ralgha and the rebellion at Ghorah Khar, though promising, are taken over by Confed Intelligence and do not see mention until the first expansion pack for Wing Commander II. Also, at the end of Crusade, Jeannette Devereaux is detailed off to the TCS Austin, where she will serve as Wing Commander.
Interested in the other half of the crusade, Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon penned the first Wing Commander novel, Wing Commander: Freedom Flight. It tells the Firekkan side of the story, from several points of view: Ralgha nar Hhallas, Ian "Hunter" St. John, James "Paladin" Taggart, and K'kai, a Firekkan flock leader.
The Manual: Claw Marks Edit
Wing Commander shipped with an instruction booklet styled as a shipboard magazine, Claw Marks. It provided tactical suggestions, statistics on fighters and weapons both Kilrathi and Terran, capsule biographies of notable pilots on both sides of the line, and general shipboard news (such as the discontinuation of the popular comic strip Hornet's Nest, due to the recent death of its artist, Lt. Larry "Tooner" Dibbles). It is the source of most of the following information. Notable contributors to the Claw Marks magazine include Captain Aaron Allston, Major Warren Spector, and Col. Chris Roberts.
Confederation Pilots Edit
- Bluehair: The player character.
- Christopher "Maverick" Blair (full name established in Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger). Blessed with very little dialogue, Blair nods and smiles his way through the game. Later material establishes that his "rebellious" callsign was given to him as an ironic reference to his "by the book" flying style. Name and callsign appears as default in Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga.
- Carl T. "Prankster" La Fong the variation of the player character which appears in the Wing Commander I and II: The Ultimate Strategy Guide. Guide suggests that the game is a composite of multiple individuals stories (a nod to the ability to change names in the original). LaFong is said to be a separate character in Star*Soldier.
- Captain Jeannette "Angel" Devereaux. An elegant Belgian with an unfortunate habit of spouting statistics on enemy and allied craft. She's great for information but not so fun at parties.
- 1st Lieutenant Mariko "Spirit" Tanaka. Her Japanese callsign, Kami, translates roughly into "spirit." Shy and unassuming, she is Blair's first wingman and, eventually, one of his most loyal friends.
- 2nd Lieutenant Todd "Maniac" Marshall. Blair and Marshall attended flight school together and were transferred to the Claw at the same time. Brash, self-serving and unreliable, Maniac nonetheless proved to be one of the best pilots of the Kilrathi War (when he wasn't being "accidentally" shot down by aggravated video game players).
- Major James "Paladin" Taggart. Born on a space station in orbit of Venus, Taggart nonetheless retained a trademark Scottish accent. The senior pilot aboard the Claw, Taggart is sometimes known as "Mother Hen" for his tendency to keep track of his brood.
- Major Michael "Iceman" Casey. The most notorious of the Claw's pilots, Casey was an uninspiring flier until his homeworld, the colony Vega VII, was hit by a Kilrathi raid. His wife and 15-month-old daughter perished; an older daughter, Julia, was taken as a slave but later recovered. Casey's new demeanor both in and out of battle led to a new call sign, and his kill ratio made an immediate jump. He was lost on patrol in 2656; he had amassed 367 confirmed kills over the course of a nine-year career.
- Major Kien "Bossman" Chen. Once a carefree, high-risk pilot known as "Ripper," he changed his demeanor when he found that many young pilots were imitating him... And ending up in body-bags. About this time, people began to call him "Bossman" instead. Hails from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. He was killed in action in 2656, during the early stages of Secret Missions 2.
- Captain Joseph "Knight" Khumalo. Hailing from either Kroonstad, South Africa or Lubango, Angola, depending on what version of the game you get, Knight got his callsign by saving a fellow pilot from certain death.
- Captain Ian "Hunter" St. John. Born in Brisbane, Australia, Hunter was known as the "loose cannon" on deck; he believed that every rule and regulation was there to be bent (but not necessarily broken). He lacked Maniac's utter self-absorption, however, and flies on the player's wing during the final missions of the game, suggesting that he is, in fact, the best pilot on the Claw.
- First Lieutenant Etienne "Doomsday" Montclair: named for his extremely gloomy outlook on life, he spends most of his time predicting how the war will kill him.
- First Lieutenant Zachary "Jazz" Colson: Jazz, a confident and capable pilot, got his name from his virtuoso skill at the piano.
Confederation Personnel Edit
- Colonel Peter Halcyon, Wing Commander of the Tiger's Claw. He dispatches missions and mission briefings to the player and all other pilots, making him a familiar sight.
- Sam "Shotglass." The Claw's bartender and the best source of gossip around. A former pilot, he was badly injured in the cockpit but turned down a medical discharge to stay with his beloved ship. In Secret Missions 1, Blair calls him Sam.
- Captain: In game he is only referred to as the 'commander' or 'captain' (although external sources have given the Tiger Claw's captain a name and/or different captains depending on the story).
- Thorn: the Claw's infrequently-mentioned skipper (name is only mentioned in the novels Freedom Flight and Heart of the Tiger).
- Gerard: Name given for the captain at the time by the Movie book trilogy (replaced Jason Sansky in the movie).
- Tolwyn: Name given to the captain during this era via the Wing Commander Academy animated series.
Weapon Systems Edit
Beam and Missile WeaponsEdit
Because Kilrathi and Terran craft use similar armaments, they are covered first.
- Laser Cannon: the longest-range weapon in space, and the one that takes the least juice to fire, but also the weakest in terms of damage. Many capital ships boast this weapon on a turret mount.
- Mass Driver: a medium-range, medium-damage, medium power-requirement weapon.
- Neutron Gun: a rather short-ranged weapon with enormous destructive potential.
- Flak Battery: found only on capital ships, this weapon releases clouds of energy that are easy to dodge, but impart tremendous damage if they land.
- Dart Dumbfire (DF): the most frequently-seen missile in space, the DF is essentially an unguided rocket, and requires a sharp eye to use. However, its lack of tracking systems allowed munitions engineers to pack in a lot more bang, and a good hit will severely damage any fighter. It is also practical for use against larger ships.
- Javelin Heat-Seeker (HS): this infra-red munition can only lock onto enemy ships from behind, and can be easily countered at long range by simply turning 90 degrees, causing the missile to lose its targeting lock. At close range, however, it's perfect to finish off an aggravating furball when your guns are out of power.
- Pilum Friend or Foe (FF): relying on identification friend or foe beacons for targeting information, this munition is truly fire and forget... But may attack you, if your IFF beacon is damaged.
- Spiculum Image-Recognition (IR): though it takes the longest to lock, this missile memorizes the target's electromagnetic, visual and thermal signature. If not thrown off by an electronic countermeasures decoy, it will continue to chase its target until it either 1) runs out of fuel and self-destructs, or 2) ...hits.
- Porcupine Mine: like all naval mines, this free-floating munition was simply an explosive booby-trap, designed to detonate in the presence of spacecraft. Thankfully, advances in technology allowed the Porcupine to contain its excitement until enemy spacecraft were nearby.
Confederation Fighters Edit
- Hornet Light Fighter: small, fast and agile, the Hornet was the Confederation's premier dogfighter. Its lesser defenses were offset by its agility. It was armed with two laser cannons, two dumbfires and one heat seeking missile.
- CF-105 Scimitar Medium Fighter: though sturdier than the Hornet, it was also far less maneuverable; sources disagree on its age, but the design is somewhere between 15 and 100 years old (it was emphasized in Wing Commander I that it was dated). It employed two Mass Drivers, three HS and two DF. It was officially retired in 2655, during the events of Secret Missions 2, and replaced with the Rapier.
- Raptor Heavy Fighter: armed with two Neutron Guns, two Mass Drivers, two IR, two HS, a FF and a mine, this was the Claw's big stick. The Confed weapon of choice for assaults on enemy starships, or for burning unlucky fighters out of the sky with a salvo of high-damage shots.
- F-44A Rapier medium fighter: faster than the Hornet, more maneuverable than the Scimitar, and with longer-ranged guns than the Raptor, this fighter had it all. Essentially a light fighter with better weapons, this ship could tangle with foes of any caliber and live to tell the tale. However, while it had the strongest shields of any Confed fighter, its ablative armour was no stronger than a Hornet's, making it vulnerable should a lucky shot or heavy concentrated fire knock its shields down. It was armed with two Laser Cannon and two Neutron Guns, two DF, two FF and one IR. It entered official service in 2654.
- Dralthi II Medium Fighter: Captured by the Confederation upon the seizure of the Kilrathi cruiser Ras Nik'hra, Bluehair flies it on reconnaissance during Secret Missions 2. It is armed with two Mass Drivers, three HS and two DF.
Confederation Capital Ships Edit
- Drayman-class Transport: the jugular vein of any war effort, these lumbering craft were essentially defenseless without allied fighter support, despite its single turreted Laser.
- Diligent-class Transport: seen only in the Secret Missions campaigns, this craft lacked weapons of any sort.
- Venture-class Corvette: armed with two Laser Cannon, one FF and one HS, this small craft presented a significant threat but could be easily outmaneuvered by light or many enemy ships.
- Exeter-class Destroyer: four Laser turrets and a single IR round made this craft a fairly deadly threat to any capital ships in the area. It was less effective when employed against fighters.
- Bengal-class Strike Carrier: a fast, heavily armored and surprisingly well armed carrier, designed to penetrate deep into enemy territory without the need for escort. The Bengal's prowess is demonstrated in The Secret Missions, where the Tiger's Claw and her fighter complement single-handedly destroy the Sivar and her battle group. It carried 104 fighter craft, a number of laser turrets for defense, and a crew of 600.
Kilrathi Fighters Edit
- Salthi Light Fighter: minimally shielded but incredibly fast, a design the Kilrathi have always liked for their light fighters. Two Laser Cannon and a DF were its weaponry, and in numbers (another tactic the Kilrathi have always liked) they could be decidedly dangerous. However, an unusual arrangement of ducts and thrusters made it turn faster to port than it did to starboard, leading to a predictability that could prove lethal. The Salthi spaceframe later saw service as the Shok'lar stealth fighter.
- Dralthi Medium Fighter: a piddling medium fighter by any criteria, its heavier shielding was not enough to save it from the crippling effects of its enormous bat wings, which practically invalidated lateral movement; Dralthi always broke either up or down when threatened, never to the sides. Two Laser Cannon and a HS munition rounded out this flying bullseye.
- Dralthi II Medium Fighter: an upgrade of the previous craft. It has increased armor and its weapons upgraded from Laser Cannons to Mass Drivers. However, the large surface area of its wings still makes it vulnerable to an experienced pilot. The Dralthi II only appears in Secret Missions 2.
- Krant Medium Fighter: a highly effective design. Its maneuverability, speed and heavy shielding gave it an edge in endurance, which helped it employ three HS, one FF round, and (most disappointingly) dual Laser Cannon.
- Gratha Heavy Fighter: in terms of performance, this was the best fighter in space until the advent of the Rapier, and the most difficult mission in WC1 (some say in the entire franchise) involves preventing four of them from destroying an allied capship. Two Mass Drivers and two Laser Cannon were complemented by three HS, an IR and three mines. Its maneuverability was acceptable, but its massive defenses made it difficult to combat.
- Jalthi Heavy Fighter: armed with guns befitting a capital ship — three Laser Cannon and three Neutron Guns — this fighter was instant death to anyone stupid enough to wander in front of it. Anyone smart enough to fly behind it, however, would discover a fighter of low maneuverability and substandard shielding. A single HS and two FF munitions rounded out this craft.
- Hhriss Prototype Heavy Fighter: two Mass Drivers, two Neutron Guns, one HS, one IR. Its maneuverability was only acceptable, but its defenses were the heaviest seen on a Kilrathi fighter to date. Appears only in the Secret Missions 2 campaign.
The Gratha and Krant are unusual for the Kilrathi, who generally do not usually place a great deal of emphasis on pilot survivability. Terran pilots, in craft with redundant shielding and ejection seats, often managed to stay alive long enough to learn from their mistakes; the Kilrathi, whose craft often lacked ejection seats, had no such luxury. The Krant and Gratha, with their high survivability, took away some of this edge, and it is probably not a coincidence that they were the most dangerous Kilrathi fighters of their time.
Kilrathi Capital Ships Edit
- Dorkir-class Transport: a Laser turret and three mines made this craft marginally lethal, but any pilot worth his wings knows how to deal with a transport. Apocryphal anecdotes suggest that series creator Chris Roberts, unable to name this ship, left himself a note, "Dorky name here," which was eventually shortened into its official name.
- Lumbari-class Tanker: appearing only in the Secret Missions campaigns, this craft had the same armament as the Dorkir and presented roughly the same threat.
- Ralari-class Destroyer: armed with six Laser turrets and a mine, this capital ship was a significant threat to any Confed ships in the area.
- Fralthi-class Cruiser: six Laser turrets, a single IR round and (on some models) docking bays for a half-wing of fighters made this ship the premier Kilrathi projection of military might for most of the 2650s.
- Snakeir-class Carrier: appearing only in the Secret Missions campaigns, this craft featured six Laser turrets, two IR rounds and a "full" wing of fighters (believed to be 144).
- Star Post: four Laser turrets and four FF rounds defended this platform against any intruders. Its immobility was a distinct disadvantage in combat, though.
- Sivar-class Dreadnaught: armed with the dangerous Graviton Weapon, this enormous craft also carried six turreted Lasers for defense against spaceborne threats, not to mention significant defenses and armor.
The in-game dates beyond the starting date 2654.110 date (and a few other time references) are completely randomized every play through (though ingame clocks ). This gives the illusion of progression, but means the history is never the same in any given game.
No official timeline (other than a possibly outdated timeline in the Wing Commander Universe Bible from Carl T. LaFong's perspective which puts the start of the Vega Campaign as early as .085 and the ending at the date given in most sources) has directly given exact dates for these missions, although that one exception has overlap issues with the movie timelines and the most up to date 'canon' timeline from Wing Commander Arena, and even seems to ignore the .110 date from the game itself. The WC1 & 2 Ultimate Guide suggests an order, and who was involved however, and may suggest the beginning date of the Vega Campaign to be roughly around .222.