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Wing Commander is the first game in the Wing Commander series of science fiction space simulation games, released on September 26, 1990 for the PC. It was designed and directed by Chris Roberts and produced by Roberts and a pre-System Shock/Deus Ex Warren Spector. Origin Systems was the developer and publisher. The company would later be bought out by Electronic Arts in 1992, and EA would go on to publish future Wing Commander titles, as well as use the Origin name for their future digital download service.
Wing Commander was conceived to bring the space combat genre to a level as high as the Star Wars films. What made this game ahead of its time was its revolutionary 3D graphics and simulation elements. The player is able to give themselves a callsign as the name they will use, the player can interact with their fellow pilots aboard the ship, fly many different types of space fighter craft, issue commands to their wingmen and assume complete control of the space fighter’s functions.
The actions in battle and the decisions made by the player will affect the course of the game’s story through special “winning” and “losing” branches, and reaching the end of one of those arcs will determine your ending. The game also uses an extensive amount of cutscenes, a feature in PC gaming that was starting to gain traction around the time this game was released. If the player performs well, they can gain promotions, and if the player dies in-game, an elaborate space funeral scene will send them off.
The game is set in the 27th century. There is an ongoing war between an alien race known as the Kilrathi Empire and the human-based Terran Confederation. The Kilrathi are bipedal and have cat-like features. They are from the planet Kilrah and are a brutal and militaristic Through years of civil war amongst themselves, they have developed powerful weapons and technologies. When interstellar travel is finally realized, they have a desire to find newer enemies to fight and to expand their empire through the nearby regions of space. The Terran Confederation is an alliance of systems and regional governments throughout space which provide protection and economic growth. You are an unnamed pilot of the Terran Confederation (later, he would be known as Christopher “Maverick” Blair) aboard the Terran strike carrier TCS Tiger Claw, a rookie ready to prove his worth to the Confederation. The Terran mission is to seek out and lead a strike on the Kilrathi High Command starbase in the Venice system. If the player completes the missions and objectives throughout the game, he will have the opportunity to achieve this goal, but if the player can not, the Tiger Claw will be overwhelmed by the enemy and forced to retreat.
In addition to the original PC release in 1990, the first Wing Commander title also saw ports on the Amiga, the short lived Amiga CD32, and the Japanese FM Towns. The Super Nintendo got a port as well as the first expansion pack as a standalone release, Wing Commander: The Secret Missions. The Sega CD port of Wing Commander was enhanced with redbook audio and character voices. The 3DO was given an expanded port known as Super Wing Commander which also was ported to Apple Macintosh computers.
Wing Commander grew into a large media franchise in the 1990s. The first title had two expansion packs, The Secret Missions and The Secret Missions 2: Crusade. Several sequels on the PC followed as multimedia capabilities expanded and the CD storage medium was becoming the PC gaming standard. Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi was released in 1991, and also had two expansion packs. Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger was released in 1994, featuring Mark Hamill as the voice of Christopher Blair. Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom was released in 1996. Wing Commander: Prophecy was released in 1997 and was ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2003. Wing Commander: Secret Ops was a free online downloadable 56-mission game series distributed in 7 weekly “episodes”. These missions would appear later in a special package with Prophecy entitled Wing Commander: Prophecy Gold. Spin-off games included Wing Commander Academy which allowed a player to create their own missions from start to finish using the Wing Commander II ships. Wing Commander Armada in 1994 added a strategy game element and was the first Wing Commander game to feature multiplayer gametypes and modem/network play. Another series spin-off was Wing Commander: Privateer which had the player role set outside the Terran military and one could choose to be either a pirate, mercenary or merchant with more of an open-style gameplay as opposed to the structured missions of the original series. Privateer had two expansion packs and also had its own spin-off in 1996, Privateer 2. In 2007, Wing Commander Arena, featuring single and multi-player modes, was released on Xbox Live Arcade. Besides all of the Wing Commander games, there was also a series of Wing Commander novels, and a Wing Commander Academy animated series in 1996 with Mark Hamill returning to voice Christopher Blair. A Wing Commander collectible card game was released, based on Wing Commander III. Finally, there was the Wing Commander movie in 1999 which was directed by series designer Chris Roberts featuring special effects by his newly formed company Digital Anvil and it starred Freddie Prinze Jr.
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