is a media franchise
consisting of space combat simulation computer games
from Origin Systems, Inc.
, an animated television series
, a feature film
, a collectible card game
, a series of novels
, and action figures
. The franchise originated in 1990 with the release of Wing Commander
, a groundbreaking space combat simulation computer game.
Set in the 27th century, the games tell the story of humanity's war against the Kilrathi, an alien species of large feline bipeds. Launching from carrier ships, the player fulfills various missions in starfighters. The games were all notable for their storytelling through extensive cutscenes. Starting with Wing Commander III, every game (excluding Secret Ops) contained cutscenes that incorporated live action filming, starring several major Hollywood actors, including John Rhys-Davies, Mark Hamill, and Malcolm McDowell.
The Wing Commander
game series began in 1990 with Wing Commander I
. The newest addition to the series, Wing Commander Arena
, was released for the Xbox Live Arcade
service on July 25, 2007.
Wing Commander (1990)
The player begins his tour of duty as a young officer on the carrier TCS Tiger's Claw
. Through his heroic efforts, the Confederation is able to destroy the Kilrathi's sector headquarters and drive them from the Vega sector.
Through the course of the Vega campaign, the player can gain numerous promotions and medals and fly in various squadrons, each featuring a different fighter. The game was notable for its innovative and seldom-repeated "campaign tree" structure, whereby the "path" you took on the way to the end would be determined by your performance on preceding missions. In-game cinematics in "newsreel" format reflected the success or failure of the player and the Claw. However, in an infamous design decision, game designer Chris Roberts included an incredibly hard mission along the "victory" track which required you to protect a captured Kilrathi destroyer from four Gratha heavy fighters. Even though it is possible to win the mission, it is prohibitively difficult. Since that mission was a critical victory condition for that system, the player would almost always wind up on the losing path because of it; although the game gives one last chance to return to the winning path afterwards. Consistent victory in that mission (Kurosawa 2) is often taken as a mark of an excellent player in this game. Since the missions in the following Rostov sequence are relatively easy, that is to say-difficult but quite winnable, this is not particularly problematic for any player who has penetrated this far into the game.
Originally announced as Squadron, the name was changed to Wingleader shortly into development; however, trademark issues forced a name change to Wing Commander at the last moment. The development team's nickname for the otherwise-unnamed protagonist was "Bluehair," due to his unusual shade of hair. Perhaps in a nod to this little in-joke, when the character was given an actual name in later installments, Origin chose "Blair", a shortened version of the old nickname.
Wing Commander was ported to the SNES, Sega CD, Mac OS, Amiga CD32, 3DO, Amiga, FM Towns, and Sony PSP systems, the most ports of any Wing Commander game.
In 1991, Wing Commander won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1990.
Wing Commander was added to GameTap on April 12, 2007, though it has been announced that it will cease carrying the game by the end of December, 2007.
The Secret Missions (1990 expansion)
A new Kilrathi secret weapon destroys the Terran colony of Goddard. In retribution, the Confederation plans a daring raid, Operation Thor's Hammer
. Tiger's Claw must follow the Kilrathi deep into their own territory and destroy their new super weapon, the dreadnaught Sivar
The Secret Missions was ported to the FM Towns, SNES, Sony PSP, and was included with Wing Commander on the 3DO and Macintosh as part of Super Wing Commander.
The Secret Missions 2: Crusade (1991 expansion)
When the Confederation is just celebrating a new alliance with the bird-like native species of the planet Firekka, they learn that entire fleets of Kilrathi ships are leaving from other sectors and heading towards the Firekka system.
Puzzled, the Confederation ships must retreat, but they soon learn from a Kilrathi defector that Firekka has been chosen as the place for a holy Kilrathi ceremony. The Confederation soon develops a plan to disrupt that ceremony to deliver a blow to enemy morale and it's up to the pilots of Tiger's Claw to ensure the success of the mission.
The Secret Missions 2: Crusade was ported to the FM Towns.
Super Wing Commander (1994)
In 1994, a revamped version of the original Wing Commander
, entitled Super Wing Commander
(SWC), was released for the 3DO. It featured new graphics, full speech and included a Secret Missions 1.5
campaign (between the original campaigns 1 and 2) with a follow up to Thor's Hammer in which the Claw destroys the Kilrathi shipyards that constructed the Sivar
. Because of the full speech the player character is named "Armstrong", even though the same year's Wing Commander III would see the character named "Christopher Blair". Super Wing Commander
reuses several 3D models from Wing Commander II
. Several of the ships created for were later reused in Armada
Super Wing Commander was ported to the Macintosh in 1995.
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (1991)
Shortly after the Firekka campaign, the Tiger's Claw attempts to attack the Kilrathi headquarters in the Enigma sector, but is ambushed by new Kilrathi "Strakha" stealth fighters and is lost. No one but Blair sees these fighters, so they are dismissed as an excuse to cover his cowardice. He is scapegoated
for the loss of the Claw, is demoted and transferred to a backwater space station.
Ten years later, he is called back into action when he is able to save the Confederation's flagship, the TCS Concordia. Meeting many old friends there, he continues the fight against the Kilrathi, finally culminating in the destruction of their sector HQ, thus clearing his name and uncovering a traitor on the Concordia's flight decks.
Wing Commander II was ported to the FM Towns. In 1992, it won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1991.
Special Operations 1 (1991 expansion)
Blair is transferred to the undercover Special Operations division, supporting Kilrathi colonies that are defecting from the Empire. But first he must solve the problem of a mutiny on a Confed cruiser.
Special Operations 2 (1992 expansion)
Jazz, the traitor from Wing Commander II
, has fled imprisonment and the Mandarin (the society of traitors) are also able to steal some of the Confederation's newest top-secret fighters. Blair must hunt them down and face Jazz in one final showdown.
Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (1994)
The war is going badly for the Confederation. Battles are lost on all fronts and the Concordia is destroyed. Colonel Christopher Blair
(the player from the first games, now with a set name), is transferred to the TCS Victory, an old ship from the first days of the war.
In a last-ditch attempt to win the war, Confed has designed the TCS Behemoth, a doomsday weapon able to destroy an entire planet. It is Blair's mission to help end this war for good, by destroying the Kilrathi homeworld of Kilrah. Unfortunately the Behemoth is destroyed by Kilrathi forces. The enemy fighters seemed to know exactly about the weakpoints of the weapon. Later on Blair finds out that his old friend Hobbes, a Kilrathi defector, is a sleeper agent and the traitor responsible for the Confed's losses.
The last hope of winning the war for the Confederation is a secret weapon, the "Temblor Bomb", using the tectonic instability of Kilrah to destroy the planet. Blair is finally able to attack Kilrah, firing the bomb and destroying the Kilrathi homeworld. With the royal family of Kilrah killed and their homeworld lost, Melek, once attaché to the Kilrathi prince, surrenders before Blair.
Starring in the video cutscene sequences are well-known actors like Mark Hamill as Christopher Blair, John Rhys-Davies as James "Paladin" Taggart, Thomas F. Wilson as Todd "Maniac" Marshall, Malcolm McDowell as Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn, Josh Lucas as "Flash," and Ginger Lynn as Chief Technician Rachel Coriolis.
Wing Commander III was ported to the Sony PlayStation, Macintosh and the 3DO.
Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (1996)
The war with the Kilrathi is over, but not all is well within in the Confederation. Skirmishes in the Border Worlds destroy ships regularly. Both Confed and the Union of Border Worlds
assign blame to each other and the skirmishes threaten to lead to all-out war.
Blair is soon recalled to active duty and sent to the Border Worlds to confirm Confed's determination. But he finds out that a conspiracy of war-mongers with members in the highest Confed circles are responsible for the attacks. Defecting to the Border Worlds, Blair must expose the conspiracy to help restore the peace in a galaxy still torn over the events of the Kilrathi-Terran War.
The Price of Freedom retained the storytelling-style of its predecessor, using live-action cutscenes with an ensemble cast of actors. Many of the actors from Wing Commander III returned to reprise their roles. The story's final sequence was innovative in that dialogue choices made by the player affected the outcome of the hearing. However, only three endings were possible, and two of the outcomes depended on the earlier choices made by the player.
Wing Commander IV was ported to the Sony PlayStation and Mac OS. To owners of the original MS-DOS version, Origin made available a Windows 95 DirectX port, free of charge. Wing Commander IV was added to GameTap on July 5, 2007.
Wing Commander: Prophecy (1997)
Peace has finally come to the Confederation, or so it seems. Still remaining vigilant, they commission the new megacarrier TCS Midway
, which is soon needed when Kilrathi worlds are attacked by an enemy whose coming was foretold in ancient Kilrathi prophecies.
The insectoid enemy, codenamed the Nephilim, soon begin attacking Confed space and the Midway is called in to stop their advance. As young hotshot pilot Lance Casey, the player must fight their organic ships to help destroy the wormhole they used to enter Kilrathi space, thereby halting the invasion, at least for a while.
As did Wing Commander IV, Prophecy incorporated live-action cutscenes with actors.
Prophecy was ported to the Game Boy Advance.
Wing Commander: Secret Ops (1998)
The Nephilim return, this time much closer to Earth. Transferred to the cruiser TCS Cerberus
, Casey and his wingmates must repel the invasion once again.
Secret Ops was an experiment in game distribution. It was at first only available as a free download. In regular intervals, new episodes were released, each featuring several new missions with the storyline told through in-game cutscenes. The game was later available in a collection together with Prophecy, and sold as Prophecy Gold.
Wing Commander Academy (1993)
A game where the player could build his own missions using ships from Wing Commander II
Wing Commander: Privateer (1993)
Set in the border regions of Confederation space, the player takes control of a privateer (in Wing Commander
, a "privateer" is a mercenary spacer) who may profit by trading, performing various missions, or pirating. Meanwhile, an ancient alien spaceship has been awakened and is on the loose, attacking ships at random, and the player-controlled privateer may be the Confederation's only hope in defeating it.
This game featured a completely open-ended gameplay, with the player able to completely ignore the main storyline if they so desired.
Righteous Fire (1994 expansion)
When the player's priceless Steltek Gun is stolen, he embarks on a quest that will bring him into conflict with the Luddite-like Church of Man and their shady leader, Mordecai Jones.
Wing Commander Armada (1994)
featured both an action and a strategy game mode and several multiplayer options.
Armada was ported to the PC9821 and FM Towns.
Proving Grounds (1994 expansion)
This add-on for Armada
added numerous new features such as a new "arcade"-mode with powerups, radar-obscuring asteroids, and several new multiplayer options, including IPX
The Kilrathi Saga (1996 recompilation)
was a limited-edition reissue of the first three Wing Commander
games (Wing Commander
, Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi
, and Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger
). Origin repaired some of the game's known bugs and adjusted the speed to run on the early Pentium
processors of the time.
Kilrathi Saga also featured complete digital re-orchestrations of the original two soundtracks by George Oldziey. However the Saga did not include the Secret Mission packs for the 2 first games. The Secret Mission Packs were made available for download on the Origin website.
Privateer 2: The Darkening (1996)
A big-budget game was dubbed Privateer 2
and launched in late 1996 by Erin Roberts.
The game features live-action video scenes, directed by Steve Hilliker
. The cast included Clive Owen
, Mathilda May
, John Hurt
, Christopher Walken
, Brian Blessed
and Amanda Pays
. The game also featured David Warner
, and Jürgen Prochnow
, who later played Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn and Commander Paul Gerald respectively in the Wing Commander
One hundred years after the original story of Privateer
, a cargo ship Canera
is attacked during landing and crashes into Mendra City on planet Crius. One survivor, As Lev Arris, a man with no memory of who he is and no record of his existence prior to two weeks before the crash, must take the life of a privateer in the Tri-System, re-discovering his past along the way.
Although The Darkening
features no obvious connection with the "mainstream" Wing Commander
series, there are several links that bind it to the larger universe. The game features references to a "Confederation", and one of the easter egg
derelicts is a Talon
light fighter. Perhaps anticipating a future title connecting The Darkening
with Wing Commander
, the game's developers set the plot sufficiently far in the "future", in the year 2790.
Wing Commander Arena (2007)
and developer Gaia Industries
revived the Wing Commander
franchise with a downloadable release on Xbox Live Arcade called Wing Commander Arena
. Dogfights take place in one of nine environments, and pilots are able to choose from 18 ships. There can be up to 16 players in a single match. The title was released on July 25, 2007.
Origin aborted several attempts to continue the Privateer
franchise between 1995 and 2003, by either developing a sequel (Privateer 3) or an online game (Privateer
or Wing Commander Online
). Only one of these was formally announced. The March 1998 issue of Computer Games Strategy Plus featured a cover story on Privateer 3
. Origin announced that development of the game had been cancelled shortly after the magazine was published.
Wing Commander: Strike Team
was a planned sequel to Wing Commander: Secret Ops
which focused on multiplayer gameplay. The title was officially announced in an EAUK promotional publication but was cancelled early in development.
Wing Commander VI & VII
Wing Commander: Prophecy
was advertised as the beginning of a new trilogy with renown actors on the back of its package, but no such sequels were ever released. ......
Several novels based on the games have been released by Baen Books
. They include novelisations of WC3 and WC4 as well as offering further depth into known Wing Commander events such as the defection of Ralgha nar Hhallas.
Wing Commander Academy
was a thirteen-episode animated series that originally aired on the USA Network
between September 21 and December 21, 1996. The series is before and during the events of the first game and features many familiar ships and characters. The cast featured Mark Hamill, Tom Wilson, and Malcolm McDowell reprising their Wing Commander
In 1999, Wing Commander
hit the big screen
with the film of the same name. It was directed by Chris Roberts, the creator of the game series, and stars Freddie Prinze, Jr.
, Saffron Burrows
, Matthew Lillard
, Tchéky Karyo
, Jürgen Prochnow
, and David Warner