Wing Commander Saga: The Darkest Dawn (WCS) is a fan project based on the Wing Commander Universe that has been under development for ten years now and is a standalone game that will be free to download and experience. Wing Commander Saga is based on the FSO (Freespace Open Engine) from Volition (creators of Freespace series). Do you need to have played any of the previous WC games to play WCS? No, not at all. But it would help if you did, because you would know the background of the story and some of the destinations, characters and ship types. I dabbled a bit in space games off and on in the 80’s and 90’s and when I got my hands on Wing Commander for the first time that is what really sucked me in to this genre of games and I have enjoyed them all ever since. Origin System was on top of the world of PC gaming back in the early 90’s with their WC and Privateer series of games and at that time Origin Systems was making the games with the largest budgets for that time period. The Wing Commander series of games really launched space/scifi gaming into the mainstream and Wing Commander Saga has done a great job in keeping the look & feel of the original games and really writing a great background story to work your way through and enjoy.

The references to sectors, ships and characters from previous Wing Commander games is a nice touch indeed and if you have played any of the particularly WC2 and WC3 games you will start to smile when you hear comm chatter and mission briefings referencing these. WCS takes place in the time period in-between WC2 and WC3. Currently WCS ships with two campaigns the ‘Prelude’, which sets the stage for the Darkest Dawn and the main campaign ‘Darkest Dawn’. You will be playing as 2LT David ‘Sandman’ Markham who is assigned to the Diamondback Squadron on the TCS Wellington in the Prelude and then you will be assigned to the TCS Hermes in The Darkest Dawn. I would recommend that during the prelude that you really read the stories in-between each mission because there is a nice story there that will set the stage for the game itself and you will get to know who you are and the wingmen in your squadron. Also during the install itself there is some nice background to the history of this time in the WC universe. I won’t dive to much into the story because I want everyone to be surprised.

Something that I did notice and haven’t dug to deep into was the modding ability and the multiplayer, I’m sure its in the docs that I didn’t have when reviewing the game but I will get the low down on these and update the review at a later date.

What I will talk about is my impressions (pros/cons) on playing both WCS Prelude and Darkest Dawn. And before I start, the version I played was release quality so it is the final version for the most part.

Pros:

  • I was very impressed with the FSO engine used for WCS and the visuals were really nice and enhanced the immersion of the game and combat for me.
  • The Confed and Kilrathi ship models were AMAZING looking and brought me right back to playing the originals, it was just nice to see them in this engine because they looked great.
  • Mission construction and briefings were well designed and constructed well. The mission animations and small videos added to the intensity of the situation and the objectives were easy to understand .
  • Voice acting was done wells, especially the mission briefings. The Kilrathi screams and taunts were classic and I don’t get tired of them listening to their dying in a scream as they explode.
  • Controls and settings. I thought the settings page was designed all and you have quite a few options to enhance your game play experience and configure your controls the way you like them.
  • Your wingmen are actually pretty good, not like the originals where you did the majority of the work. There will be times where you get mad because they steal your kill.
  • Last but not least, the Technical Database is amazing a lot of effort was put into this so make sure you check it out!

Cons:

  • Game would have been complete for me if we were able to move about the ship or converse with our shipmates like in the other WC games. Not a game killer at all just would have liked to have had it for nostalgia sake.
  • The collisions with the larger corvettes, destroyers and carriers could have been handled a bit better. Because at times I would see the insides of the ships or get caught up on something. Overall the collision damage was a nice addition and you can take other damage on a collision like to your sensors.
  • This might not be a negative, because I haven’t played all the way through the game to find out if you do have the ability to choose your own loadout. Right now I don’t have that ability and I have played about 15-20missions and all of the prelude.
  • For the reward/medal system, it would have been nice to mouse-over the ribbon and see a brief summary of how you acquired it (ie: mission name and stats to acquire medal).

WCS is one of the best fan projects that I have played to date and there is no doubt I will finish this game up soon, possibly before official release Thursday (3/22). The way the story missions flow are nice and the missions make sense for where you are in the conflict and are not just random filler missions to keep you occupied. I hope Chris Roberts actually finds the time to seek this game out and maybe playing it will be what he needs to spur him into action to revisit the Wing Commander Universe and make some new games. But playing WC Saga was more than just a game for me, it was more like a resurrection of sorts for a game franchise that I thought would never be seen again. The WCS team definitely needs to sit back and enjoy all the great comments that will definitely come their way when people get to sit down and play the final product. Wing Commander Saga: The Darkest Dawn is a great fan project and I highly recommend you play this game, old veterans of the series will love this and new people to Wing Commander will get a taste as to what the original games were like, personally I like this HUD better in WCS than the original WC HUD.

So have fun everyone with Wing Commander Saga, it comes out in less than a week and SSC should also be a mirror for the download as well when it is available. Word to the wise when you play, listen to your wing commander and if they tell you to form up you might want to or they might leave you behind. And do take a look at the Technical Database there is a whole bunch of great info in there. And if you want to get the full immersion make sure you play Wing Commander I and II first.

Below is the latest trailer for Wing Commander Saga.