Wing Commander: Privateer - Less Than Expected

Wing Commander: Privateer - Less Than Expected

Released in 1993, Wing Commander: Privateer drops players into the shoes of a freelancing spacer trying to fly, fight and trade their way through a harsh universe full of hostile forces and violent aliens that you befriend or blow out of the sky.

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I think it's fine if you get it on the cheap. Catch it on a sale for 3 bucks, and it's pretty entertaining. I don't think it's still worth 6 though.

Of course, I can just use my CDs to install it again, so I am kind of biased.

Funny Mr. Shearer should mention the game's role and mindset as a drawback, as I found it to be one of Privateer's strengths. I realize it's personal preference, but I find "everyman" narratives in games to be more compelling than "The Chosen One." Admittedly the story does veer a bit down the latter category, but like most open world (or in this case, open galaxy) games I tend to ignore the plot in favor of striking out and making my own player-driven narrative, be it a law abiding trader, a mercenary or even a slaver. Nothing says morally bankrupt like "rescuing" ejected pilots, only to turn around and sell them into slavery at the nearest pirate spaceport.

That said, Privateer certainly isn't perfect. The voice acting is atrocious and the limited mission types can become monotonous. Gameplay is your standard simplistic fare for the Wing Commander series and lacks the rewarding complexity of titles like X-Wing and Tie Fighter. Moreover, you can unwittingly back yourself into a corner if you're not careful.

I didn't realize during my first playthrough that enemy difficulty ramps up when you buy a better ship. I ended up blowing all my money on a new ship without bothering in upgrades, figuring I could go to some starter systems and grind for it. Surprise! Instead of one or two pirate or Retro ships I was suddenly getting swarmed by four to five Retro or Kilrathi vessels instead. No matter how hard I tried to fight or outrun them, I always ended up having to spend more money in repairs than what I was earning. Eventually I found myself stranded at a neutral starport with a small fleet of Retros waiting to blow me out of the sky the moment I took off. Since I didn't have a save file prior to this development (I know, rather stupid of me) I was left with the prospect of starting all over. I was so frustrated by the experience that It was a few years before I could bring myself to pick up the game again.

Stew, I think you better start running...Spoony loves this game to death, and you know how he is :o Anyone got a bad Ultima spinoff we can use to distract him?

This game brings a lot of nostalgia with it...But If I keep the tinted glassed off, I can see that some aspects of the game are so broken, it almost renders it unplayable.

When I first played privateer, I was amazed at the freedom it allowed you (I'd never played Elite, or anything like it up to that point). Being able to join almost any faction, doing what you wanted, on the outer rim of explored space. It blew my mind at the time. And like Neverhoodian, I vastly preferred being just some guy trying to carve out a place for himself in the galaxy, as opposed to the 'Chosen Pilot'. Doing smuggling runs from the secret asteroid pirate base en route to New Chicago, with a cargo hold full of illegal contraband, narrowly ejecting it before the police could scan my hold, then retrieving it later...I remember really getting a 'Han Solo' feeling from it. It was awesome.

Coming back to it years later...I can't believe I was able to tolerate it for so long. The atmosphere is still there, The flight physics are still good, the graphics hold up well, even the voice acting and story is mostly fine.

But the giant problem I never saw until now, is the spawn rate being unbelievably bad. There's pirates and retros EVERYWHERE! I could understand seeing a higher number of them where there's less Militia\Police influence, but they literally appear in every system, after almost every jump, in a place that SHOULD be secure. It made doing cargo runs almost unbearable, suffocating you in combat to a point past tedium. Basically making you resort to buying the fastest, most expensive ship, and just using the afterburner to fly past most fights.

That is by far my biggest gripe in this game. If they just coded it to have less spawns in certain systems, or less in general, it would've been a much, MUCH better game for it.

The spiritual successor to this game, Freelancer, is basically Privateer 2.0, and is a far better game in my opinion. Fixing almost every problem I had with Privateer.

It's fine you don't like it, at least you are wise enough to not declare it a bad game. And I am totally okay with your opinion!

I loved the hell out of Freelancer. I have an old issue of PC Accelerator with an early look at it, and the amount of stuff that had to be cut in the final game makes it sound like a 90's version of Star Citizen.

Never played Starlancer, though, and some people say that was a better game than Freelancer.

Privateer was, for me, a better game than it's siblings Wing Commander 1 or 2. I enjoyed the choice and freedom. Just tooling around space and doing what you wanted. The Wing Commander games were pretty good too, they just didn't scratch the itch that Privateer did... but, to each their own.

moosemaimer:
I loved the hell out of Freelancer. I have an old issue of PC Accelerator with an early look at it, and the amount of stuff that had to be cut in the final game makes it sound like a 90's version of Star Citizen.

That's because outside of the fact that it was released in 2003, not the 90s, it basically is. The project lead on Star Citizen is Chris Roberts aka a founder of Digital Anvil and the first lead Designer to work on Freelancer. Star Citizen is, in many ways, a spiritual sequel with the goal of putting in everything he ever wanted to do with Freelancer.

I remember reading about Privateer when it came out, and even bought it back then... but never got around to playing it. All these many years later, I tend to completely forget the progression of the WC series. Consequently, I was a little "shocked" to see the screenshots from WC:P looking so primitive. My creaking memory "remembered" this game as coming after the original WC series finished with WC4... wrong! It's challenging to look back at a lot of long-running game series, with names that are not necessarily sequential (like the C&C series) and try to put them in chronological order. If you're lucky Wikipedia will help you put them in order.

I have all the WC games from GOG, but I think the only way I would want to play them these days would be chron order... to keep my rosy misremembering to a minimum. In fact, I like to think that a "fun way" to play a lot of these older games would be in a totally chronological fashion... interleaving different flight games from different publishers in total chronological order. It would be fun to see how they build off each other, each perhaps incorporating some feature from a slightly earlier game while stretching the medium a little farther. Which is to say, if I had played WC1-4 and THEN played WC:P I would probably have blown it off. That's just the kinda (vain) guy I am!

EDIT: which reminds me of a story. Years ago a good friend of mine saw James Cameron's movie "The Abyss", and complained how primitive the liquid tentacle looked. "They did that liquid creature stuff MUCH better in Terminator 2!" I replied, "You do realize Abyss was filmed before T2, right?" "Uh, didn't know that. Never mind."

Perspective often helps to get maximum enjoyment out of yesteryear's entertainment.

Uratoh:
Stew, I think you better start running...Spoony loves this game to death, and you know how he is :o Anyone got a bad Ultima spinoff we can use to distract him?

Luckily he and I had the same level of admiration for Ultima IV, so I think it might balance out. :)

actually, i still love deeply privateer, because it's the first game that i played in the wing commander series. i actually played like a year before realising that there actually a plot. My cd back then refused to play the sound of the game for a reason or another, but i was playing the MIB soundtrack in background, so often that when i listen to the soundtrack again, i have flashback of privateer that are comming back !

Initially I'd agree with you, that being the mindset of how different the game was narrative-wise than WC2 (my first and favorite foray into the series). However the size and scope of the game, the realization that the character was basically ME because I could literally do what I wanted instead of kowtowing to the space navy with consequences but NOT an instant GAME OVER, that sold me on the game.
Maybe you were expecting more of the same, and it didn't deliver that. Sucks because that wasn't the purpose at all. The first three WC's only gave the perspective that the human military was the only thing in existence in the universe, that there were no civilians left. Privateer allowed you to exist in that universe without having to deal with the space navy, except when you encountered them. A change in framing makes it a much different game, and less episodic.
Sorry you didn't like it, it really is a gem of a game and deserves the praise it gets... and the remakes people have done or attempted over the years.

I played X-Wing before ever knowing something like WC even existed, so once I got in touch with the WC games I couldn't really get into them. Compared to X-Wing, the flight mechanics and combat of the WC games with it's 2D representation of ships, just plain sucks.

That didn't stop me from playing Privateer though, because it had something to offer that X-Wing didn't: the freedom to explore and roleplay, up to a point. So I actually grinded through the whole game and the Righteous Fire expansion. I enjoyed it a lot back in the day, but I don't think this is a candidate for replay. Now it would feel to grindy and repetitive for me, and I don't have that kind of patience or time to invest with games anymore.

a game i'd like to see reviewed is Cybermage remember it being a lot of fun

TechTim:
a game i'd like to see reviewed is Cybermage remember it being a lot of fun

I'll add it to the list!

 

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