Good Old Reviews: Wing Commander: Prophecy

Good Old Reviews: Wing Commander: Prophecy

Wing Commander: Prophecy delivers a ton of space fighting fun, but not quite up to the standards of its predecessors.

I can remember seeing Wing Commander: Prophecy for the first time on the shelf of some now forgotten computer store. I, being ten years old and susceptible to all things with spaceships on the cover, thought it was looked like the coolest thing in the world. It's been more than a decade and a half since then and, in many ways, the ten year old inside me is still alive, well and eager to blow things up with lasers. You can probably understand then, why GOG's recent addition of Wing Commander: Prophecy to its retro library was so exciting for me. It's the only entry in the Wing Commander franchise that I had yet to really play.

It's with a bit of sadness, in turn, that I have to admit it's not the strongest thing the franchise has produced. Mind you, it's not bad by any means. In fact, even held up against some of the modern games I've played recently, Prophecy would be very far from the worst. That said, when stood up next to the rest of the series (one that I personally hold very near and dear), it's merely adequate. It takes the structures and styles laid out by predecessors and uses them to fashion something blandly competent.

The gameplay, for instance, feels very much like a copy and paste job from the previous games in the franchise. It boasts unique ships, as well as some new weapons, but the core of each and every mission will generally boil down to flying your fighter through a series of nav points and destroying everything hostile you come across. It's still fun and frequently challenging (on the standard difficulty, at least). But you will start to notice of grinding repetition the further you get into the game.

To be fair this isn't an issue that's isolated just to Prophecy. The series as a whole never really expanded much in terms of gameplay and, to a degree, if you've played Wing Commander I you've pretty much played the rest of the series too. What made this more forgivable in the entries prior was just how darned good the story was. They drew you in and made you care about the context and characters involved in the battles you were fighting. It wasn't unusual to find yourself desperately trying to push through a tough mission just so you could find out what was going to happen next in the plot. Prophecy never managed to grab me like that, for several reasons.

Taking place some years after the Kilrathi War that served as the primary backdrop of the first four games, it drops players into the flight suit of rookie pilot Lance Casey. When the story begins a new alien race, the Nephilim, appear and launch an invasion that could apparently engulf the entire galaxy. It's all supposed to be very epic, but honestly, I never really got that feeling of big things happening while I was playing it.

You can lay the blame for that largely at the feet of both its protagonist and antagonists. Casey is never really developed into anything more than a vaguely defined avatar for the player and the Nephilim don't amount to much more than a generic doomsday force. Comparatively, Christopher Blair, the hero of the prior games was an interesting character with a lot of personality. Granted, he also had Mark Hamill playing him, but he was also just better written. Likewise, the Kilrathi in the earlier games often shared the limelight with the human characters. They were cultivated to be not just your foes but real characters with tangible motivations. The Nephilim aren't even remotely as intriguing, leaving you with little to chew on besides the been-there-done-that drama of a straight-laced rookie coming into his own during a largely generic war. There's just never anything to really care about and, in the absence of that, its effort at the grandiose fall frequently flat.

None of this is to say that Prophecy is a poor experience. The story, even if it wilts in the shadow of its predecessors, has some good moments and possesses branching paths based on your gameplay performance as well as occasional moments of player choice. Likewise, the combat, even if it doesn't break any new ground, is still tight and frequently addictive. If Prophecy suffers, it's mostly because the games that came before it were just so much better. Setting past iterations however aside, Wing Commander: Prophecy is easily worth a play, and at only $5.99 at GOG, there's not much reason to not to give it one.

Come back next Saturday where we'll heading back to the series' roots with a double review of Wing Commander I and II.

Permalink

The Wing Commander series was always one that never seemed to live up to it's potential for me. When it came to space sims for me the two series that were head and shoulders above the rest back in those days were the Masters of Orion series and the second and third parts of the Star Control series. I still have two tablets of graph paper that are full of hand made Star Control 2 maps I made during my time playing it in a box with my old gaming stuff. When it came to just out and out space shooters I always preferred the X-Wing series.

^I don't think it's fair to compare 4X games to a space shooter.

Though, I have to agree that the X-Wing series did feel a bit more engaging.
But that's probably more to do with 'OMG STAR WARS!' than anything else.

For me the WC series is one that just BEGS to get remade with modern graphics/game play.
I think they were really limited by the technology of the time, and could really expand one what is already a pretty good series.

Plus, they could use CGI/animated cut-scenes so Mark H. could come back.
:D

Wing Commander 3 was my fist WC game. It came with a 2nd hand Packard Bell PC we got from our uncle. Loved it. The next game I got was Prophecy (Gold Edition too), at roughly the same age as the author of this topic. Loved it.

But I never saw the rest of the series, which apparently ended after Prophecy. I've been tempted to get the collection on GoG, but I'm afraid of breaking my nostalgic view of the series. If they ever bundle them up as part of a deal though, I doubt I will be able to resist.

They finally added it? Hell yeah, I can finally complete my collection of the main series Wing Commander games! Now if they can just talk Disney into letting them sell the Xwing/Tie Fighter series...

Prophecy was not able to even come close to the awesome that was Wing Commander 3, and a little less so, Wing Commander 4. Still worth playing, it was extremely good.

Agree with Tanis, Wing Commander games with current technology to smooth out the combat and even expand the scope of the combat would be amazing. Only if they retain the in-between mission style, better graphics fine, just keep the feel.

valium:
Prophecy was not able to even come close to the awesome that was Wing Commander 3, and a little less so, Wing Commander 4. Still worth playing, it was extremely good.

Agree with Tanis, Wing Commander games with current technology to smooth out the combat and even expand the scope of the combat would be amazing. Only if they retain the in-between mission style, better graphics fine, just keep the feel.

Tanis:
^I don't think it's fair to compare 4X games to a space shooter.

Though, I have to agree that the X-Wing series did feel a bit more engaging.
But that's probably more to do with 'OMG STAR WARS!' than anything else.

For me the WC series is one that just BEGS to get remade with modern graphics/game play.
I think they were really limited by the technology of the time, and could really expand one what is already a pretty good series.

Plus, they could use CGI/animated cut-scenes so Mark H. could come back.
:D

Well, there is technically something that could interest you: Wing Commander Saga. It's a standalone mod for Freespace 2 (you don't need the game to play it) that tells the story of the redshirts who allowed Blair and his pals to end the war in Wing Commander III. It's a professional-level game with dozens of voice actors, something like 40 or 50 missions, battles involving a good dozen capships at the same time, challenging gameplay with all the nice options from Freespace.

And free.

www.wcsaga.com

Give it a shot, 'kay?

Rufus Shinra:

valium:
Prophecy was not able to even come close to the awesome that was Wing Commander 3, and a little less so, Wing Commander 4. Still worth playing, it was extremely good.

Agree with Tanis, Wing Commander games with current technology to smooth out the combat and even expand the scope of the combat would be amazing. Only if they retain the in-between mission style, better graphics fine, just keep the feel.

Tanis:
^I don't think it's fair to compare 4X games to a space shooter.

Though, I have to agree that the X-Wing series did feel a bit more engaging.
But that's probably more to do with 'OMG STAR WARS!' than anything else.

For me the WC series is one that just BEGS to get remade with modern graphics/game play.
I think they were really limited by the technology of the time, and could really expand one what is already a pretty good series.

Plus, they could use CGI/animated cut-scenes so Mark H. could come back.
:D

Well, there is technically something that could interest you: Wing Commander Saga. It's a standalone mod for Freespace 2 (you don't need the game to play it) that tells the story of the redshirts who allowed Blair and his pals to end the war in Wing Commander III. It's a professional-level game with dozens of voice actors, something like 40 or 50 missions, battles involving a good dozen capships at the same time, challenging gameplay with all the nice options from Freespace.

And free.

www.wcsaga.com

Give it a shot, 'kay?

I am downloading it right now. Thanks for the heads up! :D I've been looking for something to hold me over until X: Rebirth comes out.

Mid Boss:
I am downloading it right now. Thanks for the heads up! :D I've been looking for something to hold me over until X: Rebirth comes out.

Heh, enjoy the stuff. IMHO, except for the lack of real cutscenes or branching paths, it's on the level of everything you can expect from a Wing Commander game. Still, take the time to be sure to know the key mapping, because there's a lot and a lot of stuff you can do with the FS2 engine.

Most important key: "Target nearest torpedo/bomber" ^_^;

One thing that irritated me to no end was a plot point from the previous game. In WC4, you had to uncover a conspiracy where militaristic extremists were trying to take over the Confederation. I always thought that the story was cool and I loved how unconventional the ending "fight" was, compared to other video games but there was one thing in the sequel that I never could get over.

wc 5 was a painful game after the previous ones. i always loved the series though with 3 and 4 were my personal favourites. ha 3 had that infamous romance scene in the bar... the two women you are romancing are standing at the bar who do you choose? and you choose by walking up and inserting yourself between them and turning your back on the other.. real smooth blair haha

one thing i always loved about the games were the scrambling of fighters. it always had a very battlestar galactica feel about it

wombat_of_war:
wc 5 was a painful game after the previous ones. i always loved the series though with 3 and 4 were my personal favourites. ha 3 had that infamous romance scene in the bar... the two women you are romancing are standing at the bar who do you choose? and you choose by walking up and inserting yourself between them and turning your back on the other.. real smooth blair haha

one thing i always loved about the games were the scrambling of fighters. it always had a very battlestar galactica feel about it

Needs a poll; who didnt choose the porn star playing the adorable greased up mechanic?

valium:

wombat_of_war:
wc 5 was a painful game after the previous ones. i always loved the series though with 3 and 4 were my personal favourites. ha 3 had that infamous romance scene in the bar... the two women you are romancing are standing at the bar who do you choose? and you choose by walking up and inserting yourself between them and turning your back on the other.. real smooth blair haha

one thing i always loved about the games were the scrambling of fighters. it always had a very battlestar galactica feel about it

Needs a poll; who didnt choose the porn star playing the adorable greased up mechanic?

haha id forgotten about that .. man could you imagine what fox news and its ilk would do with that these days?

one thing i always loved about wc3 was when you attacked a carrier if you timed it properly you could fly inside its flight deck and open fire on the inside where the shields werent effective

wombat_of_war:

valium:

wombat_of_war:
wc 5 was a painful game after the previous ones. i always loved the series though with 3 and 4 were my personal favourites. ha 3 had that infamous romance scene in the bar... the two women you are romancing are standing at the bar who do you choose? and you choose by walking up and inserting yourself between them and turning your back on the other.. real smooth blair haha

one thing i always loved about the games were the scrambling of fighters. it always had a very battlestar galactica feel about it

Needs a poll; who didnt choose the porn star playing the adorable greased up mechanic?

haha id forgotten about that .. man could you imagine what fox news and its ilk would do with that these days?

one thing i always loved about wc3 was when you attacked a carrier if you timed it properly you could fly inside its flight deck and open fire on the inside where the shields werent effective

I was far too missile happy to even find out if this was true or not. Oh a big ship? Time to empty out.

While the basic gameplay may have always been the same for every entry in the series, the execution varied. I never really liked the combat in WC 3 and 4, and I felt that was due to a lack of polish since it probably took a backseat to the production of the FMV.
Prophecy was more gameplay focussed, and I liked that.

wombat_of_war:

valium:

wombat_of_war:
wc 5 was a painful game after the previous ones. i always loved the series though with 3 and 4 were my personal favourites. ha 3 had that infamous romance scene in the bar... the two women you are romancing are standing at the bar who do you choose? and you choose by walking up and inserting yourself between them and turning your back on the other.. real smooth blair haha

one thing i always loved about the games were the scrambling of fighters. it always had a very battlestar galactica feel about it

Needs a poll; who didnt choose the porn star playing the adorable greased up mechanic?

haha id forgotten about that .. man could you imagine what fox news and its ilk would do with that these days?

one thing i always loved about wc3 was when you attacked a carrier if you timed it properly you could fly inside its flight deck and open fire on the inside where the shields werent effective

The actress who played Rachel Coriolis was a porn star?!

I am totally not looking that up right now. Nope, completely not fulfilling a childhood fantasy of seeing her naked. Totally not.

I will admit the series kind of 'Died' for me after they removed Blair from the protaganist's chair. I remember thinking that him doing a heroic suicide mission at the end of 5 to save the galaxy and 'close off' the saga would have been better than the 2d self-insert also-ran you end up playing. Gotta say the best part of Prophecy was the cameos.

Timmibal:

The actress who played Rachel Coriolis was a porn star?!

I am totally not looking that up right now. Nope, completely not fulfilling a childhood fantasy of seeing her naked. Totally not.

I will admit the series kind of 'Died' for me after they removed Blair from the protaganist's chair. I remember thinking that him doing a heroic suicide mission at the end of 5 to save the galaxy and 'close off' the saga would have been better than the 2d self-insert also-ran you end up playing. Gotta say the best part of Prophecy was the cameos.

Her porn career was in the 1980s, so you might want to give it a miss (unless 80s porn is your thing). You are right about the cameos in Prophecy, though - that game contains some of my favourite Maniac moments. Looking back at Prophecy, there's one thing I found particularly odd/unsettling about the crew of the TCS Midway - the rampant alcoholism. How often do you see pilots knocking back booze with impunity, only to be scrambled to their fighters in the next scene? You could probably make a drinking game around it. Either Confed has discovered an instant detox pill, or they're totally cool with pilots being plastered on the job.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here