Some of my best early gaming memories include the Wing Commander series. I spent hours and hours fighting the Kilrathi- One of my most prized possessions is an official WC3 movie poster. I bought and read the strategy guide for WC and WC2 just to have access to more of the lore surrounding the universe Chris Roberts and Origin created. You can imagine how excited I was upon discovering the Freespace 2 Total Conversion Fan Project “Wing Commander Saga” several years ago. In fact, one of the first interviews ever done here at Just Press Start was with Andreas Schmitt from www.wcsaga.com 3 years ago (!)
After years of patient (?) waiting, I finally got my hands on the finished product. Does Wing Commander Saga live up to my expectations and is it a fitting tribute? Keep reading…
This is a truly first-rate piece of work. The visuals are stunning, fully capturing the look and feel of Wing Commander while upgrading everything neatly into the Freespace 2 engine. While this means that some classic animations that scream “Wing Commander” are absent, such as the pilots’ mad scramble for their ships, or cockpit interiors, ship models, weapons, etc, are all spot on. The loving attention to detail also comes into play during the fully animated briefings, and the wonderful background screens (such as the carrier interiors and the loading screens using TCS logos). Especially impressive is the creation of the iconic “autopilot” animations. It may not seem like a major feat, but since Freespace 2 didn’t really offer this feature, this is amazing work, and really adds to the atmosphere. Not to mince words- this is pretty stuff.
Sound is also top notch. For a fan made mod, the voice acting is downright impressive at times. Sound effects have been faithfully restored from WC3 and WC4, and the orchestral soundtrack is an aural treat. The composers manage to capture the spirit of Wing Commander’s original music while taking it in new and exciting directions.
The Freespace 2 engine has always been among the best when it comes to spaceflight (yes, I know Independence War and Evochron are more “realistic”), and it is used to great effect here. Using this engine allows more ships to be on the screen at any one time than in previous Wing Commnader games, allowing the furballs (ahem) to be that much more hot and heavy. It’s no longer you and a wingman against a flight of 4-6 Dralthi. The combat is as engaging and fun as the best of the original WC series, and that’s saying something. A prologue campaign is followed by a 50 (!) mission main story that dovetails with the events in Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger. The story is well written, with a few odd word choices here and there. Fully voiced cutscenes leading to static text can be a bit jarring, but when a story is this well crafted, it’s worth reading as well as watching.
There is no reason why you shouldn’t be downloading this title right now. Wing Commander fans should be especially pleased that even though it’s been 17 years since WC3, we have an amazing companion piece to help relive the glory days of space flight sims. Not to be missed, and best of all, it’s free at www.wcsaga.com. Highest Recommendation.