The year is 2669. You are an experienced space crewdog who has just inherited an obsolete Tarsus scout/merchant ship from your grandfather. With it and your few remaining credits, you decide to seek your fortune in the frontier Gemini Sector near the borders of human and Kilrathi space. Before long, you are attacked by roving pirates. Being the hotshot pilot you are, you turn the tables on them. One of your missiles goes astray, hitting a dormant object. It comes alive with an eerie green glow, and silently slips away... |
So begins Wing Commander: Privateer, one of the best mercenary space combat games ever made. You are free to explore the Wing Commander universe by taking on the roles of the merchant, mercenary, smuggler and/or pirate. There are always many missions to choose from, and you can ignore the main plotline as long as you please by taking on less important jobs. The action takes place in the Gemini Sector, each quadrant in which is teeming with solar systems, Kilrathi and Confed ships, pirates, asteroids and other hazards. In turn, most solar systems are dabbed with their own planets, space stations and jump points to other systems. There are over 64 star systems you can explore, all adding to dozens of hours of sheer entertainment.
The space combat engine used in Wing Commander 2 was greatly improved in Privateer. While still relying on bitmaps, images are now sharper with details much more abundant. Because Privateer takes place behind the front lines of Kilrathi/Confederation conflicts, the ships you encounter are also more colorful and varied. You will also see some stunning space station interior renderings and planetside city views; Origin evidently had a lot of fun with its in-house 3D rendering software.
The combat interface and flight model carry over from Wing Commander games and are very effective, although they still blatantly ignore the laws of physics (banking is impossible, for instance). Power management features borrowed from Lucasfilm's X-Wing have been added, adding a nice dynamic. And as if all that wasn't enough, the game also has a very interesting main plot that combines elements of political intrigue, backstabbing surprises, and sci-fi cliches into an absorbing space drama. My only gripe is that the ending is rather disappointing, especially considering that the last battles are very difficult. However, the plus side is that the game doesn't actually end, and you can keep accepting missions from the mission computer or Merchants/Mercenaries Guild.
With amazing graphics, strong "you are there" atmosphere, excellent plot, and best of all, a great sense of freedom in the vast gameworld, Privateer is a must-have for every gamer's collection. Two thumbs up, way up!
Also check out the fan remake Privateer Gemini Gold, link below.
Reviewed by: Underdogs