To get ready for Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen, which promises to be a huge hit as well as reinstating the space combat simulation as a dominant theme in gaming, there are at least 5 games in this genre that every legit gamer should have played and even completed. They represent immersion in terms of game play, storylines, or realism of space combat. Many of these games stand up to the test of time. One franchise spawned a movie and the creator’s return to the space combat sim arena, while another franchise was spawned by a series of movies.
1. Independence War
This engrossing title opens up with a 14 minute movie which sets the stage for the game as well as reveals a very detailed level of combat unseen in the genre. As the player, you are captain of the CNV Corvette Dreadnought, operating in the Alliance Navy against the Independents, separatists that have taken to piracy to further their cause. Independence War and its sequels Defiance and Edge of Chaos present the player with the challenge of dealing with the physics of flying and fighting in space, such as mass-to-thrust ratios and inertia. It is currently available at gog.com as are many of the old classics, such as the next game on the list.
2.Privateer 2: The Darkening
This game is considered one of the most intriguing in the genre because of the cut scenes. With Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, Chris Roberts began using live action cut scenes featuring such talents as Mark Hamil and Tom Wilson. In Darkening, the main character (you) is played by non other than Clive Owen. The game also features such actors as David Warner, Christopher Walken and Amanda Pays. Though game play was pretty standard for the genre, the story had the player wanting to reach the end and the final confrontation.
3. Star Wars: TIE Fighter
This was touted as the definitive Star Wars combat sim, which has the player starting out in a lowly unshielded TIE Fighter. The scenes in the Star Wars movies featuring TIE Fighters in combat? Playing this game gave the player the exact feeling of what it was like to survive on reflexes and agility alone. The modding community would eventually give TIE Fighter the half-life of Styrofoam with its unlimited replay value through user-created content.
4. X-Wing Alliance
This game created entire online communities through its player versus player implementation. It would set the stage for the MMO Star Wars Galaxies in terms of that game’s space content. The main story itself plays like a Star Wars movie—if the player bothers to even play it instead of directly hopping online with their favorite club and battling it out with other players. Modding became extremely intense with missions, ship designs, and even unlocking the YT-1300’s turret to allow for another player to control it in matches. This feature would become standard in many of the multiplayer ships in Galaxies.
Considered the granddaddy of the entire genre, this 8-bit combat space sim first featured on the Commodore 64, was the first to introduce upgradeable ships, trade, and a truly vast universe with the threat of encountering alien races and space monsters, and getting yourself on the wrong side of the law. The graphics were wire-frame but the danger and skills needed to survive were just as intense as any modern game could give.
Although there are many other space combat sims that also deserve attention, a legit gamer with a bent for the genre should have at least played/completed the top five. Star Citizen, before or upon its release (date unspecified-sometime late 2014 early 2015), may have players scrambling to delve into the games that Chris Roberts created that eventually would lead him to creating Star Citizen. Thankfully, the entire Wing Commander franchise, including the recently released Privateer 2, is available at gog.com for pennies on the dollar of the original price they were at game release.
Editorial by Lee Birdine