I think maybe I never actually played the Secret Missions expansions for Wing Commander 1, because I seem to remember always having thought I’d missed something with this Wing Commander 2 intro:
…but no, that’s it. The ship you served on in the first game and its expansions is just destroyed between games and somehow, through reasoning they never really explain, it’s all blamed on you and you’re stuck being a space security guard for 10 years because fucking Admiral Tolwyn, who becomes the bane of your life over the next several Wing Commanders, has a massive grudge against you for some reason.
So you start this game in the series with everyone hating you for something you didn’t do, except for all the other former pilots from the Tiger’s Claw, who you coincidentally end up running into and working with again, and your new Kilrathi buddy Hobbes, who would become a figure of some controversy in the series…
Naturally, it doesn’t matter one bit that all these other decorated vets that served on the same ship can vouch for you and your perfect record, who pretty much single-handedly won every battle they ever fought. In fact, they don’t even believe you when you try to tell them that the Kilrathi stealth fighters are out there blowing shit up again. Nope, you may be the greatest fighter pilot to ever live, but clearly you are also just a crazy liar. Whatever.
At least they improved on the gameplay. Things look a bit nicer. Different ships have more different feels to them, i.e. a heavy fighter is actually much slower in its movement, but it has torpedoes, which are the only thing you can destroy heavy capital ships and greater with now instead of just being able to annihilate anything even with just a light fighter’s guns like before.
Enemy AI seems a bit more advanced and even your wingmen seem a little bit smarter, being sometimes able to actually nail two or three enemies instead of the usual zero.
On the other hand though, the game now has fucking instant death on collision. This means you hit an enemy ship? Dead. Hit a single asteroid while flying through one of the games many asteroid fields? Dead. Hit your wingman?? DEAD. And let me tell you, enemy ships run into you a fucking lot. Your wingmen run into EVERYTHING too. Though my wingmen were getting some kills, they were also blowing up almost EVERY mission. “Luckily” they also made it so that wingmen don’t die when they blow up anymore, they always eject and are fine no matter what. Not you though. No, you can only manually eject, which does not help you one bit when sudden impacts kill you instantly. Urgh.
On the other other hand, the combat still felt a little bit easier overall and maybe it was just my imagination, but it felt like the game, expansions included, was a good deal shorter than the first one. So at least there was that.
There was also a lot more focus on characters and plot in this one, but it was still the 90s so a lot of that plot and dialogue is actually pretty awful looking back on it. I mean look at this fucking ending. This is after you find absolute proof that stealth fighters are real and that the Tiger’s Claw wasn’t your fault, but Tolwyn STILL won’t let you fly on the final mission to take out the ultimate enemy starbase, so you steal a ship and decide to go attack it all by yourself and this is result:
Holy shit is that bad. I feel like they must have just run out of time and said fuck it let’s just put the most ridiculously cliched 80s action movie half assed ending possible in there real quick. Oh well. Still a very fun classic where at least the gameplay holds up well.
I’ve always wanted to know what kind of space crack Maniac was smoking that he suddenly looked like this in 2 though: