Wing Commander Rocked Before High DefB4HD has written a profile on the first two Wing Commander games and their impact on modern gaming. They recall how the ground breaking mix of action and storytelling set a standard that's still hard to beat. The author stops before the series reaches SVGA graphics and full motion video, and it's hard to believe that these "early years" of Wing Commander span just a little slice of time from late 1990 to mid 1992. There's a couple small technical errors too - even with the Speech Pack, Wing Commander 2 only had spoken audio in the intro and spaceflight, and it did so prior to a CD-ROM release, but this is a good stroll down memory lane. Check out the full article here.
The very first game in the series had some really excellent features that were miles ahead of their time. The most notable was the branching narrative. As you fight the Kilrathi, your victories and losses affect what system you will journey to next. Your conduct in space as well could mean the difference between whether your wing man lives or dies and you could face their funeral when you return if you perform badly enough. This meant, for the first time on a basic level, several players could play through the game and have different narrative experiences based on their abilities as pilots and their choices in the heat of battle.
Wing Commander II is arguably Chris Robert’s finest work as he manages to put together an amazing storyline packed with twists and turns. The story puts much of the Star Wars series to shame and was definitely one of the defining moments of early ninties PC gaming.