Arjak's Combat Log


Master Chief Petty Officer
Table of Contents

First Attempt and Failure - Page 1
Wing Commander 1 - Page 3

First Attempt and Failure

I ordered my first flight stick, a Logitech Extreme 3D Pro, off of Amazon last week and today it arrived. What's the first thing I'm going to do? That's right! I'm finally going to play Wing Commander 1! YAY!
I had been interested in playing through the WC series for a while, but hesitated because until now, I didn't have a flight stick! Now that I do, I've wasted no time! I installed the software, plugged that bad boy in, and started up WC1.
To be honest, my first experience with Flight Combat Simulation games had been watching my dad play Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, and Star Wars: X-Wing. I never heard of Wing Commander until recently. Sad, isn't it?
In this log, you will (hopefully) watch me progress through the games for the first time, and become a true fan of the series, rather than just an interested outsider. Let's begin!

Wing Commander 1

September 27, 2011

A few days ago, I prepared for the arrival of my flight stick by installing WC1: Deluxe Edition, which I bought off eBay sometime before released it. Even so, I probably won't buy the pack of 1+2 until they get that expansion pack debacle sorted out. No offense, GOG, I think you're the greatest thing ever, but I WILL play Secret Missions 1&2. I will buy your WC3 set when the time comes, though. That just might be the most complete and thorough re-release of a classic game ever.

Upon starting up the game through DosBox (aka, the greatest computer program ever created by man, EVER), and getting through the copy protection with my downloaded PDF manual (thanks, WC CIC!), I immediately started the Vega Campaign...

Vega Campaign

Deciding to keep things simple (and canon), I named myself Blair, and gave myself the call sign of Maverick. After talking to the bartender, Shotglass, and two of my fellow pilots, Paladin and Angel, I saved my game and began my first mission.

Mission 1

My first mission is a simple patrol; seems easy enough. I had been fearful of playing flight sims because they looked so complicated, but the controls here seemed easy enough to follow, and within minutes, my fears started to calm.

Until I reached the first battle, that is.

Somehow, though, my gamer instincts immediately understood what to do. After quickly dispatching the Kilrathi ships (one taunted me shortly before I blew him to bits) with my laser guns alone (Missiles? What are those?), even my wingman, Spirit, was impressed, giving me a quick compliment over the radio.

After the mission was over, there was a debriefing. The mission was a success, and I somehow had destroyed every single enemy ship the game threw at us. Sorry, Spirit! Luckily, she didn't seem to mind me being a glory hog. That problem wouldn't catch up to me until the next mission.

Mission 2

The next mission was where I first started running into trouble. Spirit and I were assigned to protect a Terran Transport and escort it to its jump point. It started out quiet, but around the first of two nav points, we were attacked; and that's when being a glory hog began to catch up with me...

The first wave of attackers went okay, but right as we were approaching the jump point, another group appeared. I immediately started going after the fighters.

A few minutes later, all the fighters were destroyed, and the transport had disappeared. Wait a minute, why does the music sound so sad? We won...right?

Nope, after I started chasing after the fighters, one of them sneakily went after the carrier while my back was turned and...well, that's what the restore game option is there.

As I started the mission for the second time, I resolved to follow my superior officer's orders this time and stay as close to the carrier as possible. While getting back to the transport's jump point, I stayed close to it this time and focused on taking out the fighters attacking it. At one point, I started to get too far, and called Spirit, who had wandered off to fight, back to my wing. When all the fighters were finally destroyed, this time with the transport intact, I watched as it blasted into hyperspace, and we flew home. After some trouble with landing (I couldn't find the runway and kept banging my fighter into the hull of the Tiger's Claw), I finally got inside to see my progress.

After learning that I was awesome (for now), having destroyed all but one of the fighters (Spirit took care of one of them), my superior called me to his office. Oh, crap! Had I done something wrong!? Was I in trouble for crashing into the Tiger's Claw umpteen times!?

As it turns out, my CO only wanted to tell me that we were going to a new sector and that I was being transferred to a combat squadron to fly a Scimitar. Now I was going to see some real action! Um...yay?

The good news didn't end there, though. I was quickly called to the hangar deck, where I was awarded a Bronze Star!

I went to the bar to celebrate, and met up with two of my other fellow pilots, Iceman and Knight, who seemed to have very different views on the news that I would now be piloting a Scimitar. Iceman was quite scornful of the fighter, warning me of its sluggish speed and handling, while Knight praised its superior weaponry and armor. I think I should keep all this in mind.

I also checked the blackboard; holy cow! Had I racked up nine kills already!?

After a hard day's work, I saved my game and quit. No one wins a war in one day, especially when you've neglected to sleep!

My first impression of WC1 is very positive. It's a ton of fun, has a lot of features that other flight sims copied or even neglected completely, making the game very unique. I remember that in X-Wing, if you failed a mission, even if you survived, you couldn't progress! In WC, the branching missions add a lot of realism!

I can't wait to play more!
Welcome to the game! Always good to see a friendly ship! :)

One piece of advice...don't overuse the restore game option. You're right that the branching missions is a great feature. And if you lose some missions, you get losing track missions that are in many cases more fun than the winning track missions, and played by far fewer people. A lot of first time players, innured to games like X-Wing, think failure is intolerable and keep replaying a mission until they beat it, so they only ever see (mostly) the winning track missions.

And one other thing...the game contains at least one mission that is *almost* impossible to beat, to force even good players to occasionally play a losing track mission. Some people get really frustrated trying to beat it and give up on the game. I won't say which one it is, but even expert players generally can only beat it about 20% of the time. So if you get stuck on a mission, accept the loss and move on!

Enjoy the ride!
Welcome to the community Arjak! I think its wonderful to see new people get into Wing Commander - and to see the joy that a 21 year old game can induce. Wing Commander is charming - there is no other way to describe it. I hope you have the same feelings I did the first time I played the game through.

BTW - nine kills? Just wait, there are single missions where you can get almost twice that number of kills in your future.
Always good to see a friendly ship!

A few years back we put together a Community Replay of all the main games. It might be a helpful resource (and a cool thing to read through) for some of the tougher missions.

Welcome to being a Wingnut.
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September 28, 2011 - 10:20 AM

Mission 3

I flew another patrol mission this morning. It looked more complicated at least; four jump points to investigate instead of two. Paladin flew on my wing this time. From what I've seen today, he seems to have got this piloting stuff down pretty good. Around the first nav point, we were attacked by the furballs. I immediately ordered Paladin to break and attack, and we made fairly short work of them. The mine field was tricky. I took a few hits in there, which made me quite happy about the extra armor on the Scimitar that Knight and so kindly told me about. Thankfully, we made it through the mines and moved on to our last nav point. It had been eerily quiet since the last skirmish, and my suspicions were confirmed when another group of cats attacked!

Following the tactic that had worked for me so far, I ordered Paladin to break and attack, and he managed to pick one off this time without trouble. I wouldn't be so lucky. I got at least one missile locked on me, got shot up with lasers, but made it out in one piece. Those Kilrathi are getting vicious! Thankfully, it all worked out. I didn't fire any missiles; I guess I'm kinda stingy with weaponry with limited ammo, but I'm getting pretty good with the main guns because of this.

With all opposition annihilated, and another five notches on my belt, we headed home, and this time I didn't waste 5-10 minutes figuring out how to land.

Upon landing (and getting a chance to see how bad the cats scratched the paint job on my Scimitar), we had the usual post-mission debriefing. The CO immediately commended me on my flying; I guess I did better than I thought. Still, I made it clear how much of a help Paladin was. He made a good joke about how I was going to make the brass expect too much of him. I like this guy; I can relate to him. After the CO tallied our kills for the mission, he called me into his office. This time I was ready. I was pretty sure I had done my best out there, and apparently, the top brass agreed. I was promoted to 1st Lieutenant!

Back at the bar, I was introduced to two more pilots by Shotglass, Maniac and Bossman. Maniac was really excitable, talking about how we might face some destroyers soon as if he were a kid on Christmas. Bossman was more realistic, and gave me a good strategy on dealing with destroyers.

Finally, I decided to rest for a bit, both to write this log entry, and to prepare for what might be coming. I hope it's not destroyers, but considering the bar talk today and my luck, it probably will be.
Don't sweat the destroyers, kid. I know old Bossman likes to keep you worried - thinks it's more likely you'll come back if you are - but what he didn't tell you was that the Ralari is practically a museum piece. It's a relic of the days back before McAuliffe, when nobody seriously thought that one- or two-man fighters would be the decisive weapon in this war, and it shows. But the Kilrathi have so many of the things it's not like they can just replace them overnight. Hell, I figure it'd be at least ten years before the cats could replace their Ralari fleet with a more effective destroyer.
Yes, sir! Thanks for the advice, sir!;)

September 29, 2011 - 4:15 PM

My little sister came to watch me play, today. She says Hi.

Mission 4

This one was brutal. Paladin and I were sent to scout out a possible bogey in the area and take it out to protect incoming supply ships. Within a minute of takeoff, we were attacked by four Dralthi fighters. These pilots were much better than in previous encounters, and as little sister said, "Fox! Get this guy off me!" I was quite dead.

One sad funeral scene later, I tried my luck again. I got to the same point, and this time I at least ejected before my ship exploded. I survived to receive a Golden Sun, but I also failed the mission, so that wasn't an option either.

It was Groundhog Day all over again as I decided to try the mission ONE MORE TIME before giving up for now. I took off, flew toward my target, got attacked by the Dralthi, and this time, I tried actually maneuvering my ship around instead of my old tactic of flying right at the ship, guns blazing. It worked. I don't know how I got this far without trying that!

We continued on to find a large Kilrathi destroyer, being escorted by a fighter type I hadn't seen before. Luckily, either the pilots in these ships were not very talented, or my skills had radically improved within the last five minutes. After taking care of the fighters, Paladin and I began our attack run on the Destroyer. A few missiles later, the destroyer was destroyed, we checked out the nav point without incident, and headed back to the Tiger's Claw.

After two epic fails on this mission, it was kind of embarrassing to suddenly complete it so easily. It didn't help that upon landing, I learned that I had hardly taken a scratch out there. Oh well. Six more kills to my name.

I went back to the bar for a much needed drink and talked to Shotglass, Paladin, and Bossman. I learned that Paladin will be retiring soon. I'll miss him; we worked well together...

Bossman pointed out something interesting that I hadn't really noticed until he pointed it out; Dralthi fighters always break up or down when being tailed, never left or right. Definitely something to keep in mind!
September 29, 2011 - 11:00 PM

Mission 5

Ugh...somebody shoot me.

When I first started playing, I was on top of the world. I was doing so well at first! Now I feel like an total failure in all areas except perseverance. It must have taken me about ten tries to get this one right. In the end, I had an epiphany: What if I actually tried firing those missiles I have once in a while? After that burst of genius, I completed the mission on the first try.

It was an escort mission. Go out to the Drayman Transport and bring it back to the Tiger's Claw. Of course, those fleabags had no intention of letting that happen. If I wasn't failing at killing them, I was failing at protecting the transport from them. I'd feel better about this if it didn't take several minutes of flying towards the Drayman before anything even happened on the way! Several minutes that I had to wait every time I tried to complete this mission. It took an eternity to get this right, but I kept trying because it seemed possible to make it through. When I finally did, though, I was too exhausted to feel much satisfaction; my only reward being the fate of some scientists who had nothing to do with the mission whose lives somehow depended on whether I succeeded or not.

After finally getting back to the Claw with the Drayman intact, I went to the bar to unwind. Iceman and Angel told me tactics on how to fight a type of Kilrathi fighter that was even stronger than than the ones I'd already been facing; as if I didn't have enough problems...

Finally, I gave that simulator a go; I do feel that 60,000 points is a good first time score.

I'm done for the night...need sleep...
Hey Arjak.
I have to admit to being stupidly envious of anyone who is just discovering Wing Commander. As good as replays are, they don't compare to that first time.

A few things to help you...
Missiles. Yeah, you're going to have to use them. I'll give you a quick overview of how I use them, but I'd sugggest you read the sections in Claw Marks that deal with missiles and how best to use them.
There are 4 main types; IR (image recognition), FF (friend or foe), HS (Heat seeker) and DF (Dumbfire).
Dumbfire missiles have no guidance, they do not need missile lock and are simple point and shoot. Though unguided, they have are the most powerful missile. I find they are best saved for capships or freighters.
Heat seekers require a target lock. This can only be achieved by tailing your target, so you can lock onto their engines. It's most likely a personal failing, but I don't much like HS missiles.
Friend-or-Foe missiles also do not need a lock on. In battle, all ships are sending out friend or foe signals, so your instruments can tell who is who (essentially the coloured dots on your scanner). An FF missile, when fired, locks onto the nearest ship broadcasting an enemy IFF signal. The drawback to this is that damaged friendly ships can falsely identify themselves as targets to the missile. I find FF missiles are great for escort missions, as you can shoot them off quickly to disperse enemy fighters.
Image recognition missiles lock on to the radar image of the fighter you are tracking. For tracking, they are the most acurate missile in the game (you pay for that with the lock time). I tend to save these for fighters that I really NEED to take down quickly.

Lastly, you mentioned that it takes minutes to fly between nav points. When not engaged with the enemy or near a nav point or other hazard (such as an asteroid field), the 'auto' indicator onn your instrument panel will light up. If you press 'a', you can then skip the travel between nav points and encounters.
One thing I'll say about that is that I started off playing the game much like you did and knew nothing of the auto pilot. While at first it seemed to be a boon, I find it takes some of the magic from game (and this is a personal preference) as I feel a lot of the suspense is lost. Personally I would advise not to use it on your first play through of a mission, and to use it if you are replaying a mission.
Awesome, things like this are great, it is interesting to read someones first experiences with the game.

"If you are caught in a furball and the cats are on your tail, don't be afraid to call for help from your wingman. You're a team out there, so if you look after your wingman, they can look after you."

"If the cats are picking on your wing mate, or a ship you are escorting, you can buy them a bit of breathing space by hitting the comm and taunting the kilrathi. Kilrathi are very honour driven, if you slight their honour on the open channel infront of everyone chances are they will fly into a rage and target you instead to try and get even; obviously, make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew!!!"

Heat-seekers really shine against slow and ponderous heavy fighters that can't turn out of the way quickly, they aren't so much use against nimble light and medium fighters unless you can catch the pilot unawares. Quite useful against capital ships to quickly knock down shields.
I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who has been supporting me so far! I appreciate all the advice and wisdom from more experienced Wingnuts and it's great to see the excitement you all seem to have for me joining this group.

Despite what my previous post may indicate, I am still having fun with this game, and now that I am refreshed from sleep and invigorated by your kind comments, I should be ready to take on another mission very soon!

I agree it's really fun to re-experience the game for the first time through your eyes. Please keep posting.

Another piece of advice on missiles. In WC1, the missiles aren't usually powerful enough to take down a fighter with a single usually takes a missile and a few gun hits. The best time to fire a missile is right after you've softened up the target a little with your guns, or at least weakened their shields. A missile will then usually finish them off.

One other piece of do know how to afterburn, right? Either double-clicking and holding down button 2 of the joystick, or hitting (and holding) the TAB key (TAB is the better way)? It gives you a tremendous burst of acceleration and more than doubles your speed, but consumes fuel so you are limited by how much you can do it on a mission (however, in WC1, at least, you have so much fuel that this is rarely an issue). Afterburning allows a bunch of maneuvers that make you far deadlier, and far more able to survive, than not. It's one of the best additions to the WC flight engine, relatively to contemporary space sim games (i.e. X-Wing). The Claw Marks manual has some neat suggestions for maneuvers you can do with them...I always found burnouts and fishhooks the most useful, especially for shaking a cat off my tail. If someone's behind you and shooting at you, break hard, punch your burners, then break hard again in another random direction and punch your burners again. You'll shake them in no time. You can also use them to quickly close on a capital ship, and then quickly get out of range after your attack run while your gun capacitors recharge.

And of course, there's the vital "Shelton Slide" maneuver (or, when I did it in the vertical direction, I called it an undercut). You can do it in any ship, but it's really useful when flying a Scim against tougher fighters like Jalthi. When you're closing, turn your ship until the enemy is right at the edge of your screen, either to the side or the top, and hit (and hold) TAB to continuously fire your burners. Steer to keep them there (at the edge of your screen) you're closing at about a 45° angle to them. Watch the range to the enemy until you get to the range of your guns (for example, the mass drivers carried by the Scimitar have a range of 3000). At that instant, let go of the TAB key to stop afterburning, point your gunsight straight at the enemy, and let rip with as many salvos as you can get off. What happens is that your ship will still have the sideways inertia from the afterburn and the abrupt turn, which will make you almost impossible a target to hit (your ship is sliding sideways to the direction it is pointing). However, your own guns will go where you fire them, so you'll get a bunch of chances to land shots on the cats (who are probably flying straight at you, making the deflection shooting easy), while they will have a very hard time hitting you (vital when you're up against Jalthi and Gratha). It's a little disconcerting when you first try it, because it will look like your own gun rounds are coming sideways out of your guns (a sign that you're sliding and hence did the maneuver correctly), but trust me...they are going right where you pointed them.

It gives you a tremendous burst of acceleration and more than doubles your speed, but consumes fuel so you are limited by how much you can do it on a mission (however, in WC1, at least, you have so much fuel that this is rarely an issue).

Tell me that one again when I next see the Gwenhyvar appear on my target console. :)
Hey Arjak! I too use the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro. Excellent joystick, it might be the best I have owned (I still miss my CH Flightstick Pro). One Thing I have done on my replay of Wing Commander is use the Logitech profiler software to map button 3 (lower left on the joystick top) to the ENTER key so that it will fire my missiles. If I try to fire missiles by pressing the main and thumb triggers (buttons 1 and 2) I usually end up inadvertently dropping my speed, as I will have pushed forward on the stick while pressing button 2. Now I just flick button 3 with my thumb and it's Fox 2 - missile's away!

Too bad the throttle and stick twist (z-axis) don't work with Wing Commander 1. I haven't tried them with Wing Commander 3 yet. Anyone else have any experience with throttles or z-axis and WC3: Kilrathi Saga?
If you have a stick with programmable buttons, sometimes the twist axis can also be programmed to use the keyboard commannds for the z-axis. If that is not possible, sometimes the directional hat is programmable.
October 2, 2011 - 12:10 PM

Mission 6

We're now in the Gimle system; an easy enough name to remember, especially for a casual Tolkien fan.

Our first mission is to protect a capital ship from Kilrathi attack. I'm now flying with Angel on my wing. She is an excellent pilot, taking down lots of Kilrathi. I also got to fly a new ship: the Raptor. It's awesome, packing tons of firepower! Unfortunately, that cap ship didn't stand a chance.

The moment we left the bay, we were under attack. I was so surprised the first time that I was dead within a minute. The second time, we made it through and got to the cap ship, but it was destroyed within a minute. The third time, I showed no mercy to those hairballs. I used my missiles on them like there was no tomorrow, and we STILL lost the carrier! At that point, I gave up on this mission, having become quite certain that this was one of those impossible missions that Captain Farbourne had warned me about. I flew back to the Claw, and moved on. I did make a new saved game though, just in case I want to try this again for some reason.

Before that, though, the CO warned me that I had caused a lot of problems for the effort in this sector. My spirit immediately sunk further than it already had. He then called me to his office. Great.

Actually, despite the loss of one of our Destroyers, I was apparently still thought of well enough to be promoted to Captain. It wasn't enough to get me back down to ground level, but it certainly helped.

Mission 7

Another sector, another patrol mission. That's the pattern I'm beginning to notice. However, something interesting occurred that made this one more enjoyable than most...

I had heard in the bar the rumors about the new prototype fighter being secretly developed by the Confederation, called the Rapier, but I didn't know what to think about it from the vague hearsay. That is, until I flew it in this mission.

Angel and I had been given two prototype Rapiers to fly on this simple patrol mission, and they were pretty amazing. While not as heavily armed or armored as the Raptor, it had unusually strong shields and speed on its side. Thank god for those shields, too. On the way to the first nav point, hidden in an asteroid field, a rock came out of nowhere and smashed right into my nose! I thought I was dead, luckily, my shields absorbed enough of the impact that I survived.

We were attacked on the way to nav point 2, as well as during the trip to #3, and I took some damage; the armor in the front and port side, as well as my eject systems (!) were destroyed in the battle. Luckily, I fought well enough that I didn't need them, although I did feel kind of bad for roughing up a prototype ship like that...

Upon arriving back home on the Tiger's Claw, Angel and I gave our (high) opinions on the Rapier. It's quite a ship. I went to the bar and talked to Shotglass, Iceman, and Knight. There's talk that the brass were so excited by our successful test flight of the Rapier that they've already shipped us a whole wing of them! They also warned me that a legendary Kilrathi pilot, the one they call Deathstroke, was supposedly in this system. Killing defenseless, ejected pilots is probably the most dishonorable thing I've ever heard of, but what do I know? I'm not a Kilrathi.
October 8, 2011 - 3:35 PM

A little shore leave is good for the pilot, but a lot is bad for the Confederation. Time to go back to work!

Mission 8

I flew a recon mission, first. The Kilrathi were on the move, and Angel and I were sent out to see why. Were they pulling out of the sector, or gearing up for an offensive? We were told to engage if the odds looked good. Everything went pretty well, Deathstroke was in the system, as anticipated. I didn't manage to kill him, but I shot him up enough to give him something to think about! The mission went off without a problem; we took out seven of the nine fighters (I did in five, Angel took out two), and everything seemed to be going fine.

I should have taken that as a warning.

Mission 9

The Tiger's Claw has entered the Brimstone sector, a name which should have tipped me off right away. I was also once again flying a Scimitar in Blue Devil Squadron. Then I was given Maniac as a wingman. Then we were assigned what should have been a simple patrol mission but turned out to be a death trap. Before we even made it to Nav Point 1, we came across an lone Salthi fighter, which we took out fairly quickly and easily. That's when the Gratha fighters came, three to be specific, all flown by experienced pilots. I tried everything I could, but every time, I was blown away. I tried about a dozen times with no success. I used missiles; I tried maneuvering as best I could; nothing worked. Eventually, about to die again for the umpteenth time, I gave in and ejected. At the rate I was going, I would never complete this mission, so I took a Golden Sun as a consolation prize, made a new save game, and moved on. A good pilot needs to know when to let a mission go.
October 8, 2011 - 7:20 PM

I am a failure as a pilot. I'm considering giving up on this game, as I have no hope of achieving the good ending at the rate I'm going. No matter how many times I try, the outcome is the same; I'm not learning from my mistakes, and I'm not getting any better; the game just gets harder. It doesn't help that I usually have to take care of Maniac like an infant, if he isn't blown to smithereens by the time I receive his call for help.

Mission 10

I think this was an escort mission; it's hard to remember through all my grief with the mission after this...

This one was easy. Go to the transport, fly with it around the asteroids to the Tiger's Claw. The battle in the asteroids was easy, even if it took a few tries. Once we made it to the transport, it was smooth sailing the whole way back to the Claw.

Mission 11

*Arjak was unavailable for comment on this mission, due to a mental breakdown. Psychologists are skeptical of whether he will be able to return to duty.*