I won WC4 on Nightmare difficulty

Sharpshooter

Rear Admiral
So I've just won Wing Commander 4 (original DOS, 6 CDs version) on Nightmare with the mouse, and it was quite an experience. I used every dirty trick in the book in order to win (without outright cheating), and managed to win every single mission I played through. I haven't played all of the missions yet, but I'm still happy about it.

Here's a list of the missions I played through, as well as my dialogue choices (mission names are from the official guide) :

Mission A1 : Recalled to duty (Nephele)

I picked "Help him out", followed by "This pisses me off".

Mission B1 : Discover pirate base (Hellespont)

I saved the transport and found the pirate base, leading to -

Mission B2A : Attack pirate frigate (Hellespont)

I picked "I like this kid".

Mission B3 : Recon photos (Tyr)

I love how once you find the right trick for this mission, it goes from "nightmarishly difficult" to "very easy". Anyway, I won, leading to -

Mission B4A : Hostage rescue (Tyr)

Mission C1 : Retake the spacelab (Masa)


I picked "New brass - pain in the ass".

Mission C2 : Border worlds convoy (Masa)

I picked "Confed's abusing their authority".

(Winning this mission always makes me feel bad...)

Mission C3 : Do you defect? (Masa)

I picked "Kid's got a point", followed by "I need to see what's going on".

I chose to defect.

Mission D1 : Defend the Intrepid (Silenos)

For me, this was one of the hardest missions.

Mission D2 : Nebula Sweep (Silenos)

I picked "Bet this old coot knows what he's doing".

Mission D3 : Destroy the Lexington (Silenos)

I picked "Well, he is resourceful".

Mission E1 : Convoy in distress (Orestes)

I picked "Yeah... You'd think..."

It took me forever to figure out how to win this one on Nightmare...

Mission E2 : Comm station infiltration (Orestes)

I picked "This thing could be very useful..." and "Gotta admit. I did."

Mission G1 : Rescue Kilrathi (Orestes)

Mission G2 : Confederation in disguise (Pasqual)


I picked "Straighten this out" and "He's missing the point..."

Mission G3 : Escort Melek (Orestes?)

Mission J1 : Dead zone (Peleus)


Because I helped the veteran back in Nephele, I went to -

Mission J2A : Jam the jammer (Peleus)

I beat this one on my first try.

After this mission, I picked "I owe him nothing" and "Hawk's right" (Speradon route).

The first of the three optional missions I chose was "Steal fighters".

Mission LA : Steal fighters (Speradon)

I picked "This I gotta see..." and "Who needs wingmen?"

I successfully leeched the 4 Bearcats, and won the new flyable ship (the Bearcat) as a reward.

Next, I picked "Attack carrier".

Mission LC : Attack carrier (Speradon)

I picked "Time to be a captain."

I successfully disabled the carrier, and got the Mace as a reward.

Mission L3A : Tough decision (Speradon)

I chose to rescue Catscratch, and saved him.

After the mission, I picked "I could use the extra firepower" and "There's always hope...", as well as "Collect fighters"

Mission L4B : Escort defectors (Speradon)

I'll admit it, none of the Bearcats I was supposed to save made it out alive. I knew that it wasn't a victory condition and didn't feel like trying harder.

Mission M1A : Planet FT957 (Telamon)

I picked "Let me at these babies".

Mission M2 : Blair's jump (Callimachus)

Mission M3 : Jump back (Axius)


After the mission, I picked "Panther's right. We can't kill civilians.", leading to -

Mission N1A : Sneak by Ella (Ella)

Mission N2 : Vesuvius (Ella)


Because I picked the Dragon in Telamon, I flew a Dragon instead of a Banshee for this one.

Mission N3 : St. Helens (Sol)

Mission N4 : Try again (Sol)

Mission O1 : Seether (Sol)


I got the good ending.


I may make a detailed guide later on if I feel like it, but in the meantime, here are a few tips for those who feel like trying the same thing.

-Enemies are more skilled at dodging missiles, but missiles still have a pretty good chance of hitting if you fire them close enough to the engines of the ship you're targeting.

-If that's not an option because the ship is too fast, try firing two missiles at once when the ship is in front of you and heading towards you. Again, wait until the ship is pretty close before firing (but not *too* close, or your missiles will miss).

-Enemies who are busy attacking friendlies (especially capships) may be easier targets than enemies who are attacking you.

-Enemies will run out of afterburner eventually. If you can survive until then, they are much easier targets for both you and your allies.

-If you don't want to use too many decoys, or you are out of decoys, and you're flying a fast enough ship : you can use afterburners (or sometimes even evasive manoeuvers at regular speed) to avoid missiles. Use afterburners in short bursts and head towards the missiles that are targeting you (while being careful not to fly into them). The missiles will miss and sometimes even lose lock quickly.

-The Nav Map trick : Open the Nav Map and draw an imaginary line between your ship and your destination. If you can get your ship in a spot where the line doesn't get too close to a certain Nav/Inv point, you will skip the aforementioned Nav/Inv point. This can be used to skip the infamous Banshee encounters in Tyr, and this can be used in Sneak by Ella to skip all of the encounters between the Intrepid and the jump point.

-The autoslide trick : Hit the afterburner key (Tab) and once you reach maximum speed, activate autoslide. Then release the Tab key. Your speed-o-meter will show your regular speed, but actually your ship will still be using afterburners, without lowering the amount of fuel you have. This can be used to run away from fights and lure enemy ships to the Intrepid, where you may get help from the Intrepid and other allied ships. Enemy ships and your wingmen will still be using afterburner fuel while following you. When you use autoslide to run away, enemy ships will chase you from far away, allowing you to stay out of range of their guns and missiles.

-(Recon Photos specific advice) The Laser Camera actually works from a pretty long range... And the Vindicators will stay close to the ground buildings...

-Not all enemy ships carry missiles.

-Sometimes, when fighting an enemy ship, the enemy ship will stop using afterburners for no apparent reason. You may even catch them at 0 speed, spinning around while they try to find you. They are very vulnerable while they do this, especially to missiles and leech guns.

-Leeching an enemy ship will prevent reinforcements from showing up for the group that the enemy ship belongs to.

-Leech guns in general can be useful on Nightmare - the enemies are so hard to hit that it's hard to get past their shields with regular guns, whereas Leech guns ignore shielding and do permanent energy damage. A target that took a few hits from Leech guns may not be fully disabled, but it will fight less efficiently.
 

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
Wow, great job! I wouldn't even want to try to tackle it with a mouse. I remember spending a lot of time trying to help people beat this game on nightmare and posted tips for the series here: https://www.wcnews.com/guides/wc4hellespont.shtml. Beating Wing Commander IV on nightmare level is in my opinion the most difficult Wing Commander play through there is, though the hardest Wing Commander mission of all for me was the mission against the stealth ace for the highest difficulty level on the Wing Commander Saga fan mod.
 

Sharpshooter

Rear Admiral
Thanks guys! I'm currently doing some more Nightmare playthroughs to write more detailed, mission-specific tips.

I remember spending a lot of time trying to help people beat this game on nightmare and posted tips for the series here

I think you may very well have been the one who taught me the Nav Map trick I mentioned in my previous post. ;)

Beating Wing Commander IV on nightmare level is in my opinion the most difficult Wing Commander play through there is

I have to say, I disagree with you there. Once I had a good strategy, most missions were nowhere near as difficult as I thought they would be. Some missions like "Jam the Jammer" were even easier than on Ace difficulty, since I just skipped most of the fighting. For me, I'm not sure if anything will ever be worse than the final missions of SO1 against the Fralthras with Anti-Matter Guns. Even beating Privateer with the Tarsus wasn't as hard as those missions were.
 

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
I think you may very well have been the one who taught me the Nav Map trick I mentioned in my previous post. ;)



I have to say, I disagree with you there. Once I had a good strategy, most missions were nowhere near as difficult as I thought they would be. Some missions like "Jam the Jammer" were even easier than on Ace difficulty, since I just skipped most of the fighting. For me, I'm not sure if anything will ever be worse than the final missions of SO1 against the Fralthras with Anti-Matter Guns. Even beating Privateer with the Tarsus wasn't as hard as those missions were.
Glad I could help! The Wing Commander IV missions where you have to fly the Hellcat early on against the Razors and Banshees was probably more difficult than the later missions were where you could pick a fast ship or the Dragon. Speed is life in WC4. So I guess once you get past the missions where you're forced to fly a Hellcat, you should be able to get through the rest.
 

Sharpshooter

Rear Admiral
Banshees, and especially Banshee Aces, are extremely dangerous when flying a Hellcat on Nightmare mode. I usually choose to fight the two Banshees in Recon Photos, but the Banshee Aces in Hostage Rescue are just too dangerous to be worth fighting, if you ask me. Especially the *four* Banshee Aces who ambush you on your way back to the Lexington.

I agree that speed is life in Wing Commander 4. Especially on Nightmare. An exception to this was "Escort defectors" in Speradon, where I picked the Vindicator just so I could have 4 Mace missiles against the enemy Dragons.
In my opinion, the Dragon loses a lot of its usefulness on Nightmare, and for my first try, I even ended up choosing the Bearcat to fight the Hellcats from the Vesuvius. Dodging a large amount of missiles with the Dragon is a bit too difficult for my tastes.
 

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
The Bearcat was a truly superb fighter. The mission series where you go with Hawk's advice and raid Confed/Black Lance factories was my favorite in this game and IIRC, that's where you pick up the Bearcat fighters. I chose the other branch (support a rebellion, I think?) my first time through, but my 2nd playthrough was rewarded with that series.

It's been many years, but I seem to remember a mission where Confed throws an insane amount of firepower after you and you have to protect your carrier (outrun Ella, I think). I think the Bearcat was what helped me get through that. (It's been many years and I could be way off in my memory and it's too far past my bedtime to look it up, so everything that follows is as best as I can remember: apologies if my memory became to creative here) In that mission, hiding in stealth with your Dragon isn't going to help you if they blow up your carrier.

If my memory is right, the only way you get to fly a Bearcat on that mission is if you don't have a soft heart when siding with Hawk and then you have a soft heart when it comes to using the flashpack on the Ella Starbase: so you have to be a little conflicted in your decisions for that to even happen. For my first playthrough, I went against Hawk's advice and I think it was supporting a rebellion that would've been crushed... I think I reasoned that an entire planet's support that you might have if the rebels win could be more effective than some nice weapons. Then, I decided to blow up the base because I didn't think it was realistic to take on the whole Ella Starbase with just a beat up light carrier. So although it appears to be conflicted as a soft heart/hard heart decision, it was really what my intuition was telling me were the most strategic decisions. For my 2nd playthrough, I decided to outrun Ella just because I was trying to see the other missions and already blew up the base my last time through.

WCIV was an amazing game in how they really made weighty decisions for you that had huge consequences (side with your old friends, or not? Leave rebels to die or get some fun toys? Blow up an entire Starbase full of people or have almost no chance of your carrier, wingmen and yourself surviving?). I tried to really play as if it was real and I was in that situation and I remember my heart was beating uncomfortably hard when I had to decide to join Eisen or fight against them. Ultimately I decided to join them (probably most people do), but at the time I wasn't eager to join the Border Worlds, being the Confed loyalist that I was. It was only with great reluctance that I joined their cause for the Border Worlds and I remember the disappointed feeling I had when I landed on the Border Worlds carrier and realized I was joining those scruffy run down Border Worlds forces: but I liked how there were consequences and of course I had to trust my old friends.

Great times...
 

Sharpshooter

Rear Admiral
The Bearcat was a truly superb fighter.

The Bearcat is one of my favorite WC ships ever and I think it's a shame that the player didn't get more opportunities to use it. I also like how it's not ridiculously overpowered, you do need to be careful when flying it. However, once you get good enough with it, it's a very, very good ship.

It's been many years, but I seem to remember a mission where Confed throws an insane amount of firepower after you and you have to protect your carrier (outrun Ella, I think).

That would be Sneak By Ella, which is indeed also known as Outrun Ella. I finished it with every single available fighter on Ace difficulty. The Dragon/Lance can be useful here due to the two Mace missiles it can carry, which are very useful against the first 2 waves of Hellcats. However, while the Dragon is a more than decent fighter for this mission on Ace, you may still like the Bearcat better due to its superior speed and manoeuvrability, which help a lot against enemy missiles. Back when I was replaying this mission with the Bearcat a lot, I used to defeat the enemies at the second Nav Point so quickly that the Intrepid would focus most of its fire on the Cruiser, making destroying said Cruiser a breeze. The Vindicator and the Avenger can be more useful than one might expect due to being able to carry 4 Mace missiles. Finally, the Banshee was, in my opinion, the worst ship for this mission. It can't use the Mace and having only 16 decoys instead of 24, along with having thin armor and shields, makes this mission a real challenge.

If my memory is right, the only way you get to fly a Bearcat on that mission is if you don't have a soft heart when siding with Hawk and then you have a soft heart when it comes to using the flashpack on the Ella Starbase

That's absolutely correct. Also, in my opinion, while Speradon (where you can get the Bearcat and the Mace) is the easy ride with the fun rewards, Circe is there for those who want a challenge... or for those who really want to do the best thing from a moral standpoint.

Then, I decided to blow up the base because I didn't think it was realistic to take on the whole Ella Starbase with just a beat up light carrier.
Well, to be fair, if memory serves, the Intrepid was more of a Heavy Destroyer reconfigured as a Light Carrier. Which might explain why enemies have such a hard time destroying it on Ace - as long as both you and your wingman go after the Longbows in Sneak By Ella, the Intrepid is in no real danger at all. Which is also why I never pick Maniac for this mission, as I really want a wingman who obeys my orders and who is efficient at destroying enemy ships quickly. In fact, I usually pick Hawk.

Ultimately I decided to join them (probably most people do), but at the time I wasn't eager to join the Border Worlds, being the Confed loyalist that I was.

I bet you weren't the only one who felt this way. I think it's interesting that the WC4 novel has Blair staying with Confed for a while before eventually defecting.
 
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