Righteous Playthrough of Privateer and Expansion (September 22, 2016)

KrisV

Administrator
YouTuber Hercxena has wrapped up his playthrough of Wing Commander: Privateer and the Righteous Fire expansion pack. Many people have recorded Let's Play videos of various Wing Commander installments, but smaller titles like Righteous Fire don't get much coverage. If you skipped over Privateer or Righteous Fire back in the day, you can get a taste on Hercxena's channel. The easiest way to acquire and play the DOS classics is through their digital re-release on Good Old Games.

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Original update published on September 22, 2016
 
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-danr-

Vice Admiral
It's a shame RF is often overlooked, although any real Wing Commander fan will have played it by now. I remember how stale Privateer had become after completing the plot, then spending hundreds of hours just smuggling and flying random generic missions for cash. RF breathed life into the universe again: all those mods to save up for and a new story to be told.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
It's a shame RF is often overlooked, although any real Wing Commander fan will have played it by now. I remember how stale Privateer had become after completing the plot, then spending hundreds of hours just smuggling and flying random generic missions for cash. RF breathed life into the universe again: all those mods to save up for and a new story to be told.
Righteous Fire was certainly fun, and a more or less worthy expansion (it could have used a new ship, though). Plus, its final mission was a real stand-out, because for the first and sadly only time ever in the history of Wing Commander, you actually were forced to navigate by the sky. That's something they should have done on a few more occasions.

...But did it really breathe new life into the universe? I would argue that no, it failed in this regard. That's not a criticism of RF, though. It was mission impossible to begin with. Privateer just didn't offer enough to allow long-lasting play without dullness setting in. The universe was sadly repetitive - once you've seen one mining base, you've seen them all. The need or money certainly kept you taking on those generic missions for quite a long time, but eventually you maxed out your ship, and there simply wasn't any threat to you any more. When RF came along, it wasn't new life so much as artificial life - ok, there's a few additional parts to buy, I guess I'll play long enough to buy them. It felt more like something you did out of obligation than out of any genuine need. Buying them, of course, just amplified that feeling that hey, this universe really has nothing to offer any more.

Don't get me wrong. Privateer was mostly a great game. There really wasn't much else they could have done with it (well, ok, maybe having a few more capships, including carriers that would be well-nigh impossible even when maxed out). But the game was ultimately constrained by its limitations. Even so, it still felt infinitely superior (in some aspects) to both Privateer 2 and Freelancer, so hey - it did more than well enough for itself :).
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
...But did it really breathe new life into the universe? I would argue that no, it failed in this regard. That's not a criticism of RF, though. It was mission impossible to begin with. Privateer just didn't offer enough to allow long-lasting play without dullness setting in. The universe was sadly repetitive - once you've seen one mining base, you've seen them all. The need or money certainly kept you taking on those generic missions for quite a long time, but eventually you maxed out your ship, and there simply wasn't any threat to you any more. When RF came along, it wasn't new life so much as artificial life - ok, there's a few additional parts to buy, I guess I'll play long enough to buy them. It felt more like something you did out of obligation than out of any genuine need. Buying them, of course, just amplified that feeling that hey, this universe really has nothing to offer any more.

I would say danr was correct. If you were a 2016 gamer struggling to get into the '90s graphics and engine, then sure, I could see how it comes across as just more grind, but look at how danr was playing. If he truly spent anywhere near "hundreds of hours just smuggling and flying random generic missions for cash," then Righteous Fire was nothing short of breathing new life into the universe. I've heard from many people who played like that, and I can imagine it because it's essentially how I played a couple other games in the franchise - the mission didn't matter, it was just incredibly immersive to fly around in my space ship. And if you look at how unlockables and achievements have exploded in popularity over the last decade, even small little trinkets and awards have been shown to significantly boost people's enjoyment of the games they play.
 

Captain Obvious

Rear Admiral
I liked Righteous Fire a lot more than the base game story. I appreciated the original game for its open-ended Elite style play but as was already mentioned it gets pretty repetitive after a few hours. More story was a really welcome addition, though I really do wish they would have added more to the sandbox aspects of the game than they did. I think a lot of people view RF as half-baked because at its core it really is mostly just a story expansion.

I'm a sucker for wanting to be the hero I guess, and I thought the plot of old Kilrathi ships being sold to religious fanatics was really cool and the finale is freaking awesome. It felt like I was a small part of the war effort, putting a stop to not only to human terrorists but a Kilrathi plan to create civil unrest. I know that's not necessarily what Privateer is about but it fit my personal tastes better.

I couldn't really make myself care about the Steltek in the original story. I just found the Retro conspiracy to be a lot more intriguing than the ancient aliens stuff.

I feel if you want the whole Privateer experience you should definitely not skip out on Righteous Fire. If you end Privateer with a fully upgraded ship it doesn't take very long to finish since some of the new upgrades aren't even necessary and you probably have some cash sitting around already.
 

Ijuin

Admiral
Righteous Fire was certainly fun, and a more or less worthy expansion (it could have used a new ship, though).

I agree. Maybe the Demon--faster and more nimble than the Centurion, but one level less of shields/powerplant and smaller gun capacitor pool.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I would say danr was correct. If you were a 2016 gamer struggling to get into the '90s graphics and engine, then sure, I could see how it comes across as just more grind, but look at how danr was playing. If he truly spent anywhere near "hundreds of hours just smuggling and flying random generic missions for cash," then Righteous Fire was nothing short of breathing new life into the universe. I've heard from many people who played like that, and I can imagine it because it's essentially how I played a couple other games in the franchise - the mission didn't matter, it was just incredibly immersive to fly around in my space ship. And if you look at how unlockables and achievements have exploded in popularity over the last decade, even small little trinkets and awards have been shown to significantly boost people's enjoyment of the games they play.
Well, I do appreciate that for many people this is exactly true. However, my perspective also dates back to the 1990s - I'm certainly not comparing Privateer to modern games, or even talking about how the game feels after playing modern games. My experience at the time was pretty much as I describe - I spent lots and lots of time building up my ship, getting really excited about the universe... then I started exploring, and found nothing of interest to explore. So I went through the storyline, then through the RF storyline, and that was about all. The only thing that kept me going for just a little bit longer was that rumour about an asteroid with ammo - I didn't make the connection between the asteroid and the Steltek base, so I did spend a bit of time looking for it in the blockade systems. Once I figured out that there was nothing there, that was the end of that.

I should add, my view of Privateer would have been quite different, because I was always comparing it to Sid Meier's Pirates, which I played for crazy amounts of time. Privateer's economy really compared very poorly to Pirates and other similar games. The diversity of the universe was also lower, because there was no dynamism. You never saw Confed or the Kilrathi capturing systems, or destroying pirate bases, or anything of the kind. The universe was painfully static, and I never felt that this was a reasonable limitation due to technological concerns. Even some very simple scripted changes that alter the universe at certain points in the storyline would have been great - imagine, there you are exploring the unknown systems, you come back to base, and are told that while you were out there, the Kilrathi overran a couple of systems out on the border.
 

-danr-

Vice Admiral
Righteous Fire was certainly fun, and a more or less worthy expansion (it could have used a new ship, though). Plus, its final mission was a real stand-out, because for the first and sadly only time ever in the history of Wing Commander, you actually were forced to navigate by the sky. That's something they should have done on a few more occasions.

...But did it really breathe new life into the universe? I would argue that no, it failed in this regard. That's not a criticism of RF, though. It was mission impossible to begin with. Privateer just didn't offer enough to allow long-lasting play without dullness setting in. The universe was sadly repetitive - once you've seen one mining base, you've seen them all. The need or money certainly kept you taking on those generic missions for quite a long time, but eventually you maxed out your ship, and there simply wasn't any threat to you any more. When RF came along, it wasn't new life so much as artificial life - ok, there's a few additional parts to buy, I guess I'll play long enough to buy them. It felt more like something you did out of obligation than out of any genuine need. Buying them, of course, just amplified that feeling that hey, this universe really has nothing to offer any more.

Don't get me wrong. Privateer was mostly a great game. There really wasn't much else they could have done with it (well, ok, maybe having a few more capships, including carriers that would be well-nigh impossible even when maxed out). But the game was ultimately constrained by its limitations. Even so, it still felt infinitely superior (in some aspects) to both Privateer 2 and Freelancer, so hey - it did more than well enough for itself :).

Firstly I should admit the 'hundreds of hours' part was perhaps an exaggeration, but I do recall spending an awful lot of time playing the game after the plot had ended just for the sake of completing the upgrades for each of the ships - and although with hindsight this sounds incredibly boring and repetitive, I think I just wanted to get the most out of what had started to feel like a rather bleak and depressing sector of space; I've no idea why but I'm nowhere near that obsessive now.

I'd stand by my quote about RF 'breathing new life' into the universe though, and while it didn't make drastic changes to the Privateer dynamic - or indeed bring it back to life forever - the subtle changes gave the game something fresh, albeit briefly. You know what can make a universe feel hollow in any game? Repitition. The first time you play through Privateer, things feel alive - there in ships in space with communication dialogue you haven't heard before, each planet has a barman with stories and news updates you haven't heard before. But after you've played the game a dozen times and heard all of these things, it becomes like talking to a robot, you've effectively Turing tested the game and you know it's hollow because it doesn't do anything new. You listen to the barman tell you for the hundredth time that a Confed Fleet has been lost around Midgard, then take off, set your navigation for a new planet, and realise that the guy in the bar there isn't going to have anything new to say either.

Then Righteous Fire comes along, suddenly the people on the planets have something new to say, we see some of the old plot-mission faces again, and this time they have new dialogue - it's fresh, it's...alive. At least the first time, or even the second time. You're no longer alone in the universe because you can't suddenly pre-empt exactly what the NPCs are going to say to you; the background of the news stories changes, and somehow this makes flying in space feel like you're flying in a place that is alive and not just automated with soulless NPCs (even though it still is).

This lease of life is however short lived. Once you've got all those upgrades and finished the plot again, you're back to infinite bleakness. I'm delighted there's a free roaming game in the Wing Commander universe, but when you've played it as many times as we have, the novelty is long dead.

Funnily enough, we had a similar conversation about ways Privateer could have been improved by being more like Pirates! almost exactly three years ago, and while I agree that the game could have been much, much deeper, I'll say again what I said at the time: Privateer is great - but the excitement of the first playthrough is a one-time thing.
 
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Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Firstly I should admit the 'hundreds of hours' part was perhaps an exaggeration, but I do recall spending an awful lot of time playing the game after the plot had ended just for the sake of completing the upgrades for each of the ships - and although with hindsight this sounds incredibly boring and repetitive, I think I just wanted to get the most out of what had started to feel like a rather bleak and depressing sector of space; I've no idea why but I'm nowhere near that obsessive now.
...Because you're older, and you don't have the spare time to devote so many hours to one video game without the internal need to somehow justify it? :)

I'd stand by my quote about RF 'breathing new life' into the universe though, and while it didn't make drastic changes to the Privateer dynamic - or indeed bring it back to life forever - the subtle changes gave the game something fresh, albeit briefly. (snip) Then Righteous Fire comes along, suddenly the people on the planets have something new to say, we see some of the old plot-mission faces again, and this time they have new dialogue - it's fresh, it's...alive. At least the first time, or even the second time. You're no longer alone in the universe because you can't suddenly pre-empt exactly what the NPCs are going to say to you; the background of the news stories changes, and somehow this makes flying in space feel like you're flying in a place that is alive and not just automated with soulless NPCs (even though it still is).
Sure. When you put it that way, I absolutely agree. And I think I might even go as far as to say that the new rumours were probably far more important in building this feeling, than the new ship upgrades. All of a sudden, there was a point talking to bartenders again. More than that - all of a sudden, there was a point even visiting bars, since once you finished the main storyline and know all the rumours, bars had literally nothing to offer. Incidentally, this was one aspect of Privateer that apparently was originally supposed to go further. I don't remember if this was in the design documents or if somebody from the Privateer team stated it at some point, but there were supposed to be fixers for random missions, too. Not sure why they opted to only have the mission terminal in the end; they certainly had the technology to do what they wanted. Certainly, it would be frustrating if all the random missions were relayed by human fixers, because you'd be constantly clicking through dialogues just to get another routine patrol mission, but I'm sure it wouldn't have hurt to have fixers for a few "special" random mission possibilities.

Funnily enough, we had a similar conversation about ways Privateer could have been improved by being more like Pirates! almost exactly three years ago, and while I agree that the game could have been much, much deeper, I'll say again what I said at the time: Privateer is great - but the excitement of the first playthrough is a one-time thing.
You know, I'm always surprised when I see an old discussion in which I can still agree with myself :).
 
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