On the human side, the light fighters are variants on the F-27 Arrow, heavy fighters are models of the F-44A Rapier II, and bombers are based on the A-17 Broadsword. Kilrathi light fighters are modelled off of the Darket, heavy fighters off of the Dralthi, and bombers off of the Paktahn. Weapons too will be familiar, and as in past Wing Commander games the weaponry of the two races largely overlaps. Ships are armed with guns such as the laser cannon, meson blaster, tachyon gun, neutron gun, ionic pulse cannon, plasma gun, and mass driver cannon; heavier weapons include the dart DF (dumbfire, i.e. unguided), javelin HS (heat-seeking), vampire HS, porcupine mines, and lance torpedo.
There is no single-player narrative in Wing Commander Arena, though there is a text prologue as well as various bits of flavor text scattered throughout the game to provide context and color for the setting. Despite the lack of a campaign component, there are four single-player gameplay modes.