Today we've got a triple-pack of hardcore reviews from Hardcore Gaming 101. We reported on their WC1, WC2 and Strike Commander retrospectives back in the day, but we missed how these three prime spinoffs to the Wing Commander series also go their own proper articles.Academy. Taken in a modern context, some players may not understand how a mission builder could be its own fully boxed (and nearly full priced) standalone game, but that fails to capture the situation at the time. Fans were clamoring for the ability to do this. Fan mods were years away from being a thing, and Academy made it easy to craft your own WC games with zero learning curve. Plus, it packed in new ships as well as a really fun (and challenging) gauntlet mode.
Armada also gets a lot of credit for doing something different in such a way as to expand the Wing Commander tapestry. There is a some discussion on how the game reused ship designs from Super Wing Commander, which is partially accurate. Much of SWC's assets were developed at the same time or just prior for Privateer. The SWC Salthi, which becomes the Armada Shok'lar, is also the Salthi in Righteous Fire, for example, and elements from SWC show up again throughout the series. The game's unique take on the Rapier forms the core of the Rapier that returns in Arena, among other similar intersections.
It’s hard not to see why Privateer fired up the imaginations of PC gaming enthusiasts in the early ‘90s. The winning formula of immersive game design coupled with an open world was indeed very exciting, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as popular had it not been a refined experience that rewarded exploration and experimentation. The game does, however, have a steep learning curve, throwing you in the deep end and hoping you’ll learn to swim. But the reward for commitment is the opening up of new systems, new opportunities, and new factions. You have to fight for every little bit of progress, every gun you buy, every piece of improved armor plating, and Privateer makes it all feel well-earned.