Rambling Review/ Comments on Secrets of the Wing Commander Universe
Secrets of the Wing Commander Universe by Mark Minasi/Sybex (or, A Summary of Everything I read on Compuserve).
I. The Introduction
This is well written, but promises more than it delivers.
II. Solving Hardware Problems.
Good stuff. I'd like to see the Origin BBS file add some of this in the download files from the library.
III. The Clues & Comments.
Page 21. Brilliance is in the same league as Tobacco. I'd like to be able to skip running Brilliance, but that did not bother me much (Compare the price, by the weight/size, with the price for Tungstun. Whatever Brilliance is, it is pretty cheap for a controlled substance).
Also, on Seelig, you refuse to murder him (you don't agree to murder an innocent man) -- and he attacks you anyway.
Not all ship stats in the book equal the game. Some also seem questionable. Are a Rapier and a Raptor equally maneuverable? Or is that just one of the many, many typos (e.g. Page 48 "Its barrage of six laser bolts").
Is a Broadsword 150% more maneuverable than a Sabre? Is a Broadsword as maneuverable as an Epee (Pages 66-71)?
I'll note that generally one uses Pitch and Yaw to maneuver. Faster than rolling. Generally, Roll is not worth the effort. Makes for an important simulator control, but not necessary for a player to master.
Is a Grikath 150% more maneuverable than either the Jalkehi or Sabre?
Note, that the book needs, one good approach pass with a Broadsword's triple mass drivers will kill a Kamekh -- before the torpedo can lock. (I was locking and decided to shoot just to keep the Kamekh busy and discovered that I always killed the thing before I got the torp launched).
Page 98. In Privateer you can always derate shields. Because shields sometimes take damage, it is better to buy level 3 shields and turn them down to 2 than to just buy level 2 shields.
Also, for the times you have to run through asteroid belts, it is better to have heavier shields to handle those glancing collisions.
Page 103. Another serious typo. A Galaxy has two missile racks. Also, a Galaxy has two turrets.
Page 115. He misses that if you tail a Gothri and exchange shots, generally you will kill it before its tailgunner knocks your shields down.
BIG ERROR. Page 122. Tachyon cannon does 3.6 or 3.7 cm damage, not 5cm.
Now, while total sustainable fire is important, so is damage resistance (for the times damage gets through the shields) and so is initial burst fire.
As a result, two ionic and two tachyon generally work better than four tachyon. (The ionic are easier damaged, but not as bad as lasers or particle cannon, but have range and punch).
Several important dog fights will start at long range. From Talons in the early days (you can hit them on their initial heading at 4000m) to Jones on the last melee (Jones heads straight for you, and the fact that you hit him first at a longer range is useful in winning).
Some weapons work differently at different ranges (in WC though not Priv). Neutron guns and Particle cannon are good examples. Line up on a tanker at different distances and check it out in Wing Commander and Wing Commander II.
He catches on, almost, about doing damage faster than shields regenerate, when he notes Rapier & dual guns
I've used FF missiles quite well when I was very, very close to a target (i.e. tailing it and pounding it in the Kurasawa 2 mission). They seem to find their way well then.
The tractor beam shuffle is a good idea.
Joystick/mouse problems. I'm wondering if those problems are common or if they are an artifact of Minasi's computer/board/joystick combination.
Covers phantom or ghost crosses.
I found max speed generally best for Privateer, but not for Wing Commander.
I never had trouble with the view screen being cluttered up for excessive time.
Missiles are good for finishing off enemy fighters when you are under time pressure.
Even two neutron and two tachyon are better than four tachyon.
Save the Ralari.
Ok, try this.
wc Origin -k
Now, use the autopilot, kill all the Salthi with alt del.
Leave asteroids, hit autopilot.
Enter next action sphere.
Have Bossman break and attack.
Fly up to a Gratha, alt. delete it.
Fly up to the next, alt. delete it.
Fly up to the third, alt. delete it.
Notice the Ralari now blowing up.
Kill the last Gratha with your guns.
Basically, with perfect flying and perfect shooting (what the alt. del. reflects), the Ralari goes down anyway if you use normal autopilot approaches.
You can run this several times, just to convince yourself that there is not a good solution there.
Now, try my solution (including the high speed movement and no autopilot!), which gets you to the action sphere "sooner." At that point, if the Ralari's escort and Bossman hold off the far pair of Gratha at all, you'll kill the near pair before the Ralari goes down (using FF missiles I might note) and kill the third Gratha before it breaks through to the Ralari.
I used to keep a game saved at this point and demonstrate it to my friends. For a while, I saved the Ralari a couple of times a day just out of pent-up frustration at trying to beat the game any other way.
(of course, once in a blue moon, you can save the Ralari due to random factors. Sometimes Gratha collide, "stunning" the pilots, damaging the craft and making it easier to kill them while they have not damaged the Ralari as much. Other times the Gratha get lined up behind each other. When the Gratha line up -- with one trying to shoot through the other -- their "friendly fire" does two things: it kills a Gratha for you and the dying Gratha swallows munitions that would have hit the Ralari. You then get to win the scenario without realizing why it was so easy. The randomizing doesn't happen much and I wouldn't count on it for a solution to show your friends).
Bossman and the escort get the fourth Gratha in my solution.
Wing Commander Two.
He has the only Special Ops guide I've seen.
Also, his WCII notes are really interesting and rather useful.
Again, I found the wingmen of better use than he did, though Hobbes charges straight in and bails out soon too much for me.
Wing Commander Academy's gauntlet has fifteen levels. I expected a guide to each of the levels and waves (what shows up on each, at what intelligence).
Note 189 to 413 covers the Wing Commander Series with lots of notes and illustrations.
To 435 covers the Privateer missions. My guide notes are better, I think, and the Origin Play Tester's Handbook is good.
He doesn't know just how randomized many of the encounter sets are and misses the multiple levels of skill and morale of the encounter sets. Ah well.
This makes the third book I've seen that focuses entirely on Origin's Wing Commander setting.
The first was the Origin sanctioned book.
The second was the Privateer "Playtester's Guide" -- again sanctioned by Origin.
This one is a "Cybex" style book (they do lots of technogeek for idiots books). It is by far the best of that sort of book I've seen.
A. For Wing Commander.
The book has a lot of typos (e.g. it will substitute Claw for Concordia, Grikath for Broadsword, etc., from time to time). It reminds me of a strong formatter and art department let loose on a book.
It does contain useful guesses and information on missions and the medals available.
It does contain the "loitering" secret (that many ships return to their action spheres if you go away and come back). It does note that Starkiller can be found that way.
It does not have the solution to Kurasawa 2. (That solution made me hyper about all sorts of things -- e.g. chasing down Jazz -- did I have to fly the entire mission or could I autopilot?! Generally, autopilot and the rest are harmless, missing a minefield or an asteroid belt doesn't matter, and there is lots of leeway. With K2, if I followed the recipe to the letter, it worked like a charm. If I skipped a step, I never won. The Origin Bulletin Board readers had the same results. [On first posting, I forgot to mention not using autopilot. As soon as they swore off autopiloting, they reported back wins]).
Finally, he was unaware that some weapons taper off in impact (e.g. neutron guns are more effective close than at maximum range).
B. As to Privateer
The writer did not discover that the value in the book for Tachyon Cannon is wrong. As a result, he reaches really faulty conclusions about what weapons are the best, and in what combinations.
He also doesn't know about abuse limits, which leads to other mistakes. I always stayed away from guns that broke easy, regardless of how good they otherwise looked.
Missed a few other things (e.g. Righteous Fire). Since Tobacco gets you killed for drug running, I figure Brilliance is similar, Ultimate being the future's cocaine.
He covers glitches and faults in the game that I was unaware of (e.g. Paladin's ship can't be killed -- I had wondered about that).
He also covers the Special Operations missions. If you've wanted to decide whether or not you wanted to play those (in spite of the bad reviews, etc.), this is a good place to look (no other book covers them).
He has lots of interesting notes.
IV. SIDE NOTE
I knew a man who flew over 50 missions as a belly gunner (for his plane the psych limit was 24 missions). He had the turret busted, lost an eye, and then had two solo kills on one mission. He was tough.
He also flew over 50 opposed missions, many with worse odds than Wing Commander. The games are not that far from realty.
V. SOME GENERAL NOTES
I wanted to run through the "most important" notes before I waded into reviewing a large book. If you lost interest in the review before this point, you got the important points.
I did not like his constant complaints about various wingmen. I had better experiences than he did with just about everyone.
Next, the writer's guesses and analysis are good, but the Origin books were out before his was at the typesetters and he should have read them. He did not, and thus misses some things that I considered worth noting (see Tachyon cannon above for a good example).
He doesn't like Salthi and really respects Sartha. I had to come to the other conclusion. Salthi open fire at a long distance. Sartha are lightly armored craft that can't even shoot at you until it is too late for them. A Sartha is a bit of a slug. A Salthi is a light fighter I rather respected and understood how an ace could chose one.
He silly typos a lot. (e.g. The six lasers on the Jalthi fighter ...).
Sometimes his observations seem wrong (I've outrun missiles in an Epee).
He had some sort of trouble with his joystick playing the game (so that when he tried to fire missiles with the joystick he sometimes got the afterburners). As a result, he recommends playing off the keyboard except for steering.
I never had that problem.
He did illustrate just how rare some results are (the first time I ran the initial missions of WCII, the Fraltha got the Concordia. I had killed the escorts, it had killed the Concordia and I decided to try to do something about phase shields with a Ferret. I'm wondering now if I could have gone back to the star base and gotten a losing sequence to run).
He also illustrates the difference between WC and WCII in terms of mission plotting and game depth.
Note that all WC games suffer from the terrible problem of being easier to play if you are winning, harder if you are losing. Thus bad players get pulled into depressing scenarios where they get hammered all to heck, good players get to easy missions where they kill the enemies with ease.
Bottom line: the book is really a collection of the best of COMPUSERVE comments, combined with personal recollections and thoughts.
As a supplement, it is fine. If you have to choose between it and the sanctioned books, take the later (gasp. Did I really say that? Yes. For once, a company's clue books are really the best).
VI. COMMENTS/ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK
I put those in PART ONE
Weapon: Range: Damage: Refire Energy: Abuse
Steltek Gun 5000 m 19.0 cm .37sec 8 GJ VHigh
(unboosted) 3995 m 10.0 cm .45sec 10 GJ VHigh
Fusion Cannon 4400m 6.6 cm .5sec 12 GJ High
Plasma Gun 2856 m 7.2 cm .72sec 22 GJ High
Ionic Cannon 4080 m 5.4 cm .6sec 15 GJ Medium
Tachyon Cannon 4250 m 3.7 cm .4sec 8 GJ High
Neutron Gun 3060 m 6.2 cm .65sec 18 GJ High
Meson Blaster 4420 m 3.2 cm .4sec 8 GJ Medium
Particle 3400 m 4.3 cm .5sec 11 GJ Low
(the abuse limits make the particle beam weapon a bad choice).
IR Missile 7650 m 17.5 cm 2.5 sec 0 Medium
FF Missile 7200 m 17.5 cm 2.5 sec 0 Medium
Torpedo 3600 m 20.0 cm 0.3 sec 0 Medium
DF Missile 8000 m 13.0 cm 2.5 sec 0 Medium
Gun Cooler: Refire in 75% of the time required. (Seems faster). Thus a Tachyon Cannon would refire every .3 seconds instead of every .4 seconds.
Shield Regenerator. Shields regenerate 25% faster.
Engine/Shield levels. +15% increments.
Speed/Thrust Enhancements. +18% increments.
Isometal Armor. Double Tungsten armor (seems better) for 40cm Durasteel.
Advanced Repair Droid. Repairs twice as fast. (This is the second real bargain, along with Fusion Cannon which are an incredibly good deal).