Some comments on Wing Commander Prophecy
Stephen R. Marsh
1401 Holliday STE 316
Wichita Falls, Texas 76301
The backstory plot elements
I've been twenty. I've been twenty and had good looking forty year old women trying to pick up on me. Rachel might be an E-ticket ride come down to pilot country, but she's a forty year-old, ex-wife of the CO, E-ticket ride. SAFB is right around the corner here, where they train fighter pilots. My Dad was career Air Force.
Bottom line is that Rachel made a good match for Blair, but a scary one for the new guy. Some one at Origin needs to go talk to some young fighter pilots -- they've an AFB nearby to Austin (until they closed it, they had one *in* Austin). Play it straight rather than both ways with Rachel.
On to the game.
The game needed a couple of things.
The mission structure should have been cleaner. Cluster ship types and ship usage.
I would have liked to see several deep scouting runs in the scout/fighter. (3-4 where we figure out what is up and which way we can take the ship). These could have been used to build the mood -- and make a much better application for the booster pack.
Mission 1 -- Deep Recon. One wingman. Nav 1. Nav 2. [three enemy light fighters] Nav 3 [huge swarm -- use the booster pack to go through and out-run] Nav 4 [two enemy medium fighters] home.
Mission 2 -- Deep Recon. No wingmen. Nav 1 [enemy destroyer and light fighter escort]. Nav 2 [huge swarm -- you have to fly in, spend some time near the enemy cap ship, then use booster pack to flee]. Nav 3 [meet with jump generating heavy fighter to escape intercepting enemy ships -- dogfight then follow through jump point -- timing and everything].
Mission 3 -- Light Fighter relief of Squad in trouble (the scenario from the game).
Mission 4 -- No wingman. forward scouting to the jump point for Midway. Nav 1 [empty] Nav 2 [two enemy light fighters -- kill them or Midway gets ambushed] Nav 3 [empty, but lots of wreckage] Nav 4 [One Manta, mines].
Mission 5 -- diversion. Two wingmen. You are to go in a direction away from the Midway in order to draw the enemy's attention. You get swarmed and have to hold on until the Midway calls you home -- then booster pack it back and jump out on the Midway. [Time to use the Alt R key to get those wingmen home safely. If the game has to kill off a wingman, this is a good time for it to happen]
Maybe some light screening action. Like light fighters can be used for. A couple of those missions.
(oh, I hated the Hellcat in the old days ... I was looking forward to an ArrowIII or a PhantomII. The Tigershark was ok though. The missile pods were something I actually liked.)
Then is the time for the bread & butter missions in the Standard Fighter. Rescue the AWACs, etc.
That way there is some solid progression and experience.
The standard fighter missions should be followed by three sets of strike missions where in each set you fly one of the three options (the escort/superiority fighter, the cap ship defense fighter, the light-heavy bomber).
In each set you clear out the "light" cap ship(s) attached to a carrier and then the carrier.
When you fly the point defense fighter, you win or lose based on how much damage isn't done to the Midway (each level of damage not done is done to the other ships) in a sequence of three missions as you penetrate closer and closer.
When you fly escort, you win or lose based on how well your bombers do in getting through.
When you fly the bombers, the more damage you do, the less the Midway takes.
[wake-up call/response vs. light ship][reach out and tag light ship][reach out and hit carrier]
[defend against close assault][defend against light ship launched assault][defend against long range diversionary strike]
[get out and kill corvette in assault force][get out and kill destroyer/lt carrier][kill carrier]
That is 9-10 missions and time to get familiar with each craft. WC I had a great advantage in that you flew each craft for a time and had a chance to get familiar with the nuances, etc.
These changes would all make for better gameplay experiences.
The difficulty of some of the early missions was much higher than many of the middle missions. I'd seriously consider some revisions. I mean, the threat level, etc. comes on hard (provides a nice emotional impact) that way, but you can get the same effect by making the player do scouting/run away missions (as suggested above). Not only that, but if a player works through the high threat level missions until their skill is up, then the later missions seem too easy many times.
When you lose missions, you should get diverted to "training practice" type missions (consider WC I. If you lost the first series, you were diverted to a second series that was more of the same with the thought that with practice you would get better). WCP does that several times, a plus.
I would like to be able to do preflight settings "prelaunch" and to have hot keys for different power settings. E.g.  for power setting 1,  for ps 2,  for ps 3 and  for ps default. That way you can set up custom power settings and swap them around (e.g. if you have a stormfire, one setting would be no power to the guns -- use the stormfire instead).
Just like Privateer let you use  to toggle guns on and off, only more so.
The lack of structure in the progression of the use of ships is similar to the lack of structure in information focusing. I would have liked a better feel, ship by ship, of things and damage and how to use the weapons, etc. Put in context, rather than in abstract.
A specific example from the WCIV clue book. There is a time when you will want to salvo torps in WCIV. At this time it is appropriate in the clue book to review the keyboard commands for setting up a torpedo salvo. In WCP there is a time when you will want to change your torpedo target (targeting the engines instead of the bridge). At that point in the Players Guide it should review the [R] key and the fact that it is used for that purpose.
That is the way to provide information focused in context.
Also, I'd have liked more advice -- the feeling that I was getting some very useful information about how to hit the seams and such. There was info like that from time to time (i.e. the time it warns you to go run the Devil Ray off so that it won't snatch the guy out from under you on the recovery mission), but ... I'd have liked more. Especially when the "chatter" is for real and when it is for show. (E.g. a Kraken can kill another cap ship even without a bridge ...). For information in context, the first time you run into Squids it could remind you of when a missile to the back is useful and not with a Squid (depending on how the arms are folded in or out).
I'm always looking for substance.
FINALLY, THE BOOK HAS A MAJOR FLAW. It *does not* cover all of the mission objectives and bonuses under the Combat Summary section for each mission.
Walkthroughs/Comments on Missions
B1 -- in the course of patrolling, you fight six Morays in a Piranha with six missiles. Generally, one missile fired at the right angle will do for a Moray, so this mission (in theory) doesn't even need a wingman -- if all your missiles are fired just right, if none of the Morays release chaff, if .... All of your guns have good long ranges, so that you won't waste much in the way of firepower when you go with full guns.
B2 -- In two nav points you are swarmed -- a total of 25 enemy ships to your Tigershark's eight missiles (and 32 rocket pod "mini-dumb fires" -- useful for enemy ships making head on attack runs). This can be a very difficult mission. You should probably spend three of your missiles on the first three enemies -- to get three fast kills and move the odds down from 13 to 7 (yes, with your wingmen and the guys you are saving, you have seven) to more like 10 to 7 quickly. At the second nav you want to use the remaining missiles quickly to knock the odds down fast. (from 14 to 7 to 9 to 7).
Also, as you close, taunt an enemy and give him a rocket pod to the face. Beware, on full guns your "real" range is 2000k while the ITTS will light up when you are in laser fire range. You may wish to not use the lasers on this mission.
Play this mission until you save at least 4 out of 5 from the Black Widows -- otherwise you lose. For more, see Widow
B3 (winning -- the losing path is harder -- much, much harder, of course). Tigershark again. The Piranha gets used so little it might as well be a decoration in the game. Eight missiles, 13 total enemies (between the various nav points). You have two wingmen. At each of the first two nav points, use a missile to make a fast kill to move the odds down to 3 to 3. Then, at the last nav point, use your missiles on the two Manta -- heavier ships that your guns will take forever to pound down. That is six missiles (one at nav 1, one at nav 2, and two each for each of the Manta). That gives you two more missiles to use on the Moray at the last nav point.
B4 in a Wasp (that is three ships in four missions -- see what I mean about interval training).
The clue book had a good point here. All you want to do is kill the Mantas and stay alive until the Midway calls you back to jump out with it. Good chance to use the [T] button ... Don't use the booster pack [B] (if you can get it to work ...) as that will make the mission harder. Infinite enemies so you definitely want to make the jump ...
If you kill the Manta, then the Midway won't be damaged and you stay on the winning track. If you just kill whatever is close, then the Midway will probably take a few hits and you are one of the losing tracks.
C1 Tigershark -- first set of encounters kill the Skate-Ts. Most of the com messages are for mood. Only the Redeemer isn't destroying itself when you show up. BTW, don't let the panic messages from the Midway hurry you up -- keep the Redeemer safe. Feel free to use all your weaponry as the Redeemer will resupply you with missiles (which I should have paid attention to -- it makes the mission easier if you are feeling free to launch missiles).
Interesting note -- just as in Privateer, the AI is getting better and better at targeting the ship you are guarding and bypassing you. Watch out for Remoras and break up the Ray Cluster ships at the end of any mission (so that the Remora clutter doesn't hide something important).
Back at the Midway, kill the Skate-Ts (that is break them up) and then focus on the Mantas. Once a Skate-T is broken into Skates, it isn't a threat to the Midway.
C2a You can use your missile pods on the cap ship's shield emitter and turrets. Use your ship to ship missiles to clobber the Squids/Manta and then go in after cap ships (or, if you want, beat up on the Destroyer a bit first using the rocket pods -- you have a lot of rockets in the pod). You have three wingmen. Remember, fire missiles into the backside of a Manta -- that will kill it. Otherwise it takes two. Squids in combat are also very weak to the backside.
Warning, don't leave until the cap ships are dead -- even if the autopilot light goes on.
C3a Kill the enemy bombers first. Always. That means kill Skate-Ts and Red Mantas. You have a Wasp so you have more than enough missiles to swarm them ... Then kill enemy fighters.
You've got twelve missiles. 4 are swarmers -- enough for the 3 Manta and one Skate-T. Then the other eight for the Squids you run into. Remember, Tachyon range is further than your mass drivers (which only reach out 2000k). When the fighters are all dead, go take out shield emitters and turrets.
[Note, the losing DL missions are training missions that route you back on the winning track no matter what happens -- well done Origin!]
D1 You have to kill the Skate-T or the station is dead. Feel free to use your missiles on the Morays early and then to break up the Skate-T. You will get to reload and fly an undamaged ship.
D2 Break up the Skate-T and then save the rest of your missiles for the Devil Ray. He is a tough enemy ace in a tough ship. Hit him all around and keep those missiles handy. Watch for him to jump into the middle of the fight when you aren't expecting the second wave of enemies yet.
E1 You have to get really close to the jamming device to ID it. However, it is indestructible -- the decoys aren't. Even flying around on afterburners, you can toast the decoys as you close on them. Use missiles to kill enemy fighters (though not all of them) and blast away at decoys until one doesn't blow up -- if you close and a decoy is still intact, run it over. If it survives, ID it with your targeting device [T] and finish off the enemy.
You are in a Panther with 12 missiles. You will face a total of 12 enemies. At Nav 1, take out one with a missile (breaking up the cluster last thing you do). then, at Nav 3, take out your share of the enemy with missiles as they come for you.
Your full guns have great range.
E2 This mission seems easy. But, a Devil Ray will pop in and you have to go after him (either kill him or force him to jump out) using your missiles and your time. Otherwise he steals the guy you are trying to recover. It is easy to miss him, with all the fur flying. So ...
You stay close to the shuttle, going for quick kills with the missiles as the enemy closes, and cycling your targeting computer looking for the Devil Ray to come in. When his dot shows (and you will get some background verbal chatter that goes with his popping in), go after him ASAP. As soon as he breaks and jumps (with three or so of your missiles up his tailpipe), return to protect the pick-up ship. Ah, for a missile barrage here.
E3a This is a good mission to practice using the Nav map to pick targets. You can click on a ship on the nav map (and it takes some practice to get the Nav map to work -- I found it frustrating) and find out who is targeting it. You can then click on the targeting ship and make it your current target. If you stay close to your escort, you can pick off the enemy that choose to attack it this way.
Pick 'em out, lock your targeting on them, drop out of nav, blast them with a missile or two and move on to the next. Remember that you and your wingmen will draw targets too, but this is a good way to narrow the enemy down 4 targets, 5 to 7 enemy, at most 2-3 will be focusing on what you are escorting, probably less at first (as they close distance, etc.). The Nav makes the task easy, otherwise it gets hard (you do visual sweeps of the enemy from a point defense position -- which is what I did). Luckily you have lots of missiles, lots of wingmen.
E4a Kilrathi. This is the time to pick up some cannon fodder for later missions. Let 'em rip. You get to fly a bomber. You have two types of torps. Use the heaviest on the cap ships, then the lighter ones if any cap ships are left (you do have wingmen).
F1 Mantas first, then mop up. Don't kill the Kilrathi -- save them for later use as cannon fodder. [You have no idea just how bad of an idea it is to kill the Kilrathi].
F2 Escort. Kill the Ray Cluster ships last, Lampreys first (always kill all Lampreys first -- use missiles on them to make a fast, clean kill). The first Nav is the hardest. Kill that Lamprey, kill the Mantas, then finish off the Ray Clusters. Take time to check if anyone has targeted the SWACs (though kill the Lamprey first, then check your Nav computer) and make them a target first. After Nav 1, just kill whatever presents itself, any way you like. The easy way is to use a missile on a Moray, then guns on the Ray Clusters, one at a time.
F3 You are in a Shrike. You have 4 useful missiles -- use them early on to help your fighter escort. Pound the Barracudas from behind -- use the Y key when you get real close. Remember your rocket pods and missile mines (fire off the mines on the way to the back of the Barracuda and then lay a few as you set up position -- discourage anyone from sneaking up on you).
F4 Kill the Lampreys first with missiles. If you don't, you lose the game.
The rest is window dressing. The Lampreys won't run until the encounter is pretty much finished. They should all be dead by then. They blow up pretty easy with missile fire. You may end up targeting them first and never realize how important it is to kill them quickly. Save the Ray Clusters for last since they clutter things up.
To rescue the other guys, you have to fight with the nav map. [x] "right click" and feel free to click more than once. It is pretty easy as rescues go. Five of you to six of them.
F5 About this time the load times get really long with the CD. The problem goes away in a mission or two. I'm not sure what causes it.
Use your missiles early. This is a timed mission. The second wave is timed as well (and variable). If you can kill all the enemy quickly, then you can autopilot home before the second wave arrives.
F6a The Kilrathi pay you back for your help. With them in this mission, it is a cakewalk. Three Vaktoth flown by aces make a real difference. If you doublecrossed the Kilrathi, you are in deep doodoo (and it will get lots deeper).
Save your missiles for the second encounter
sphere -- you will defend the Midway against bombers. Kill those Skate-Bs
quick and early (but only when they come into range -- make close in kills
first, waiting on your time). Also kill any Red Manta you see. With the Kilrathi,
you'll have to work to get a chance at any kills. Otherwise it is really
G1 Remember, your Shrike has afterburners. Also, the station has an unending supply of Stingrays replacing them as they die, so don't kill the last one. You want the Squid dead and the Manta dead. Experiment with the range on the light torps. As soon as you have a lock you can fire -- no counterfire exists, no one intercepts your torps. As soon as you fire, switch targets, each torp will kill the point it is fired at -- each run you should get off several torps at the station, starting at maximum range and firing as you close. All you are doing is killing time (and trying not to get killed) until the calvary arrives, so kill the station (otherwise you have to go back and kill it later -- ouch). After the station is dead, watch out for clusters -- use your IR missiles to disrupt them when they happen (they have enough firepower to sting you).
One other note (one that fits into other things as well). Remember that [u] can warn you of enemy ships that are closing on you (it targets the nearest enemy ship). Use it whenever you are out of torp range or when you are pulling back from the station to start another run to clue yourself in on any enemies that are headed your way. Also, if you issue a "break and attack command and let your wingmen afterburner in (as they are prone to) you can then follow-up while the enemy is distracted. Head toward your target, not the escorts -- you are bomber, though this rule will often come in handy when going after the turrets on cap ships and other missions as well.
G2 When killing turrets you will miss missile pods. You may need your missiles to hit the Sting Ray Clusters and need to hit them on the way in, but not let them delay you on your turret killing duties. You have ten (10!) maser turrets and four (4) missile turrets to kill. You will need to use Tachyon cannon only with a steady stream of fire to kill them (tachyon cannon give you twice the "bang for the buck" as ion cannon). A Stormfire would have been nice here (long range, no energy drain -- you could set up a power pattern that diverted power to the shields).
G3 With the Tiamat -- kill the engines first. You may not have enough torps for anything else. Remember, you can use [R] to cycle torp targets. Also, watch out for the Devil Ray and save some missiles for him. Otherwise, the enemy ace will nail you.
H1 The Vampire choice is easier. Nail those two Lampreys, but also send a missile or two after the Ray Cluster -- it is worth mission points. Unfortunately, it is hard to keep that kill to yourself. Remember to clear turrets -- keep it up even if the Leviathan gets clobbered while you are doing it (mission goals).
H2 The Vampire is another easy mission. Break up the minelayers. Full guns & missiles. If you break them up, cleaning up the mines is easy -- if nothing else, just run over them <g>. There will only be one or two mines laid if you break the Skate-Ms up fast. Even after the autopilot light goes on, make sure all the yellow dots -- the mines -- are gone.
H3 Origin -- in this mission if you choose to unload your missiles (from a distance) on the Kraken, the damage ought to show up later. You can target some components and use your swarmers on the Kraken while closing on full AB before you get the "pull out" command. Otherwise this is just a fly by and play tourist mission. It is you and lots of wingmen against a small number of aliens here and there.
H4 Ok, this mission is one where you have to fly the Devastator. Fly a little in the sim first, to warm up for it. Your Plasma gun works just as well as torpedoes do. If you don't kill the escort first, it will kill you while you go after the Kraken. Kill the engines first -- use [R] to target them. The clue book tells you to ignore the fighter escort. If only it would ignore you. Use your missiles on them early and then let your wingmen clean up.
H5 Remember -- bombers are a threat to the Midway. Kill them first. Once a cluster is broken, move on to the next. You have long range IR missiles for this mission -- use them. (Or why you aren't in a Wasp). It is nine of you vs. two wings of twelve of them.
H6 Remember how to slide and how to set up your AB. [?/] to set the slide. Start AB, hit [?/] to toggle slide on, drop AB (you will continue at the same speed and direction) until you are outside of the blast, return home. In, out & home. You can always loiter if you want to see yourself get killed too <g>. Remember [R] cycles targets. Again, you have to kill the fighter escort or it will kill you. With their speed you can't "just afterburn in, launch & leave."
I1 This is where you remember to leave part of a wave intact so that the next wave doesn't kick in -- and that way you can spend time taking out the Leviathan's defenses with less risk to your wingmen.
I2 Cap ship missiles can be destroyed by your IR missiles -- though you ought to be able to use your swarmers to kill more of them if they are close together -- but you can't. You can also use your guns on the missiles. There are four of them -- keep count. [B] will work here and is essential to get out and intercept the cap ship missiles in a timely fashion. Remember that Skate-Ts are a threat to the Midway and so are Mantas. Morays are an annoyance, not a game losing threat. The Stingrays are a threat only if there are three of them.
I3 Remember, this time you are in the bomber ... [F4] will let you use your tailgun to defend your tail. Use your missiles on Squid as they turn closely. They can really hurt you if you don't thin them down early.
The worst part about this is that the guys you are rescuing can get themselves pretty chewed up *after* you've cleared off the fighter escort. If they get clobbered by the turrets, you still lose that sub-objective.
I4 Turrets are the mission objective. You have plenty of time, so you can take out the escort first, then go after the prize. Once it is defanged (the turrets are dead) kill the shield emitter too. The more you can get done now, the less you have to do in I5. Get it all done now.
I5 An enemy ace all for you. Lots of Squids. Some preliminary dogfighting in a bomber. Well, the Devastator has 12 missiles and you can use the plasma cannon against any incoming foe. Get set with the plasma cannon, fire, then hit [F] for full guns (you can swear when you see what full guns gets you -- you basically can switch between plasma cannon and the long range "machine gun") and fire missiles when the Devil Ray comes calling for you. If you did your job last mission, then the torp & plasma gun work on the Kraken is easy once the escort is gone. This might be the time to transfer power.
Checklist something like this. ^T (smart targeting so that you don't target your own guys). [P] to adjust power. Reduce a little off of engines, etc. into shields. Since you launch into a dogfight, start this up after the initial encounter is over, but before you go after the Kraken.
I6 This is the mission where the Midway uses the ship killer and wins the game for you ... (what, it doesn't? Drat!). Well, this is a good time to remember to not finish a good wave off early. This is where I really want the [alt !] key for -- this target is mine, leave it alone. (You know, [alt B ]for break & attack, [alt R] for Return to Base, [alt !] for ...) That would make it easier to avoid triggering the next wave. Kill those towers first and formost. The enemy waves are endless, so you can't "clear out the escort and get down to business." The towers change color when they are targets.
The clue book could give a longer description here, breaking this into two missions, really. As for me, I don't want to spoil anything too much, so this is all the explanation I'm providing.
Post Script And ... what do I think of Wing Commander Prophecy?