Wing Commander: Darkest Dawn, Fan-Made Goodness


Last week, we previewed the launch of Wing Commander Saga: Darkest Dawn, the fan-built companion to Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger that's been in the making for the past ten years. We were excited for its launch. But now that the game is available, how'd the team do?

Descent 2 had beautiful explosions -- a feature Darkest Dawn preserves

How good is Wing Commander Saga: Darkest Dawn? Let me illustrate it thusly. The game dropped on Thursday, I started playing Friday, and as of this writing (Sunday afternoon), my weekend chore list is gathering dust on the fridge. I've been too busy cursing my decision to chuck my Microsoft Sidewinder Precision 2 to notice. "If I'd kept it just one more year I wouldn't have this problem," I mutter, fingers splayed over the keyboard in a vain attempt to convince my Hellcat to bank like something other than a Centaurian Mud Pig.

Yeah. It's like that.

Wing Commander Saga: Darkest Dawn is a fan-made Wing Commander mod that uses a highly modified form of the open-source Freespace 2 engine. It's Wing Commander infused with Freespace DNA; the game's models and textures are pure WC, while the lighting, effects, and certain flight elements are Freespace-infused. Freespace's subsystem targeting, engine wash effects, and shockwave damage blend smoothly into each other -- for the most part.

This is sufficient to make Mark Hamil punch a puppy. Thankfully it's a one-time occurrence.

There are a few rough spots, some less-than-stellar voice acting, and a truly unfortunate choice of font that makes reading anything a chore. This last is made worse by the game's decision to present a truly agonizing Great Wall of Text right after the introduction movie. The good news is, this only seems to happen once. The game's plot is delivered by a combination of animated 3D briefings, a few Descent-style cutscenes, and in-cockpit dialog. The game's default difficulty setting is "Easy"; we'd recommend veterans crank it up a few notches once you've remembered how to play. A joystick is highly recommended.

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