Once upon a time there was a little cracker of a space combat sim called Wing Commander. Journos all across the land loved it to death and fell over themselves trying to heap as many congratulatory superlatives on it as they could muster up. pc gamers nearly wet themselves with delight when they played it, and loudly proclaimed that it was without doubt "the best". Then came X-Wing. The press went wild again. "This is Star Wars on your pc," they said. "Wow, this really is like flying about in space," said the slightly less imaginative public. And so it came to be that the humble pc, which before the release of the aforementioned games had nothing much to offer in the way of arcade action and was the source of much amusement for Amiga owners all around the globe, suddenly had two "classics" it could call its own. Since then, various attempts have been made by software houses to "emulate" either Wing Commander or X-Wing. Which brings us to Star Crusader.
Have CD will speak
Star Crusader is not exactly a complete rip-off of the aforementioned games. To start with, it has a strategy element which comes into play halfway through the game. This involves you managing and deploying the ships and resources of the Gorene Empire (your lot), as you attempt to annihilate the alien races of the Ascalon Rift (the other lot), become the "King of the Rift" and so win the game. Also, the cd version, (i.e. the one under review here) is liberally furnished with tons and tons of digitised speech for the characters. From the unusually long and impressive animated intro, right through the whole of the game, all of the characters speak. This would have been a plus point if it wasn't for the unconvincing vocal delivery from the actors who did the voice-overs. The acting is insufferably melodramatic and many of the characters sound as though their parts have been played by the same person. Where Star Crusader is similar to X-Wing and co„ though, is in the combat section, which happens to be where you'll spend most of your time in the game.
And so on to the game
Try to imagine a game that uses X-Wing-type polygon graphics and has the overall look and feel of Wing Commander, and you have got a pretty clear picture of what Star Crusader is all about. During the time I played this game (over the course of a few days), I lost count of the amount of people in our office (and other offices in the building) who came up to me and said " Wing Commander or what". There are two major points to take into consideration with a game that is so heavily influenced by its competitors in the genre. Firstly, can the "similarities" be justified by the fact that Star Crusader positively wipes the floor with everything that's gone before it. I'm sure we can forgive almost anything in a game (even blatant plagiarism) if it sends the punters wild with delight when they play it. Failing that, the only course of action is to judge the game on its own merits. Being a reader, you're obviously very smart and clever, so you've probably guessed by now that Star Crusader falls firmly into the latter category. Here then, is a run-down on the highs and the lows, the smart bits and the naff bits, and what made us laugh and what made us cry about the Star Crusader experience.
It's rather unfortunate for Star Crusader that most of the game revolves around the combat system and not the strategy element. My first reaction when I was told the game was very strong on strategy while at the same time offering the player tense, exciting combat sequences (or words to that effect) was to jump to the conclusion that I was about to review a combat sim that was genuinely unique. As it turned out, I'd been prematurely optimistic. Although the visuals in Star Crusader pass a nod in the direction of X-Wing, the actual gameplay (i.e. the important bit) is very Wing Commander in .concept and style. However, Wing Commander it most definitely is not. The missions in Star Crusader are varied and there are plenty of ships to fly (and fly against), but it just doesn't have the nail-biting tension or style inherent in Origin's original classic. I found myself plodding my way through the missions just to get them out of the way. To make matters even worse, the sound track that accompanies the combat scenes is dull and unimaginative, and does nothing whatsoever to increase the tension or enhance the atmosphere of the sadly, lacklustre battle scenes. So much for that then. There is another side to the game, however. Let's have a look at it, shall we?
On the brighter side
It's easy to fall into the trap of consistently sending your best pilots on all the missions and watch them all get wasted one by one, leaving you with a bunch of rookies for your next mission. You can also train your rookie pilots to make them more effective in combat, and capture enemy ships for your own use (some of the alien ships are far better than your own). The strategy side, it has to be said, is fairly involving, if not particularly exciting. In summary. Star Crusader has neither the excellent presentation of Wing Commander, nor the superb gameplay of X-Wing, and the strategy element does not compensate for the mediocre gameplay in the battle scenes. I know that everyone has their own favourites with this type of game, so it follows then, that there may actually be people out there who will jump into the combat scenes in Star Crusader and like it. It's just that we didn't.
Head To Head
They say that a picture can paint a thousand words. That may be true, but what they don't tell you anything about the gameplay. Basically, as far as gameplay goes, some games have it, and some don't. When Wing Commander first arrived, it was universally agreed that it had gameplay written all over it. Since then, a lot of people seem to have changed their minds. X-Wing has a much wider appeal, and almost everyone seems to love it. How the PC games world reacts to Star Crusader remains to be seen, but if people take to it the way they did to Wing Commander and X-Wing, frankly, I shall be amazed.
Download Star Crusader
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP