From the Beginning, You Know the End... (January 31, 2012)

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
It's time for the start of a new poll, and this one's all about endings. Which game had your favorite conclusion? Are you more into the traditional blast-a-starbase final missions from the early '90s? If that's not epic enough, the endings from the mid '90s were more focused on resolving entire wars than specific battles. Ominous conclusions are also an option for the later '90s games where the player stops the bugs for the time being, but an even larger invasion force looms on the horizon. Finally, if personal fortune and freedom are the most important things to you, the Privateer endgames wrapped up the story, but then allowed the player to continue living in the universe forever.



The annual New Year poll has concluded, and it shows how pumped Wingnuts are for the future! With the same number of votes and timeframe as last year's poll, the 2012 question's optimistic options each surged about 50% while the "poor" choice received about 25% fewer votes. All of the GoG releases in 2011 helped bring new fans into the fold, and it'll be exciting to see what comes next! Wing Commander Academy is coming in May... but there are always some surprises along the way!






What kind of year will 2012 be for WC?




Great
26.26%
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Good
23.84%
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Average
12.93%
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Poor
29.09%
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Unsure
7.88%
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Ended on January 31, 2012 | 495 votes

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Original update published on January 31, 2012
 
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Marc

Commodore
hands down WC4. those choice of dialogue during the climax really made me feel like I earned my victory inside and outside the cockpit.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
hands down WC4. those choice of dialogue during the climax really made me feel like I earned my victory inside and outside the cockpit.
It's funny, I went through three distinct phases on the WC4 ending - when I first played WC4, I actually found it quite irritating because Seether did actually take some work to defeat... and then I went with "fools rush in". Still, I got it "right" the second time, and I didn't really think much about the choices - apart from that fools-rush-in thing, most of the choices just seemed pretty obvious, they might as well not have been in there at all.

Then, as a film student in the early 2000s, I went back to WC4 to deconstruct the narrative for a scriptwriting class, and I went through this "wow, this is innovative, I should appreciate this" phase. I mean, you know, these were the days when film lecturers were starting to catch on to the idea that games are worth studying in their own right - and here you had this game that rose above its gaminess, determining the final results in the story rather than in the gameplay. Silly me, it seemed so amazing at the time.

...And then, with time, I realised that sometimes, innovation is really not so great.

Looking back now, I think that the WC4 ending has a lot to answer for. Structurally, it's bad: You have defeated Seether. That was the final challenge. Now you must defeat him again because you behaved the wrong way? That just demeans that final battle. And the whole notion of having to defeat Tolwyn in a dialogue-duel lacks credibility - right off the bat, you find it implausible that Paladin would choose to arrest you because you didn't rush onto the scene, but then things get worse when you realise that silly Blair forgot to bring along the countless vids and other pieces of evidence that made this an open-and-shut case.

The thing I most appreciated back in the day, the fact that the ending was determined in the cinematic "wrapper" of the game rather than in the spaceflight that is the core of the game, now strikes me as a terrible flaw. The game is about space combat, not about space dialogues. To have this dialogue puzzle at the end is exactly as appropriate as having Tolwyn challenge you to a swordfight... or ping-pong. I get the idea, they wanted to integrate the movies closer with the game, so that it didn't feel like they were two separate entities - but in this case, it just didn't work.

That said, it really comes down to this: it's just blastedly unsatisfying to win the game, get asked to click a button, and told that you lose. About the only thing more unsatisfying would be if the game shipped without some files, and instead of showing you the ending, kept on asking you to insert the next disk. I think I would still hugely appreciate the dialogue choices today if, rather than adding an inexplicable opportunity to lose the game, they actually added another layer to the game. Imagine if Tolwyn actually understood that the game was up: imagine if the debate wasn't about whether the assembly votes for or against war (this is a done deal - at the very least, Paladin would have postponed the vote until everyone could look at Blair's evidence), but about whether Tolwyn is personally guilty or not. Imagine if your choices throughout the game, the ones that lead you to Blair-as-admiral, now affected what choices you have here - a clean Blair might try and fail or succeed to prove Tolwyn's guilt, but a bad Blair might actually be choosing between condemning Tolwyn or covering for him, helping to shove the guilt down onto Seether and the Black Lance. In all cases, Tolwyn's actual plans are stopped - but in some cases, he may get away free, either because you couldn't prove his guilt, or because you cynically decided he's still useful.

...Instead, you beat Seether, and then the game asks you: "do you want to win or lose?" Like, duh...
 

capi3101

Rear Admiral
Still considering what I'm going to vote for...I know which ones I'm not, though...

I agree with Quarto; WC4 should've ended when you killed that rat bastard Seether. Jerk kills me more often than not even to this day; that's one bitch of a dogfight.

I'm also not voting for the P1 ending, either. After all this big buildup, you blow up the drone, and everybody's like "big deal" and goes back to normal. You get this nice gun, which (assuming you go straight into Righteous Fire) gets taken away from you. Even if it didn't, the game's essentially over at that point; you can keep playing, but it's not for any goal other than what you set for yourself. I guess the idea is that it all becomes like Elite at that point; no real goals other than what you set yourself...

Can't help but notice the RF ending is not one of the choices you can vote for. Just as well, really.

Been long enough since I've watched the P2 ending that I don't remember it. I just remember that Arris finishes off his brother, the evil leader of the Kindred, by crushing his colostomy bag or something like that. And there are explosions. And it was basically all a big sibling rivalry. Maybe there was more to it than that; I really need to play that game again...

You know what might be helpful for this poll, IMHO? If someone could provide some links to these endgame movies...provided they all exist, of course.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I'm also not voting for the P1 ending, either. After all this big buildup, you blow up the drone, and everybody's like "big deal" and goes back to normal. You get this nice gun, which (assuming you go straight into Righteous Fire) gets taken away from you. Even if it didn't, the game's essentially over at that point; you can keep playing, but it's not for any goal other than what you set for yourself. I guess the idea is that it all becomes like Elite at that point; no real goals other than what you set yourself...
That's a problem with all open-world games. You want to let the players keep going after they're done with the main story... but how do you let him do that, and at the same time acknowledge what he's accomplished? It's a very, very hard issue to resolve - even the biggest titles fail in this regard, and usually everyone just kinda pretends the issue doesn't exist. Play an Elder Scrolls game, for example - you save the world, and... well, nobody cares :). It's a tradeoff, the alternative would be to actually end the game at that point.

The real problem with Privateer is not the ending, but the fact that compared to Elite, or Pirates, Privateer is really a rather dull game without the story - at first it's exciting, because you are constantly in danger and need to upgrade your ship. But once you've upgraded enough, the story is the only attraction. None of the worlds are especially exciting to visit, there's nothing especially amazing to find in space...



As for me, after a bit of thinking I went with WC3. It seems kind of a cop-out to vote for it, since it's basically the one with the biggest fireworks. However, what I really like about it is that it's actually plausible - which is a hard thing to pull off with these planet-destruction plots. The game does a great job of building towards the ending, and manages to explain plausibly why destroying Kilrah (without actually defeating the enemy fleet) is enough to win the war: when you see Melek bow down before you, it's amazing both because it's unexpected, and because it makes sense. In that aspect, it's actually a more satisfying ending than the Return of the Jedi ending it was based on - in RotJ, you don't really see any reason why the rest of the Empire would suddenly stop fighting the Rebels. It's a military dictatorship, with the Emperor dead someone else will take charge. In Heart of the Tiger, Melek's surrender simply knocks out any possibility of the war continuing.
 

Wojo

Rear Admiral
This was a tricky one.

First instinct was for WC3, due to fireworks, as mentioned. Then I realised this was a cop-out (as also mentioned). I really got more satisfaction from the WC4 ending. And why was that? Not because I had vanquished my enemy and saved the day. It's because the acting and script was good!

Thinking occurred.

My answer - end of P2. Why? Again, acting!

To explain it's easiest to describe what happens when I try and talk to people about games, and in particular Wing Commander. "Why do you still play these old games?" people ask. (read: People=wife). I can't really justify it with "Oh, because the graphics are top-notch!". So I reply "It's fun, and has a good story". "What story? You just fly around in space!". And so on...

So I usually end up showing off a cinematic from wc3, wc4, or my favorite, Privateer 2. I wait for the "Hey! I know him! It's Clive Owen! And isn't that Christopher Walken?". "Yep" I say. "And look, here's John Hurt from Aliens and EVERYTHING ELSE, and if you've seen David Warner, there he is. And remember the old TV series The Flash? There's his girlfriend, Mathilda May."

Of course, you can't compete with John Rhy Davies, Malcolm McDowell, Tom Wilson and Mark Hamill can you? But something about the quality of the casting, script & acting, as well as camera style and set design in P2 I find really stands out, and it a great showcase for the genre in that regard. It doesn't need explaining like the cinematics in WC3 & 4, because each little clip kind of stands on it's own as a vignette of character development. At least, thats the reaction I've had when I have shown off these things.

So, there are my roundabout reasons for voting for P2. And because I like the Knossos explosion (no shockwave ring like everything else these days).
 

Ijuin

Admiral
The real problem with Privateer is not the ending, but the fact that compared to Elite, or Pirates, Privateer is really a rather dull game without the story - at first it's exciting, because you are constantly in danger and need to upgrade your ship. But once you've upgraded enough, the story is the only attraction. None of the worlds are especially exciting to visit, there's nothing especially amazing to find in space...
That is one thing that I liked about Freelancer--the fact that after you have finished the storyline, you still have over half of the game universe left to explore with various hidden ships and bases and whatnot.

In that aspect, it's actually a more satisfying ending than the Return of the Jedi ending it was based on - in RotJ, you don't really see any reason why the rest of the Empire would suddenly stop fighting the Rebels. It's a military dictatorship, with the Emperor dead someone else will take charge. In Heart of the Tiger, Melek's surrender simply knocks out any possibility of the war continuing.
Maybe nitpicky, but Palpatine set up his Empire to revolve around him personally rather than around the office of Emperor--he was not really concerned about it holding together without him.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
That is one thing that I liked about Freelancer--the fact that after you have finished the storyline, you still have over half of the game universe left to explore with various hidden ships and bases and whatnot.
Yeah... I actually still have my end-of-story savegame somewhere, and I really do plan to reinstall the game one day and get back to searching for the Hispania (or whatever the last colony ship was called). I mean, in truth I'll probably never get around to it, too many other things to do - but the fact that there is something I'd like to do in Freelancer is more than I can say about Privateer.

(ok, ok - this is also because I have less time than I did when playing Priv - after I finished the game, I actually did go exploring for a bit, flying through all the Kilrathi systems and the blockade points in search of that mythical asteroid depot that didn't exist :). But I got tired of it pretty quickly)

Maybe nitpicky, but Palpatine set up his Empire to revolve around him personally rather than around the office of Emperor--he was not really concerned about it holding together without him.
True, but you find that this usually doesn't matter that much. You have millions of people serving the Empire - a good many of their own free will. All of these people, even the ones who acknowledge that the Rebels are morally right, stand to lose everything they have. So, really, most of the Empire would just really be hoping that some great commander will arise and lead them on.

(there would have been a wonderful story in there, about the Empire actually picking up the pieces and winning, because the new leader pulled off a Chrushchov, declaring that all the evil deeds of the Empire were the Emperor's fault, and now they will rebuild the Empire into something new and better - but those Rebels need to be defeated still, because they are anarchist scum; alas, the Star Wars expanded universe went somewhere else entirely)
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Not even a mention of WC1/2? I would have thought a least a mention...

I have to say this is probably the hardest poll for me. (I still haven't voted.)

Part of me wants to click WC3, but I really didn't like the everlasting canyon run. That really hurt the endgame there for me. It was boring and long. Way too long. Had it been a more intense (or brief) mission I think WC3 would be my favorite endgame.

My first time through WC4 I also went with "Fools Rush In" only to be arrested. Navigating the conversation choices for the finale before the Grand Finale was great for the story lover in me, but I don't think that really makes it my favorite.

WC1/2 both end with starbase attacks. I like the WC2 final mission and end game there. It's satisfying after having knocked out Thrakath, destroyed K'tithrak Mang, and survived all those other enemies. WC2 was when torpedo runs were torpedo runs.

I still need to think about this a bit...
 

AD

Finder of things, Doer of stuff
My first time through WC4 I also went with "Fools Rush In" only to be arrested. Navigating the conversation choices for the finale before the Grand Finale was great for the story lover in me, but I don't think that really makes it my favorite.
I thought about this a bunch too and went with WC4 in the end... mostly because the whole cinematic feel to the end trial and the final cutscenes were so top notch. WC4 really amped up the tension through the endgame and I can never put the game down in the last quarter as I end up just pushing through to the conclusion. While over the years some of the on-the-nose story elements and lazy writing compared to WC3 bug me more the more I play and see the game, it's still a great ending.... But if I were to factor in the absolute last mission's gameplay:

WC1/2 both end with starbase attacks. I like the WC2 final mission and end game there. It's satisfying after having knocked out Thrakath, destroyed K'tithrak Mang, and survived all those other enemies. WC2 was when torpedo runs were torpedo runs.

WC2 has probably my favorite end mission. The starbase attack was tough and satisfying and the reception on the carrier was great... And who can forget Thrakhath's spining ejection pod in space with the promise of a WC3? When I factor in gameplay it certainly edges up in the rankings but it's still hard to beat the cinematic polish of WC4... Overall WC2 is still my favorite WC game but for different reasons.
 

Ilanin

Captain
Dundradal said:
WC2 was when torpedo runs were torpedo runs.

OK, I'll bite. People say this all the time, and I still don't know why. In WC2 you killed all the enemy fighters, sat around out of range while your torpedo locked, and then cruised towards the enemy ship or base in your Broadsword keeping an eye on your shield status. This is approximately as exciting as mowing the lawn. Prophecy and the later games in the same engine, on the other hand, actually made you do torpedo runs while there were still escort fighters up. The only good think about WC2 torpedo runs was the music. A nice idea that didn't quite come off.
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Ilanin,

You raise some valid points, but even with WCP/SO's ability to attempt the run while there are fighters left, the WC2 torp runs still felt more exciting. Was the finally run in waiting for lock a little boring at times? Sure, but dodging AMGs and making sure your shields don't fail also helped keep excitement up.

Torp runs in WCP/SO lost some of that because turret fire lost a lot of its bite. You really only had to worry about escorting fighters and certain turrets depending on how you lined up on an enemy capship. (The most imfamous being that rear turret on the Triton that was a torpedo eating machine) You had a lot more going on in the WCP/SO runs background, but it didn't leave me the same level of satisfaction as the WC2 runs.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I think there is much to be said for WC2's torpedo runs because of their seeming boredom. They were a very, very different experience to normal combat, and this is a good thing. And were they really, really so boring? No, because your shields were gradually dropping, and you were always worried about it (sure, if you don't get hit by AMGs, it's no problem - but one hit and you start worrying). So, it did actually feel dangerous, although very much a different kind of danger.

The problem with torpedo runs in WCP (WC3 is a joke, of course - no point even talking about the capship combat there) is that in many ways, they're like WC2, only easier. When you approach the tail of an enemy capship, you could literally stop behind him and wait for the lock, without risking too much (except for one thing: namely, that on some capships, there were issues with collisions that made your torps miss if you fired right smack into the middle of the engines). And when you got the Devastator... suddenly it turned out that destroying capships is really all about having hordes of fighters coming after you. There was still a lot of charm to it (especially since the game had something WC2 obviously didn't - capships you could get close to), but it wasn't so memorable experience as the WC2 runs.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
WC3/4 capship combat is fun in a completely different way. It's like an amped up WC1 strike. Only in WC3/4 is it fun to to actually dance around the capship evading laser bursts, picking off turrets, flying through the flight deck, and then you can string multiple missiles together and drop massive ordnance in a hurry.
 

ChrisH

Spaceman
Definitely WC4.

Apart from the fact that it's brilliant, the best thing is that it's got payoff for all my hard work during the rest of the game. I hate it when you put hours and hours into a game only to finish it and... get a message saying, "The End." Or, you know if the game was 6 CD's full of cut scene after cut scene; can you imagine if the ending had been the 15 second clip with Blair flying off into the sunset? Anyway, I've always been a sucker for cinematic but I'm always partial to a game that has some kind of cinematic/narrative reward for finishing it.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I'm going to go with the original Wing Commander. I thought it was nicely understated and especially that it hinted at a much bigger war effort going on. You may have taken down the space station, someone else was on the planet raising the flag. In fact, look closely at that final cutscene: they're wearing wetsuits! What a cool detail that it must have taken everyone YEARS to even appreciate.
 
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