Escapist has finally concluded its monthlong series of Wing Commander reviews by covering the GOG release of Armada. After ripping WC3&4, the author took a conciliatory tone with his latest piece. For the most part, the lack of storyline cutscenes is overlooked and there's just a brief overview of the spaceflight and strategic portions of the game. Incredibly, the cockpit portions are called "almost indistinguishable from the first two Wing Commanders." Wow! Seasoned space sim players will recall that Armada was the first Wing Commander game to feature a 3D spaceflight engine as opposed to the 2D bitmapped sprites used in all games prior. There's also a significant difference in "speed" as Armada is often called out for its fast ships that can sometimes turn traditional Wing Commander dogfights into head-first jousts. It is a valid point that the GOG version of the game lacks the gameplay manual/reference card, which can make for a steep learning curve (ALT+O launches the menu with joystick recalibration option - see below for more!). Finally, the author completely skipped out on multiplayer, which is arguably the whole point of the game. Some people consider the strategic mode an afterthought that provided more meat for player-vs-player. Check out the whole article for yourself here.
It might seem unfair that after dinging Wing Commander 3 and 4 so badly for their painful FMV sequences, Armada loses points for having no overarching narrative at all, but the truth of the matter is that the original Wing Commander succeeded because it struck upon a perfect balance of cinematic experience, narrative gravitas and intense cockpit action. But without the first two elements to give it purpose, the third suddenly seems far less compelling. Wing Commander was a great game but it was never a great space sim, and its weaknesses are rather starkly exposed in Wing Commander: Armada. Serious nostalgia buffs might get a kick out of it, but there are better space combat sims out there, and better Wing Commander experiences too. Even so, if you want to give it a try Wing Commander: Armada is available at GOG for $5.99.