Great Old Gaming Gems – X-Wing Alliance

Welcome to a new occasional segment here on BTS Retro- Great Old Gaming Gems.

Here I’m going to present an affectionate look back at some great games of yesterday year, some forgotten, some obscure and some like today’s which was huge at the time. So without further ado I give you Great Old Gaming Games Episode 1 – X-Wing Alliance.

X-Wing Alliance was a space combat simulator set in the Star Wars Universe released way back in 1999.

Released as the fourth and final entrant into the series, following 1993’s X-Wing, 1994’s TIE Fighter and 1997’s X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, X-Wing Alliance took on the groundwork of those games and ran with it to a whole other level.

You start the game not as a member of the Rebel Alliance nor as a member of the Galactic Empire. Instead you are a member of the Azzameen family of traders. This is a great way to get people involved in the training missions as they are done in such a way that you are learning the way of the family trade.

Before long however you do end up joining the Rebel Alliance. This is where the game goes from Space Flight Sim to full on Space Combat Sim. You’re given a variety of Rebel craft to fly including the infamous X-Wing. Lock S-Foils in attack position anyone?

Here the game takes on a very tactical level. Rather than an out and out shooter the enthasis is well and truly on the simulation aspect of the game. You’ve a fixed engine output to control so do you have your laser canons recharging faster? Or do you put it into the shields and increase their strength and recharge rate? Or abandon both of those for sheer speed. This provides a lot of depth to the game and in later missions it becomes essential.

The games events run alongside those of the movies. You first meet up with the Rebel Alliance shortly after the Battle of Hoth. You even steal the shuttle Luke and Han fly to Endor!

The final mission of the games however are truly epic. You get to fly the Millennium Falcon in the Battle of Endor attack against the second Death Star. This is truly huge in scale, especially given the limitations of the hardware of 1999, with hundreds of fighter ships, capital ships and the Death Star all blasting each other to merry high hell.

I think it is fair to say that as a space combat simulator even now, some 13 years later, this game has never been bettered.

Throughout the game you have access to the flight simulator. Here you can fly any of the starfighters in the game, including joining the Empire in a TIE Fighter, Bomber or Interceptor. Even Boba Fett’s Slave 1 ship is playable!

The question however now is does the game run on todays PCs? And I am happy to say yes it does! My Windows7 laptop plays it in glorious detail and high resolution. Using an Xbox 360 for windows gamepad isn’t quite the same as my old flightmaster joystick. But alas that wasn’t USB and I don’t think there has been a laptop made with an old school gameport in the best part of a decade! But it gets the job done.

If you want to grab yourself a copy of this Great Old Gaming Gem eBay is your best bet with copies hovering around the £10 mark. A Demo is freely available online too to see for yourself just how awesome this game is!

A huge fan community also exists and over at http://www.xwaupgrade.com/ you can download hi-res models to upgrade from the original files. Having said that the original graphics do hold up well today!

Now the only question is with Star Wars being as huge as even when will LucasArts revive this ruddy brilliant game of yesteryear? When they do I’ll be the first in line!