Commissioned by LucasArts and developed by Totally Games, Inc., Star Wars: X-Wing is the first game in the successful X-Wing series of PC space combat games. Focusing on simulating the experience of piloting various starships in the Star Wars universe, X-Wing puts players in the shoes of an unnamed pilot in the Rebel Alliance prior to and concurrent with the events of Episode IV: A New Hope. The gameplay demands that the player not only skillfully pilot their vessel in various combat and non-combat situations, but also monitor and adjust its various sub-systems as necessary. Star Wars: X-Wing was released in early 1993, with two expansion packs, Imperial Pursuit and B-Wing, released the same year, which were included in later retail incarnations of the game.
Told through three separate campaigns, or Tours of Duty, the plot of Star Wars: X-Wing roughly parallels the events of A New Hope. The first tour starts out simply enough, with a search for new allies to recruit to the Rebel Alliance's cause, though as the threat of the Death Star becomes increasingly apparent, the Rebels begin to prepare for the inevitable Battle of Yavin, depicted in the game's final tour as a multi-mission confrontation climaxing with the famous Luke Skywalker trench run responsible for the destruction of the Imperial space station. Each tour is punctuated by occasional cutscenes that emphasize important events as they relate to the missions at hand.
Tour I: A New Ally
- Follows the Rebel Alliance as it attempts to gain the aid of the Sullastans while under constant scrutiny by the Empire. The final mission depicts a daring operation to covertly board and subsequently eliminate an Imperial Star Destroyer.
Tour II: The Great Search
- The Alliance discovers the Empire's plans to create the Death Star, a massive space station with the ability to destroy entire planets. This information is relayed to Princess Leia, who must be protected in the tour's final missions.
Tour III: The Gathering Storm
- With the Death Star fully operational, the Rebels now look for a means to destroy the space station before it can further terrorize the galaxy. The Battle of Yavin and the Death Star's destruction are the final footnotes for the game's story.
Gameplay in Star Wars: X-Wing primarily consists of ship-to-ship combat between the starfighters of the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire, as well as occasional assaults on more heavily armed and fortified capital ships. The X-Wing engine had previously been used for a number of World War II flight simulations, and the dogfighting of X-Wing bears many similarities to these earlier games, though the deep space setting means that the laws of physics and gravity are essentially no longer a consideration. All Alliance vessels are in possession of both rechargeable short range weapons (Laser Cannons and Ion Cannons), as well as a finite amount of longer range missile weapons (Proton Torpedoes and Concussion Missiles). Since the number of warheads a ship can carry is always limited, it is up to the pilot to prioritize which targets can be dealt with using the ship's rechargeable weaponry, and which threats warrant the additional firepower.
In addition to piloting their vessel, players are in full control of their ship's energy systems, which can be directed to any of three subsystems: engines, lasers, and shields. The amount of energy directed to engines directly affects how fast a ship can fly, while energy assigned to laser and shielding systems controls how quickly said systems can regenerate. A high amount of laser and shield power will allow weapons and defenses to quickly recharge, though at a significant reduction in speed. Conversely, redirecting energy to a ship's engines will allow extremely fast travel, but Laser Cannons and shields will deteriorate if they do not maintain a constant power supply. In emergency situations, pilots can divert energy directly from shields to lasers (or vice versa) rather than just redirecting the power supply, which grants an immediate boost to the receiving subsystem at the other's expense.
Before they are allowed to engage in missions, players must first go through pilot registration, which creates a profile that tracks their progress across all of the game's modes. From there, they are transferred to the Alliance flagship Independence, whose starport acts as a central hub for all activities thereafter. In addition to the Tech Room, where players can examine in detail the game's various ships, and the Film Room, where previously recorded missions can be reviewed, there are three main gameplay modes available through the Independence:
Pilot Proving Ground
As its name implies, the Proving Ground is a training area of sorts that challenges pilots to complete eight stages of progressively harder tests of their starfighter mastery. Taking place in a course known as the Maze, the pilot's task is simply to fly through the specified number of gates in the alloted time. The amount of time given decreases with each stage, and later levels require pilots to optimize their ship's energy systems while also shooting various stationary targets around the course in order to gain time bonuses. All ships are ranked separately, and upon completing all eight stages for a particular ship, pilots receive a special badge commemorating their achievement.
This mode allows pilots to participate in recreations of significant confrontations between the Alliance and the Empire. These scenarios can engender a number of different tasks, however historical missions can be tackled non-sequentially, and are not formed into an overarching campaign, which differentiates it from the structure of the Tour of Duty mode. Missions are divided into categories based on the starship associated with each particular mission. Once completed, missions from the Tour of Duty campaigns can also be replayed at any time through the Historical Combat menu. Players earn battle patches for completing historical missions.
Tour of Duty
The mode through which the main narrative of Star Wars: X-Wing is conveyed, Tour of Duty offers three campaigns consisting of multiple scenarios linked by an overarching story. Missions in each tour must be completed sequentially, though pilots can opt to exit a tour to engage in a different one at any time. These missions can run the gamut of anything from non-engagement reconnaissance missions, to protracted space battles involving capital ships. Any mission completed in this mode will earn the player a ribbon, and medals may be awarded for completing certain tasks as well, such as completing an entire tour.
While X-Wing doesn't contain a large variety of ships to choose from, each one is distinct in terms of it handling and weapons load. The initially available craft are the A-Wing, X-Wing, and Y-Wing, which represent light, medium, and heavy fighters respectively. Through a later expansion the B-Wing, an even heavier class of fighter, was also made available to fly, bringing the final count of vessels to four.
|Top Speed: 100 MGLT|
Shield Strength / Hull Rating: 50 SBD / 20 RU
Classification: Space Superiority Fighter
- 4 Laser Cannons
- 2 Proton Torpedo Launchers
The workhorse of the Alliance fleet, the X-Wing is an extremely balanced vessel with both great maneuverability, good speed, and solid shielding. While it is not the best ship in any single category, neither does it have any glaring weaknesses, and this versatility makes it a solid choice for most any combat mission.
|Top Speed: 80 MGLT|
Shield Strength / Hull Rating: 75 SBD / 40 RU
Classification: Heavy Attack Fighter
- 2 Laser Cannons
- 2 Ion Cannons
- 2 Proton Torpedo Launchers
Primarily designed for precision strikes against slower targets, the Y-Wing is somewhat sluggish and hard to maneuver compared to other ships of its size, making it less than ideal for dogfighting. What it lacks in speed and handling however it makes up for with a diverse array of weaponry and better-than-average shielding.
|Top Speed: 120 MGLT|
Shield Strength / Hull Rating: 50 SBD / 15 RU
- 2 Laser Cannons
- 2 Concussion Missile Launchers
The Alliance vessel of choice for reconnaissance missions and light combat engagements, the A-Wing is a blisteringly fast though somewhat fragile ship. While its speed comes with a significant sacrifice in firepower, skillful pilots can run circles around other fighters, even other vessels known for their speed, such as the TIE Fighter.
|Top Speed: 91 MGLT|
Shield Strength / Hull Rating: 125 SBD / 60 RU
Classification: Heavy Assault Fighter
- 3 Laser Cannons
- 3 Ion Cannons
- 2 Proton Torpedo Launchers
Capable of carrying and delivering an impressive payload, the B-Wing rivals the Alliance's other heavy fighter, the Y-Wing, in terms of sheer power, and comes with impressive shielding as well. Unfortunately, it is also notoriously unwieldy and not particularly fast; for these reasons it is normally reserved for only the most skilled of pilots.
Over the course of half a decade, Star Wars: X-Wing would see a number of re-releases. While this is not an uncommon occurrence for a game of its popularity, this phenomenon is particularly noteworthy in the case of X-Wing, as its presentation gradually evolved over the course of its releases, incorporating engine upgrades and new audiovisual elements with each new version. While most of the updates had little effect on gameplay, certain missions deemed too difficult in the original release were tweaked, with a toggle inserted in the options menu to allow expert players to re-enable them.
Sold on both 3.5" and 5.25" floppy disks, Star Wars: X-Wing was initially released for MS-DOS 3.0 or higher early in 1993. It contained three tours of duty, which would be supplemented later that year by two expansion tours (Imperial Pursuit and B-Wing), both of which were also available in floppy disk format. This version as well as the Collector's CD-ROM version uses LucasArts' proprietary Interactive Music Streaming Engine, or iMuse, to recreate John Williams' iconic score in MIDI form.
- MS-DOS, Floppy Disk, X-Wing Engine
Released the following year, the X-Wing Collector's CD-ROM bundles both of the previously released expansions in with the original game into a single package. It includes new, more authentic sound effects as well as additional voice over work, which is mainly used for mission briefings. Certain missions in the game have also been reworked in light of their punishing difficulty. Finally, the in-flight graphics have been upgraded by way of the TIE Fighter engine, which is itself a modified iteration of the X-Wing engine.
- MS-DOS, CD-ROM, TIE Fighter Engine
Coming five years after the game's first release, the Collector Series version of X-Wing (also released later as part of the X-Wing Trilogy) introduces several cosmetic upgrades. The game receives improved graphics yet again, this time thanks to the X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter engine, which allows for hardware acceleration. Additionally, the game's cutscenes and GUI were redone in higher resolutions. The MIDI music of previous games was also replaced by Red Book audio tracks of John Williams' original score.
- Windows 95/98, CD-ROM, XvT Engine
Two more Tours of Duty were later released on floppy disk in addition to being packaged in with later versions of the game. Both are set chronologically between the events of Episode IV and Episode V as the Alliance searches for a new base of operations. Each campaign is significantly longer than any of the original three, and are accompanied by new cutscenes as well. The latter introduces a new spacecraft, the B-Wing, to the preexisting three. A third expansion was planned, but never released.
Tour IV: Imperial Pursuit
- Set prior to The Empire Strikes Back, the Rebels are still under constant assault by Imperial forces despite their victory in the Battle of Yavin. Evacuating Yavin IV, they begin a long trek to find a new safe haven with Imperial forces all the while tirelessly pursuing them.
Tour V: B-Wing
- Still under constant assault, the Rebels continue their search for a new base while also bringing a new weapon to bear against the Galactic Empire: the B-Wing assault bomber. Toward the end of the campaign, the Rebels must make the jump to Hoth without drawing Imperial attention.