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Wing Commander Saga: The Darkest Dawn

Today’s post was going to be about Overhaul Games’ recent announcement that their “enhanced” version ofBaldur’s Gate would be coming to the iPad. As a fan of both the original game series and gaming on the iPad itself, I was ecstatic to read this and I’m looking forward to see how the game’s point-and-click control style will translate to the iPad’s generous touch screen.

But then I came across another announcement that got me even more excited:

Wing Commander Saga: The Darkest Dawn has launched.

For those unfamiliar with the property, the original Wing Commander was a space combat sim wherein you played the role of a nameless human starfighter pilot thrust into the middle of a vicious war against the feral alien warrior race known as the “Kilrathi.” Featuring the best space battles this side of X-Wing and Tie Fighter, Wing Commander seemingly came out of nowhere and instantly captured my very, very young attention.

Later titles, in addition to tightening the gameplay, would add to the mythos of the property. They gave your character a name (Christopher Blair), developed three of the best sidekicks to ever fly across a computer screen (Angel, Hobbes, and Maniac) and arguably reached their pinnacle in the understated masterpiece that was Wing Commander IV (starring Mark Hammil, Malcom McDowell, Tom Wilson, and the chairman from Iron Chef).

The rich character work, mythology, and plotlines made the series my favorite sci-fi video game property (well, until the release of Mass Effect). The main Wing Commander series would end with Wing Commander V, and the property itself would suffer almost irreversible damage due to the release of the abhorrent 1999 movie starring Freddie Prinze Jr.

How to kill a franchise.

This massive flop effectively killed the property. For a long time after, there would be occasional rumors that a resurrection was forthcoming. Sadly, it was not to be. And until now, there remains no hope for an official continuation for the series.

Thankfully, the series does boast some rather wonderfully skilled fans with the drive and determination to see the series live on in one way or another.

Hence, Wing Commander Saga: The Darkest Dawn. This fan-made and EA-permitted (if not endorsed) game is built on the back of the excellent Freespace 2 engine and is set at the tail end of the events of Wing Commander III. Although you do not get to revisit the universe as Commander Blair, you won’t find me complaining about the ability to have a hand in creating a new hero to take the fight to the Kilrathi.

Although I am as yet unable to play it (a Mac OSX release is still forthcoming), I cannot describe how excited I am to see this venerable property resurrected at the hands of developers who are so obviously fans of the series… developers who love it so much that they are offering it up for free.

So whether you are a veteran of the Kilrathi war, a newcomer to the series looking for excellent sci-fi action, or someone looking to support independent developers, why not head over to their site and give a Longbow a spin.

Who knows, if this thing does well, EA may just be inclined to take another look at this property…