A spin-off of the Wing Commander games (it takes place sometime between the first and second Wing Commander games), in Privateer, you are free to do as you wish in the game, for the most part. There's an actual plot which can be completely ignored (and even missed if the player never checks any of the bars at certain stations) if the player doesn't care to "end" the game. Even then, the player can ignore the plot temporarily and even continue playing the game after the plot has ended, if he or she wants to. The game was released by Origin (way back before Electronic Arts bought it out) in 1994 and, to this day, I've seen only a small handful of games with the same level of freedom in them. Unfortunately, the only sequel (Privateer 2: The Darkening) sucked (so says every opinion I've heard of it, at least, as I've never played it myself), the game is no longer in print (though if you look around, you might find it hosted online somewhere), and it seems another sequel and an MMORPG based on the Privateer gameworld/style of play has been cancelled. The game also features no multiplayer mode. These, however, are pretty much the only drawbacks. When I got this game it was already a "classic" title and included the game's expansion, Righteous Fire, on the same disc.
The player began the game as a privateer in an asteroid mining base in the Troy system. The ship you begin with is a Tarsus class. It has little, but enough, cargo space, and room for two primary weapons and two secondary weapons or tractor beams. It isn't much but it works until you can afford better.
The primary weapon types use energy rather than physical ammunition to fire and are much more frequently used. They are (in order of least expensive to most expensive):
Other purchasable craft and their properties:
Orion class - The tank. Can use the highest level of shields and armor, mount two primary weapons on the front, two in the rear turret, and one secondary weapon in front and rear. The cargo hold is the same size as that of the Tarsus class. Price: 75,000 credits.
Galaxy class - A merchant ship. Largest cargo space of them all and the most turrets (three - left, right, rear). Two primary weapons and a secondary weapon can be put in each turret and in the front. Despite all the armaments, Galaxies aren't too hard to take out. If you can defend yourself well and do a lot of cargo runs, it's not a bad choice but not entirely necessary. Price: 150,000 credits.
Centurion class - It looks and acts like a fighter jet. The ultimate pick for battle, the Centurion has the smallest space for cargo (the same as the Orion and Tarsus but without the ability to upgrade the hold), a rear turret (two primary weapons, one secondary) and room for four primary weapons and two secondary weapons in front (I recommend two ion cannons in the centre and two tachyon cannons on the edges -- until you can afford fusion cannons in the expansion that is). It's also the fastest. Price: 200,000 credits.
There's four basic types of bases you'll encounter in the gameworld: A mining colony attached to a mineral-rich asteroid; a hidden pirate base (looks like the mining base but isn't marked on your charts); an ore-refining space station; an agricultural base on an Earth-like planet; and another Earth-like planet you can land on, the pleasure base (a vacation spot). While not all of these bases have every feature (such as a repair bay or a certain guild office), they're mostly the same. There are a few key variants to these, which are unique: New Detroit (a planet turned gigantic refinery/metropolis); New Constantinople (the government space station for the quadrant of space the game is in - the Gemini quadrant); Perry Naval Base (the Confederacy's military base for the quadrant); and Oxford (an entire planet used as a university).
Not every base has every section. Pirate bases typically don't have ship repair/purchasing sections or Merchant's Guild offices, for example. All bases, however, have a little computer station the player can find missions from and a bar, which contains some of the people necessary for the game's plot to move along at some points. The plot begins when the player takes a strange alien artifact as collateral from a suspicious character who wants to hire him/her in New Detroit's bar. This fellow is killed while the player is delivering his cargo, leaving the player character with the artifact but no information about it or why his employer was slain. To find out the player will work for drug-smuggling pirates, wealthy mobsters, rebelling colonists, a deep-space explorer, and the military. Along the way, the player will no doubt encounter the following groups, which will respond in either a friendly or hostile manner, depending on how the player has acted:
- bounty hunters
These guys have a neutral status toward the player at the game's beginning. They can be found piloting Orion, Centurion, and Demon class ships (the player cannot buy a demon class ship). A mission that requires the player to kill "mercenaries" most likely means having to kill some bounty hunter type enemies. There is a Mercenaries' Guild at some bases which, for an entrance fee of 5,000 credits, allows you to pick from some higher paying patrol and bounty missions. Aside from specific mission targets, bounty hunters will only become hostile without provokation if the player has killed more than a few merchants, bounty hunters, militia, or confederate ships. In order to change relations from neutral to friendly, avoid killing anyone belonging to any of the afore mentioned groups, keeping your hostilities for the pirates, Retros, and Kilrathi.
At the game's beginning they're neutral toward the player. They can be found piloting Tarsus, Galaxy, and Drayman class vessels (Draymen, which can't be purchased by the player, are huge cargo vessels that have appeared in other Wing Commander games). Only one mission requires a merchant vessel to be destroyed (it's a plot critical mission and counts as killing a pirate, since pirates are in control of the ship when you find it). Destroying merchant vessels usually results in some of their cargo floating around, which you can pick up and sell if once you get back to a base if you have a tractor beam. There is a Merchant's Guild at some bases which, for an entrance fee of 1,000 credits, allows you to pick from some higher paying cargo missions (the guild occasionally has a bounty mission as well for a pirate). Merchants will only become hostile without provokation if the player has killed more than a few merchants, militia, or confederate ships. In order to change relations from neutral to friendly, avoid killing anyone belonging to any of the afore mentioned groups, keeping your hostilities for the pirates, Retros, Kilrathi, and bounty hunters.
At the beginning of the game, the militia are neutral toward the player. The militia act as the Gemini Sector's police. Along their patrols through the systems they will scan various craft for contraband (usually drugs or slaves), giving the message "Maintain speed and course for contraband search" prior to starting their scan. If the player is carrying contraband, this is usually a good time to jettison it (it can be retrieved in a moment with a tractor beam, provided no one runs into it), begin fleeing, or getting ready for battle. They can be found piloting Talon and Gladius class ships, neither of which the player can purchase. Militia forces will only become hostile without provokation if the player has killed more than a few merchants, militia, or confederate ships. In order to change relations from neutral to friendly, avoid killing anyone belonging to any of the afore mentioned groups, keeping your hostilities for the pirates, Retros, Kilrathi, and bounty hunters.
At the beginning of the game, the Confederacy is neutral toward the player. The Confeds are the military, fighting the war against the Kilrathi. They can be found piloting Stiletto and Broadsword class ships and have a few big cruisers about as well (paradigm class). As with militia craft, the player can't purchase any ship types the Confederacy uses. The confeds occasionally scan for contraband as well but aren't nearly as numerous as the militia away from systems not close to Kilrathi space. Confed forces will only become hostile without provokation if the player has killed more than a few merchant, militia, or confederate ships. In order to change relations from neutral to friendly, avoid killing anyone belonging to any of the afore mentioned groups, keeping your hostilities for the pirates, Retros, Kilrathi, and bounty hunters.
Pirates are hostile to the player right from the start. They can be found only in Talon class craft, which they purchased through illegal channels (which the player cannot). Pirate forces are about as numerous as the militia and can usually be found attacking merchants. To gain neutrality or friendship with the pirates, take out a lot of merchants, bounty hunters, militia, and/or confeds, and try to avoid killing as many pirates as possible. One can make money as a pirate buying drugs from pirate bases and selling them elsewhere at a higher price (not every base's commodity exchange will buy them though) and destroying merchant vessels, tractoring in their cargo, and selling it. Regular missions can still be accepted, even if you're considered a pirate, which is good because pirating alone is a pretty slow way to make money.
Like the pirates, the Retros are hostile right away and fly illegally purchased Talons. Unlike the pirates, however, Retros will always remain hostile toward the player, regardless of how many of their enemies he/she slays. The Retros are cult members who believe that technology is evil but use it, regardless, to destroy heathen that would embrace it (which is everyone but the Retros, basically). Retros tend to be a bit harder to kill than pirates, despite flying the same type of craft. Heathen, taste the purifying fire of the Lord!
The Wing Commander universe's main villain for quite a few games. Hostile from the start but can be pacified if the player slays enough of any Terran ships (except the Retros) and doesn't attack any Kilrathi. Rather rare to find and, as a result, one can become allies with them prior to ever encountering one. They fly in Dralthi, Gothri, and Salthi (expansion only) class fighters, in addition to few light carrier type ships (called Kamekh) here and there, and are quite skilled in combat. The Kilrathi aren't a common find except in one quadrent of the sector, where some systems are still under their control (no Kilrathi bases for the player to find though). Obviously, the player cannot purchase a Kilrathi ship.
The various mission types the player can take (and get paid for upon sucessful completion) are cargo delivery, hits against hostile mercenaries (bounty hunters), pirates, Retros, or Kilrathi at a known location, and patrols. There are a few special missions that only characters central to the game's plot will give and somethings the player can only do by his or her decision while flying (piracy, drug smuggling, etc.). The game allows the player to live as a pirate, a completely nuts misanthrope, a merchant, or a mercenary (and whether or not to abide by the interstellar law) in an immense gameworld.