It’s been two decades since Star Wars: X-Wing originally blew up PC screens and you’d think all this talk of it being one of the greatest flight sim games/greatest Star Wars games of all time was just a bunch of nostalgia. But then GOG.com brought it online for the latest wave of gamers to experience and suddenly I realized nostalgia was just about 10% of X-Wing‘s genius, with the other 90% being all thanks to the game’s mechanics, depth, and sheer fun.
The most important thing to point out is the sheer amount of content X-Wing‘s Special Edition comes with: 100+ unique missions, several different craft to fly said missions, and a strategy guide with 595 pages which contains the Farlander Papers hidden within. The 100+ missions might seem daunting, because well frankly it is, but unlike some games where they throw too much content at you to hide the game’s ineptitude, they throw all these missions at you to taunt you. Each mission grows in challenges, each Tour of Duty more involved and complicated than the last, but it all manages to feel attainable if you can beat the next mission. That ‘if’ depends on your skills and tendency to become frustrated, because you’ll need your skills to be high and your tendency to be low to play this game for any longer than a few missions.
The best place to start gaining skill and avoid being frustrated with X-Wing is by overcoming the initially daunting controls. There are tons of controls, making it feel like if there’s something you’d imaged there’d need to be a button for to control it in your starfighter, it has a button already, even if it’s not entirely necessary. Want to peer out the back right corner of the cockpit? Check. Want to scroll through targets so you can discern what’s what against the backdrop of space? Check. Want to bolster your rear shields as an enemy fighter has you in their sights? Check. You’ll want to either find yourself a joystick or hook-up a video game system’s controller and get ready to memorize your selected button layout for any hopes of successfully completing missions as the game gets going. My fears regarding remembering the controls was almost instantly dashed once I realized how important they all were to the life and death situations I was finding myself in, like skirting meters from enemy craft on reconnaissance missions as an A-wing or facing a Star Destroyer and it’s full complement of TIE Fighters, and they were quickly in-grained in my brain.
Before I knew it, I was messing with shields, speed, and laser power like a pro–even if I was dying a lot still–and that’s when the thrill of the experience set in. Sure, it’s tough overall, much like older games tend to be due to little-to-no handholding, but once you pass or ace a mission the real genius of the flight-sim nature of the game sets in. Whereas the Rogue Squadron series’ arcade gameplay lends itself to a quicker joy and ease of accessibility, X-Wing‘s depth proves to be a more rewarding experience. The amount of control the game gives you over the vehicle adds a strategy element to gameplay, resulting in more methodical and nuanced approaches to combat situations. It’s was lot of fun, believe it or not, to figure out which balance of shields, lasers, and engines gave me the best results for a mission, and just how often I’d have to change it to fit a new situation unfolding in a mission. But, if you’re quick to frustration, you may never get to experience any of that and will likely not enjoy this game at all. X-Wing‘s difficulty spikes are higher than the Rogue Squadron series, but playing one of the games in the latter’s series is a great primer for jumping into this flight sim series.
Outside of the official Star Wars site having a nice little write-up on X-Wing after it was re-released on GOG.com, there’s been some articles answering the important question: which version of X-Wing does one play, 1994 or 1998? GOG included both the original release and remastered release of the game, but the one you should play might surprise you: 1994’s (The article’s author, Kat, even points out Michael A. Stackpole mentioned a level from the game in the X-Wing: Rogue Squadron novel). The main reasons to play it would seem to be dynamic music and in-game voice over, something you’d think would naturally be included or added in a remastered release, not subtracted from. I took a spin in both versions and I can honestly say the music, despite not being important to whether you die or not, certainly helps the game more than I realized and I’d vote for the 1994 version as well. And if you’re that worried about the graphics between versions, which the 1998 one barely upgrades, you might as well flip a coin.
If you can master the various aspects of the game, like its controls and steep difficulty, picking it up should be an easy decision at this point. Either you’re going to want to experience this classic Star Wars game or you won’t, but for those who do there’s a rewarding experience hiding behind all the frustration. Honestly though, I haven’t completely mastered X-Wing yet, but the overriding fun factor, despite the many difficulty spikes and resulting frustrations, keeps pulling me back in. And it’s not just all nostalgia’s fault.
+ Tons of content
– Frustration will be often
Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth.
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