Backlog Burndown #29 – The Last Mission

Backlog Burndown Generic Header Clean

Greetings Backloggers! Backlog progress severely stalled out over the summer, and I’ve once again been wracking up more free games to play than I’ve been finishing. The main backlog highlight of Fall has been the completion of a roughly three-and-a-half-year project to play through all of the games in the Star Wars: X-Wing series!

In 1999, Totally Games finally gave Star Wars fans the TIE Fighter sequel they’d been waiting for with Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance. A true single-player focused sequel, it did incorporate the multiplayer elements first pioneered in X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, but put the focus squarely back to a story-based campaign.

The overall plot followed the timeline of The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. In a significant departure from previous games, players were no longer an unnamed pilot, but instead stepped into the flight suit of Ace Azzameen. A series of Family Business side missions focused on Ace and his family. In between missions, players got a new hub in the lounge of Ace’s family YT-2000 transport, the Otana.

Star Wars X-Wing Alliance YT-2000

The Otana, as visually improved with the X-Wing Alliance Upgrade mod.

The original graphics to the game were good for the late ‘90s, and made the most of the 3D Accelerators of the time, but haven’t aged well in nineteen years. However, the game still has a small but active mod community that continues to create new patches and beautify the game. The game is best played with a good joystick. While keyboard and mouse are supported control schemes, X-Wing Alliance was really meant to be experience with a flightstick for that proper piloting feel. Audio continued to make use of the classic John Williams’ inspired score for big elements.

Star Wars X-Wing Alliance X-Wing Closeup

Exterior X-Wing closeup after visual upgrade.

Gameplay revolves around solo missions. In another major departure from previous games in the series, any combat mission that isn’t part of the Family Business storyline can be skipped. Obviously, this will have an impact on players’ final scores, but it can be helpful for an especially difficult or buggy mission. Mission difficulty itself has some definite pacing issues, and problems with inconsistent difficulty.

In 2018, the best way to acquire Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance is through either Steam or The DRM-free version on GoG comes with some additional fun extras, but either store provides players with a game which works perfectly on Windows 7. Some players may still have issues with getting the Steam version of the game running under Windows 10. Both the Steam and GoG discussion pages for the game have threads for how to get the game running, and walkthroughs for how to install the graphical improvements fan patch.

For fans of the X-Wing game series, Star Wars fans, or just space combat fans in general, X-Wing Alliance is well worth playing. It’s not the best entry in the series, and isn’t the game I’d recommend as an entry point into the franchise, but it’s still a solid game in its own right that tried to do some slightly new things. Finishing the game with the climactic run through the spaces of the Death Star II will leave any player with a sense of exhilaration.

The saddest thing about the game is wondering what could have been. Both the prequel movies Rogue One, and the new trilogy have featured some fantastic space battle sequences. The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels have similarly featured some great space battles which would present fantastic source material for a new X-Wing series. With the success of Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen, the time has never been better for a new game, but with EA now handling all Star Wars game development, it seems unlikely that gamers will ever set foot in the virtual cockpit of an X-Wing in a new game, save for in the mediocre space battle segments of a Star Wars: Battlefront release.

Backlog Verdict: Any fan of Star Wars or classic space-combat sims who has this in his or her backlog should definitely play through it. In fact, it’s one of the rare games that I’d thoroughly recommend picking up next time it comes up on a Steam or GoG sale, even if it does push the backlog in the wrong direction.

On a personal note, Star Wars: X-Wing was the first major Let’s Play project that I started streaming on Twitch. Three years and seven months later, I finally finished X-Wing Alliance. In the course of that time I changed jobs once, moved twice (one of which was half-way across the country), upgraded my gaming PC from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and went from never running to successfully running a half-marathon. I’m hoping to have a little more stability on my next long-term series LP project.

My first mission series that I uploaded to YouTube. I’d already done the X-Wing historical missions,
but never archived or uploaded those. I would learn better.

The final mission from X-Wing Alliance. I like to think I learned a few things over the years.

Previous Backlog Count:

Current Backlog Count: 1,323 (+41)

Backlog Burndown is a semi-regular feature on Marooners’ Rock. Read previous columns in the archives, and suggest future games to play in the comments!

Aaron is proof that while you can take a developer out of the game industry, it's much harder to take the game industry out of a developer. When not at his day job, Aaron enjoys teaching Axis & Allies to his kids, writing sci-fi stories, playing classic space sims on Twitch, and riding around the American Midwest on his Harley.

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