Chronicles of a Wing Commander, Part 4:
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi

Due to the sheer number of screen caps for this part of the journal, this page will be presented in four parts. Be warned, though, that everything on this page can be considered a plot spoiler, so read at your own risk. However, I have purposely hidden or omitted one of the major spoilers of the game, as only a cold-hearted son-of-a-bastich would reveal them, even after a warning.

I received Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (henceforth referred to as VotK) for Christmas, 1994. I remember very clearly opening the wrapping on the present to see the words "WING COMMANDER" underneath, and being very excited. Joe and I were very excited to begin play as soon as we could, and he spent the night the next weekend. Oh, it was hell having swore over the phone that I would not play the game until he was there. I should never have done that. Ugh! I'm sure the guys from Software & Such were delighted not to see the two of us for a very long time, as well. The box design went back to the traditional, brightly colored and exciting splash cover that the first one had sported. Look at all the action going on here:

Joe and I theorized that the ship on the cover was the "Tiger's Claw II," since it had the number 14 painted on it, and the original Tiger's Claw had the number 07. 7 x 2 = 14. That was our line of thinking. No joke.

However, VotK takes a giant left turn from the first three games. Gone are the days of friendly conversations, camaraderie, medal ceremonies, promotions, and pats on the back. No, we're treated to a very intricate, very unsettling introduction.

Ah, my home away from home. How's it hangin', fellas? We going on another secret mis...



Rattled, we watched on:

We finally get a real look at the cats, including Prince Thrakhath, the cat who threatened us in Crusade.

Stealth fighters? What!?

No. Not excellent.


"Never" sounds so ... permanent.

Again: no, not excellent.


TREASON!? ME? Ok, I've concluded that this is all just a big joke. Right? RIGHT?


Ok, let's take a quick breather here. By this point, Joe and I are in a state of shock. Here we were expecting to hang out with our buddies, kick some Kilrathi butt, and just keep on keepin' on the way we had previously in the Firekka system. To go from taking over for Colonel Halcyon aboard the Tiger's Claw to finding out our friends are dead, being branded a traitor and a liar by the Confederation, and being relegated to some back alley space station when we're INNOCENT was so out of left field to us that we literally sat there watching, our jaws agape; we weren't even drinking our sodas.

Meanwhile...Ah, meanwhile. What's a story without meanwhile? Helpless are we minus meanwhile, so for me to use my meanwhile, we turn back to Prince Thrakhath; the other cat in this scene is, as we soon learn, his cousin, Khasra.

So those WERE "stealth fighters" that destroyed the Claw!

Of course, you can't leave any evidence that might exonerate me behind. Nooo...

I've been sitting on my haunches out here for TEN YEARS?

As if you couldn't tell by that introduction, VotK is very different from its predecessors. The player character is no longer the "hero" of the story, and is instead cast into a role of shame, risk, and personal redemption. This being the case, the game has done away with medals, promotions, and better ship assignments due to great performance in the cockpit. VotK also eschewed the "conversation" pieces that were such a big part of the previous three games, in favor of showing the player the progressing story through the same type of cut-scenes that were only used for major victories or losses before. The only times that the player would "talk" to the NPC's involved would be during these cut-scenes, and while this added a whole new level of cinematic immersion to the franchise, as a kid, I felt that it took some of the choice away from me. For example, I would now be forced to interact with Jazz instead of being able to choose to ignore him. While the cinematic aspect of the game was great, I felt like all I was doing was flying missions and watching cut-scenes with no choice as to whom I talked to or when.

Not quite as homey of a barracks, either. This is where games were saved and loaded. Get some sleep!

On the plus side, VotK included yet another transfer feature that allowed players to transfer in their pilot data from Crusade. Players are still allowed to name the character and choose whatever unique callsign they like, with the added bonus of the game also asking for your first name in addition to your last. Previously, the game had only asked your last name, and you were only referred to as "(Rank) (Last Name)" or your callsign. In VotK, some NPC's call you by your first name, which makes those NPC's feel much more like personal friends than background characters, in my opinion.

VotK was also the first of the Wing Commander franchise to feature what was referred to at the time as "digitized speech." Players could purchase a "speech accessory pack" either direct from Origin or in stores, that, once installed, made the game "talk" to you. Players could now hear the voices of the characters, which was very dynamic at the time. Characters each had their own unique "voice," and Wing Commander had once again stepped up to do something that wasn't being done with other, similar games of the era.

Oddly enough, the box's graphic is from the Wing Commander 1 instruction manual, and it's of a guy who ends up getting killed, according to the story that goes with the photo. Anyway, the speech accessory pack was expensive when it was first released, and downright impossible to find secondhand several years after the game's initial release. Thus, Joe and I played VotK in the same manner as we had with the first three: reading the subtitles first, looking at the characters' faces second. As an adult, I decided not to track down the speech accessory pack on eBay and play the game in the same way I did as a teenager.

The story follows the player character ten years after the destruction of the Tiger's Claw. We see him start off at the out-of-the-way Caernavron Station, since Admiral Tolwyn still believes that the player character is responsible for the destruction of the Tiger's Claw and a traitor. Life on Caernavron pretty much consists of flying a desk and only running routine patrols around the sector every here and there, as the station is far from action central; the most exciting thing to happen may be a garbage scow or free trader occasionally passing through the system.

The Cast:
(Caernavron Station)

Take me to Part 2!