People have argued over the years over the validity of PC games. Supporters of PC gaming champion the technical proficiency and mod support while detractors will complain about the price of entry and the numerous bugs associated with the PC version of many games. Regardless of what camp your in, there are some games that transcend both argument and creates an interactive experience unlike any other. In this article, I will discuss one game (the one that happens to be my #1 favorite game) that continues to blow my mind to this day. That game is TIE-Fighter.
And it came out in 1994.
There are so many things that make TIE-Fighter such an incredible experience. So I'll start with the most important aspect, the gameplay. TIE-Fighter is the definitive PC game. TIE-Fighter is a space flight simulator along the lines of Microsoft's Flight Simulator series. But instead of dull real-world scenarios for you to do, This is set in the Star Wars universe (obviously). and not only that, you are the bad guys (or are you? I'll get into that later). This game is equally complex and rewarding and here are the reasons why.
TIE-Fighter doesn't streamline anything. You don't simply hit "enter" and start playing. You are a rookie in the Imperial Navy and you need training. Instead of tutorials, there were numerous training simulators that you would use to learn how to play the game. None of this is required, but you will want to do these first.
Each training module with teach some basic function required to play the game. There is an officer that guides you through the session with instructions. The choice is your however, to either follow the training bit by bit, for just blow through it by just completing the objectives. You'll be rewarded with a medallion either way, but you are encouraged to take the instructions seriously. Since you are rewarded with a higher score.
After you start to get the hang of your fighter it's time to go into battle for real. You (Alpha 2) patrol around your base and it's all quiet right now. Suddenly several cargo freighters come out of lightspeed. You are now tasked with inspecting the fleets cargo. You set your CMD (Combat Multiview Display) to each of the freighters and identify their contents. But wait, one of them is smuggling illegal cargo. Base then dispatches a squad of Assault Gunboats to disable the freighter to be seized. Suddenly another squad of unidentified ships come in. They are hostile and they have set they're sights on the Gunboats. Now it's your turn to fight. Alpha squad has set it's sights on these enemy craft. you are caught in a dogfight. You cycle through the ships in this sector on your targeting computer, and notice your leader (Alpha 1) has been hit. You also noticed one of the transport ships is aiming for the gunboats.
What do you do?
Do you stay loyal to your flight leader, or do you protect the gunboats? You have to make a choice now. When suddenly . . . "Alpha 1 has been destroyed" is displayed on the message bar at the bottom of the screen. You are now Alpha leader, you order your squadmate to cover you while you protect the gunboats. Suddenly you're hit. your sensors are busted out and your fighter is on the verge of collapse (you are a TIE-Fighter after all). Do you fight blind or do you return to base? You decide to return to the outpost. Your Primary Objectives are complete (which is all you need to progress to the next mission). and you manage to return home.
That is the very first mission in the very first (of 13) Battle in TIE-Fighter. There are no cutscenes during the mission. You have absolute control; You control your CMD (the 'T' or 'Y' keys). You order your squadmate to cover you ('Shift-C') and you enter the hangar of the platform (get within 0.8km of the base and hit 'SPACEBAR'). This is just a small sample of just how complex and rewarding this game is.
While the gameplay is certainly great, it doesn't mean much without the proper context. And this game provides that as well as insight and scope within the Star Wars universe. Each Battle (a series of missions. Usually around 6-7) has its own background. In Battle 2. You are tasked with ending a civil war between two warring factions. The Dimok and Ripoblus. You intervene, protecting one or the other and eventually capture both Dimok and Ripoblus leader to negotiate a peace treaty. Peace? Weren't the Empire the bad guys. They end a civil war and with the empires aid, become prosperous. Were the rebels exaggerating the evil deeds of the Galactic Empire. Are the rebels actually terrorists? These are questions that are explored in more depth since TIE-Fighter's story is told solely from the perspective of the Empire. It's a fresh point-of-view that allows the game to feel unique and familiar at the same time.
Later on in the game, A high ranking officer, Admiral Zarrin goes rogue. Several campaigns are dedicated to fighting Zarrin and his fleet. While in between taking care of unaffiliated worlds and dealing with the Rebel Alliance. The game really conveys a sense of scope in that the empire has more on it's plate than fighting Luke and his gang of misfits.
Then there are the hidden objectives throughout the course of the game. Before each mission you can speak with a member of the Secret Order of the Emperor. He'll give you a secondary set of mission objectives if you want to move up with the Secret Order. Here's another example of a game that doesn't streamline itself to be more accessible. There is no arrow pointing to where you need to go, there is no highlighted area. In order to complete the extra objectives. Simply heed the Envoy's advice beforehand and pay attention to your surroundings. It's simply another layer of depth to an already dense game that is equally rewarding which aren't half bad either, aside from a higher score, completing these additional goals with gives you notches for the medals you obtain after each battle. and a badass tattoo that grows and becomes more elaborate the higher you reach within the Order.
This was only mark for the third order. They got even cooler than this the higher you ranked. The internet, for some reason, didn't have any of the others.
TIE-Fighter is the definitive PC game. It's extremely dense and requires a lot of time in order to learn to play well. But it's in that great investment that makes the game so incredibly rewarding. It tell a story from the universe we all know and love, and puts a twist on it by giving you another perspective on it. All this accumulates to an timeless experience that will blow your mind even today, 17 years after its release.
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