Wing Commander and its many sequels deserve a place among the pantheon of the most influential games for the PC. Chris Roberts’ epic space-shooter ushered in the era of eyeball-popping graphics, married to an epic storyline that fully immersed players in an expansive universe. The first iteration of the classic series was released in 1990, and in 1993 the Privateer games were spun-off from the original as open-world (or galaxy) space simulation games set in the same universe but allowing players to forge their own path: soldier, merchant, mercenary or something in-between.
When EA shut the door on Roberts’ developer Origin, he went on to create Freelancer, a further treatise on the space shooter/exploration genre released by Microsoft Game Studios in 2003. The free-form space exploration and combat genre has since been sporadic in nature, perhaps most fully pursued by the X series, started by Egosoft in 1999.
Now, via Kickstarter crowdfunding as well as pledge packages via the RSI website, the spiritual successor to Freelancer is set to pick up the space exploration and combat mantle in a grand, AAA-title way. Surpassing 15 million dollars in funding and counting, Star Citizen should push the genre further than any big-name publishing company would dare. Planned features include accurate physics modelling, dozens of ship designs to meet any play-style, vibrant system economies, all playable through either MMO style in a universe populated by other players, or in a campaign mode featuring drop-in/out co-op with friends.
However you choose to experience it, Star Citizen should prove to fill the vacuum of space simulation gameplay. Roll-outs of various player experiences based on the actual graphical engine for the game will appear periodically over the next couple of years, and gamers can expect the finished game to jump into this star system in early 2015.