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Wing Commander: Privateer is an adventure space flight simulation computer game released by Origin Systems in 1993. Privateer and its storyline is part of the Wing Commander series. Privateer had an add-on titled Righteous Fire (1994) that continues the story and adds other purchasable equipment to the game. The game was followed up by a full-motion video sequel called Privateer 2: The Darkening.

The player takes the role of Grayson Burrows, a "privateer" who travels through the Gemini Sector, one of many sectors in the Wing Commander universe. Unlike Wing Commander, the player is no longer a navy pilot, but a freelancer who can choose to be a pirate, a merchant, a mercenary or any of the above in some combination. The player may follow the built-in plot but is free to adventure on his own, even after the plot has been completed.

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Burrows' name was unknown to the general public for many years. During that period he was known as "Brownhair", by reference to "Bluehair", the Wing Commander I and II protagonist later known as Christopher Blair.

In Privateer 2: The Darkening, you're in a distant corner of the Confederation far into the future. As an amnesiac with a Dark and Troubled Past, it's your job to figure out who you are, and why so many are trying to kill you, while getting tangled up in the politics of the Tri-System.


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These games contain the following tropes:

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     Both Games 
  • Ace Pilot: Both protagonists are this.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: If militia or Confederate fighters discover you carrying illegal goods, they will try to kill you immediately, regardless of quantity. Apparently even a single unit of contraband is a death sentence in these parts.
  • Bounty Hunter: Exists in all three games. You can play as one by taking certain combat missions.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: After acquiring a jump drive in Privateer, it only costs a mere 50 creds per landing to refuel. You can jump up to six times before having to refuel, which will easily get you from one side of the Gemini Sector to another. Privateer 2 doesn't even bother with the cost of a jump drive, it's built in to all ships.
  • Cash Gate:
    • The jump drive you need to get out of the starting sector, in Privateer, costs ten thousand credits, a hefty sum early on in the game. It will also immediately punish you if you put all your money into just getting the jump drive, as the enemy craft outside the opening system are much more difficult and dangerous than those within it (even the Talons get an upgrade, going from a laser and two mass drivers to a mass driver and two particle cannons, turning them into Glass Cannons).
    • Privateer 2 has a few situations that require you to throw down some serious dosh just to continue the plot.
  • Crapsack World: Both the Border Planets and Tri-Systems are lawless hellholes full of pirates, slavery, criminal syndicates, and worse.
  • Conveniently Close Planet: Privateer features planets within a star system that never move, and are infrequently more than 100,000 meters from one another, and all are capable of supporting humans comfortably.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: Privateer and Privateer 2 allow you to equip your own ship to personal preferences, even though fan preferences tended to clump towards one or two configurations.
  • Dialogue Tree: Privateer had a primitive version of this, but it's mostly present in any of the FMV games from Wing Commander III onwards.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: via "jump points", which are formed by specific gravitic conditions. In the games, a Swirly Energy Thingy opens and the ship goes through.
  • The Federation: Terran Confederation is, in general, a benign association of planets built up by humanity, and for the most part the heroes of the series.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: Fans of Privateer and Privateer II, are quite familiar with this tactic. Or, in the case of the latter, frequently the inability to employ it, thanks to the prolific use of random enemies and the limitations on using autopilot or the jump points when enemies are present.
  • Outlaw Town: In Privateer, Space Pirates often operate out of abandoned mining stations, which are often located in an Asteroid Thicket to make things even worse if you're not friendly with the pirates operating out of those stations. However, gameplay-wise their operation isn't really all that different from "legitimate" stations, with the only real exceptions being that you can find illegal commodities to purchase in the market note  and the lack of Merchant's or Mercenary's Guild offices.
    • The entirety of the Tri-Systems in The Darkening seems to operate on this in the sequel. Mostly because they're all under the control of the Kindred either directly or indirectly.
  • Privateer: Privateer, obviously.
  • Random Encounters: These exist in all three games.
  • Space Pirates: Pirates of the first type serve as mooks in Privateer and Privateer 2: The Darkening. The former even has a mission series operating from a pirate base, as a drug smuggler.
  • Space Trucker: Merchants in all three games.
  • Unwinnable by Design: In both games, failing a mission in the main questline will result in the player being unable to progress the central plot any further.

     Privateer 
  • 0% Approval Rating: Long before the events in Privateer, Gemini Sector Governor Menesch actively took part in clandestine operations such as selling surplus Confederation ships to criminal and terrorist organizations. He even made flattering deals with the Kilrathi in order to undermine Confed and humanity from within. You know all those surplus Talon fighters flying around by Space Pirates and the Retros in Privateer? This guy is responsible for that. He was forced into hiding in 2654 after the entire sector declared him a pariah and Confed put a huge bounty on him for such activities and not until 2670 (the time of Righteous Fire) did he show up and secretly stole the player character's Steltek gun from his ship while being moored in Jolson. The stolen gun was then sold to the leader of the Retros, who would then make nerfed duplicates of the gun in order to overthrow both humanity and technology. When news of his recent emergence came to light, everybody, even shady businessman Roman Lynch, started looking for this guy's head because of his aforementioned unscrupulous activities, forcing Menesch to flee to a quieter quadrant. Eventually, he is killed at the hands of the player character.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: In addition to the series' classic radio taunts Privateer allows you to also beg for mercy from hostiles. Unless it is Retros or a plot-dictated enemy, spamming enough of these messages will make anyone stop attacking you.
  • Alliance Meter: Your standing with the factions in the Gemini sector can be altered by which faction you shoot down. While regaining trust with a faction after a killing spree of their pilots is technically possible, without Roman Lynch's help in the add-on Righteous Fire it's much more difficult. Note that Retros will never be friendly other than for plot-dictated reasons in Righteous Fire.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Except for very limited storyline instances, the Retros are always hostile to you, as well as towards everyone else. Accordingly, killing them will also have a positive effect on your reputation with every other faction.
  • Artificial Atmospheric Actions: Non-hostile NPC ships in Privateer would just wander around aimlessly by a jump point, even if logically they should be using it to go somewhere else (merchants), or traveling between jump points in a patrol (Militia, Confed, mercenary).
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Plasma Gun. Outside of the Steltek Gun, it is the most powerful gun you can get in the game from ship dealers. It can destroy any fighter craft in a few hits and even capital ships won't last long under constant barrages from this gun. The major drawbacks of this gun are its expensive price at 80000 credits, a slow firing rate, slow projectile velocity, and tremendous energy drain even with the best engine upgrades. It works well as a mounting for turrets tailored for self-defense.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: In the intro, one laser mounted on a "clunker" with no power output upgrades does more damage than the best fighter available to the player having four of the most powerful guns in the game, among other feats not possible in gameplay.
  • Death Course: Several missions in Privateer and its add-on Righteous Fire don't even allow that option, as the base you're operating out of for them is an abandoned mining base located in the middle of an asteroid field.
  • Disk One Nuke: The friend or foe missile in the original Privateer. Two of these missiles will take out a Talonnote  90% of the time, meaning that a single missile launcher is five almost guaranteed kills. Your starting ship comes already equipped with a missile launcher and loading it up with FF missiles allows you to take combat missions right from the start of the game. Depending on your luck with the randomly generated missionsnote  you may be able to buy your jumpdrive and significantly upgrade your ship (e.g. buying a second missile launcher) after a single sortie.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: On rare occasion, after shooting down a ship in Privateer, you can see a body part (often a hand or booted foot) floating in space.
    • Shooting or crashing into an ejected pilot or container of slaves is almost guaranteed to spawn a gib or two.
  • Elite Mook: Confed, Bounty Hunters, and Kilrathi all have access to significantly faster and more powerful craft that can make for challenging dogfights if you ever get on their bad side.
  • Evil Luddite: The Retros from Privateer are on the same level as the pirates and Kilrathi.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Talon, Militia-owned Gladius, Confed Stiletto, and Kilrathi Dralthi are all super fast and agile starfighters that can make it difficult for opponents to draw a bead on them but they're relatively lightly armed and can't take many hits from more powerful weaponry. Certain factions that use the Talon, such as the Retros and Pirates, sometimes equip their fighter with stronger weaponry during combat and turn it into more of a Glass Cannon.
  • Friend or Foe: It's trivially easy to fall afoul of this with the starting radar, which doesn't give target types any color coding; the militia forces fly the same ships (with different color schemes that are hard to notice until you're right next to them) as the pirates and Retros, further compounding the problem. More advanced radar models color-code contacts, making it much easier to determine who is or isn't a legitimate target.
  • Glass Cannon: The Talon and Bounty Hunter-specific Demon fighters can mount various powerful weaponry in otherwise fragile starfighters so don't let your guard down.
  • Guide Dang It!: The power plant is now part of the ship's engine. Although this does makes sense, in the previous Wing Commander games it was a discrete component. If you're a Wing Commander veteran and didn't read the manual, you'll end up experiencing really odd things, such as extremely expensive engines that don't provide any great increase in thrust (and the in-game statistics don't mention the power output, that information is only contained in the manual), and situations where a lucky hit knocks out your engine, and not only do you lose the ability to speed up or slow down, but your guns and missile launchers stop working!
  • Hard-Coded Hostility: The Retros. While the pirates and Kilrathi start off being enemies of the player, it's possible to get on better terms with them through the main storyline or talking enough of them down in random encounters. Only the Retros are truly irreconcilable regardless of the player's actions.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Officially, your character's name is Grayson Burrows and his nickname is Brownhair. When starting a new game, you can change the name and callsign for your character but these don't have bearing in gameplay.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Confusingly, the slow-ass, stock clunker of a Tarsus that you first fly in Privateer, can simply afterburn away from missiles that are supposedly twice as fast as the ship they're targeting, even without much ECM help.
  • Implacable Man: In Privateer, later in the game when you find and equip the discovered Steltek gun on your ship, a Steltek drone will appear at random and attack only you. Your weapons won't scratch it, and although you may give it the slip using jump points, it will eventually show up again. You only finally get the ability to kill the drone just before the final mission when an actual Steltek comes along and charges up the mounted Steltek gun to give it the ability to harm the drone.
    • Before this there are occasional rumors of others having encountered the Drone. Anyone who has tried to attack it was torn to shreds, including an entire military blockade, and the admiral in charge of Confederation forces in the sector is concerned it could devastate their military presence on its own.
  • Infinity -1 Sword:
    • The Tachyon Cannon. Excellent damage, manageable energy drain, fast firing rate, above average shot velocity, and a not-too-hefty price tag, chances are this will be your most used gun in the later parts of the game. It also makes a cool sound when firing as well.
    • The Friend or Foe Missile. With a good radar mounting, it can wreak havoc on most fighters, including the tougher Kilrathi craft.
  • Infinity +1 Sword:
    • The Steltek Gun. It is the most powerful gun in the game and is not available in any ship dealer. It can only be obtained by advancing well far into the plot. Its rarity and power becomes a plot point in both the regular game and its add-on Righteous Fire.
    • The Fusion Gun in Righteous Fire is a stand-in for the Steltek Gun, with near identical stats but with the advantage of accessibility in ship dealers. Its disadvantage is its high price at 100000 credits, making it the most expensive gun in the game.
  • I Was Never Here: One of the random messages from the pirates in Privateer, when pirates are friendly to you: "I didn't see you, and you're blind."
  • Jack-of-All-Stats:
    • The Centurion fighter boasts a well-balanced combination of firepower, speed, maneuverability, and protection. It only skimps on cargo carrying capacity as it is not suited for delivery missions save for smuggling operations. The add-on Righteous Fire turns the Centurion into a Lightning Bruiser with newer and more advanced ship upgrades.
    • The Galaxy freighter has average stats in every category concerning performance. Unlike the Centurion, the Galaxy has the largest cargo carrying capacity in the game and can mount turrets in both the dorsal and ventral sections of the ship.
  • Knowledge Broker: Roman Lynch provides information to the protagonist to aid his quest in finding out about the mysterious artifact he's acquired, at the expense of performing missions for him.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • The Orion gunship can mount the highest shields and engine mountings possible and can equip a fairly good amount of weaponry but it is as maneuverable as a brick and not that particularly fast.
    • The Confederation Navy has the Broadsword heavy bomber. It is similar to the Orion in terms of maneuverability and speed, but carries more powerful weaponry and is more durable.
    • Capital ships such as the Confed Paradigm and the Kilrathi Kamekh are this as well, with huge amounts of firepower, shielding, and armour but very low speed and maneuverability due to their massive sizes and length.
  • Neglectful Precursors: Subverted with the Steltek. While they did leave around a caches of highly advanced technology, this appears to be completely accidental and they are still keeping an eye on the region and will clean up after themselves once they rediscover their own remnants. In fact the Steltek Drone is an automated system for this, which only becomes a problem after you scavenge a Steltek cannon and it zeroes in on you as a result.
  • No Fair Cheating: In Privateer and its addon Righteous Fire, with invulnerability activated at any time during a mission, whether random or plot, you can't get credit for completing it.
  • Pleasure Planet: An entire class of planet in Privateer. Pleasure planets will buy food, and almost any luxury goods (legal or otherwise). The only products they produce are movies and magazines.
  • Precursors: The Steltek, from Privateer. Arguably they were Precursors of the neglectful variety, though they did make an effort to clean up after themselves once made aware of the problem.
  • Private Military Contractors: The Mercenaries Guild, from Privateer, gives you official missions to target various hostile forces in the Gemini Sector.
  • Space Amish: The Church of Man ("Retros") from Privateer and its addon Righteous Fire are a militant variation on the theme. Of course, the irony of using technology to punish you for using technology is completely lost on the Retros.
  • Spiritual Sequel: When released, the game's resemblance to Elite was quite widely noted.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: In the intro of Righteous Fire, the player character calls out the head security guard of the Jolson pleasure planet for failing to prevent the theft of his prized Steltek Gun from a then-unknown group of conspirators. He vows to find out who stole his gun and settle the score.
  • Tractor Beam: Privateer some times drops loot from destroyed ships, which can be picked up with a tractor beam if mounted, then sold at the next station. This loot sometimes takes the form of...
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: the pilots of the ships you just blew up, who you can vacuum into your cargo hold and sell them as slaves.
  • Who Are You?: From the Privateer intro:
    Space Pirate: Who are you that flies so good? Are you insane?!
    Grayson Burrows:: No, it's just got a load of cargo in the back, and a load of bills to pay at home.
    Pirate: And I the same! You shouldn't kill me just for attacking you!
    Burrows: I don't mind that you tried to kill me, but protecting myself against your kind gets to be expensive, and I'm on a budget! [missile to the pirate's face]
  • Wronski Feint: In the intro for Privateer, the Player Character lures a pirate's missiles around an asteroid, and then sends them back at the firing craft. How he did that in a ship that can't outrun or outturn the missiles is an exercise best left for those who forget the MST3K Mantra.

     Privateer 2 
  • Age Without Youth: The effects of longevity drugs are...not pretty. Kronos literally has an extra undefinable organ attached via a long tail which helps keep him alive.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: The protagonist was, by all accounts, a right bastard before his amnesia.
  • Ax-Crazy: Kronos has been driven around the bend by his abuse of longevity drugs, though everyone indicates he wasn't the most stable guy to begin with.
  • Big Bad: Kronos is this for The Darkening.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Kindred are essential to the operating of the Tri-Systems, so much so that they can't be shut down without effectively plunging the region into anarchy.
  • Body Horror: Kronos has become a Age Without Youth mutant who has an extra organ in a tail grown from his back.
  • Cain and Abel: Lev Arris and Kronos the head of the Kindred.
  • The Caligula: Kronos is completely insane, wasting valuable resources of the Kindred in pursuit of the protagonist i.e. his brother as well as drawing unwanted attention to the group. He's also implied to engage in huge amounts of Stupid Evil plans driven by his Ax-Crazy personality.
  • Cutscene Boss: Combined with an in-universe Zero-Effort Boss. It takes the protagonist almost no effort to kill Kronos when you face him. Which makes sense since he's literally falling apart at this point.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: Privateer 2: The Darkening, the "sequel" to Privateer, originated as a non-Wing Commander-related game with a working name of The Darkening (as per an advert in the back of the Wing Commander IV manual). Due to several factors, including but not limited to Executive Meddling, Privateer 2 had Wing Commander touches added before the final release.
    • Apparently The Darkening started as one of two expensive projects being made by Origin in England. When the budget spiraled out of control, management decided to combine both games in order to get something out the door.
  • Driven by Envy: The reasons Kronos wants to kill Lev Arris. They're brothers and everyone unfavorably compares them.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Longevity drugs have done a huge number on Kronos. It's implied he's not even that old but he's overdosed on them the point of becoming a deformed mutant.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted by the Kindred who are all The Sociopath. They are, however, Pragmatic Villainy types and consider pointless murder and mayhem to be unprofitable.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Kronos tries to pull this on Arris. It fails because Kronos is completely ***ing insane. Also, literally, falling apart.
  • Fantastic Noir: Is one of these.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Reinhart is unfailingly calm and polite during his scene, but he still uses the opportunity to hit Berserk Buttons and creep out Lev and Hassan.
  • Freudian Excuse: Kronos shouts a bunch of these at the player. None of them is particularly convincing and just make him look pathetic.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: There's a nasty bug that occurs when you hire a wingman for your travels. If the sector you and your wingman are in has military and pirate vessels at the same time and location, you will get erroneously marked by the military as a fugitive whenever your wingman engages in combat with a pirate vessel. This is one of the few reasons why the game wasn't well received after its release.
  • Generation Xerox: The original Kronos was the current one's father as well as the player character's. His son has since taken on his name and become The Caligula. The player character assumes the identity as well, though doesn't intend to keep it forever.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Kronos tries to pull one of these in the finale of The Darkening but fails miserably. Lev doesn't even need to give him a Shut Up, Hannibal! because his statements are rambling nonsense about how their mother loved him better and how everyone liked Lev more.
  • Human Popsicle: The protagonist of The Darkening.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Just about everyone agrees Kronos is one compared to his father and brother.
  • Klingon Promotion: A Justified example in The Darkening as you're the heir to the Kindred before killing Kronos.
  • Large Ham: Brian Blessed as a crazy monk in The Darkening is...well, Brian Blessed as a crazy monk. His performance has to be seen to be believed.
  • MegaCorp: The Kindred are actually based around one of these with their criminal dealings all leading back to legitimate ones. In effect, they control the entirety of the Tri-Systems economy. Its current financial difficulties, due to their Ax-Crazy leader, are effecting the whole of the region as a result. It's also why the Player Character must assume control because all of it is legally his and the Kindred capos can't access it.
  • Money Spider: Privateer 2: The Darkening paid out 50 credit bounties for destroyed pirates. The amount didn't really compensate for how annoyingly prolific those pirates were, given the difficulty in avoiding an engagement.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: The Kindred wield absolute power over the Tri-Systems despite being a crime syndicate.
  • Non-Linear Sequel: Privateer 2: The Darkening was set in its own little universe, for the most part, with subtle hints of a connection to the "main" games dropped throughout the game, but far into the future from them.
  • Only Sane Man: Much of the game's humor is the over-the-top Large Ham inhabitants contrasted against Lev's subdued Fish out of Water reactions.
  • Point Defenseless: Mostly averted in Privateer 2, where even cargo freighters are at Gunship Rescue level thanks to their relentless, targeted, and high-powered turret fire. Either you're constantly evading, you get out of range, or you get shredded. Depending on the ship, you might be able to take it out by getting into that blind spot.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Kindred prefer to run on this as a general rule. They're criminals but their goal is to make money rather than hurt people (even if they're bastards because its a Crapsack World). The problem is their current leader, Kronos, is Ax-Crazy and more interested in hurting people than money. Also, he's completely out of touch with reality. Which is why they want to replace him with the Player Character.
  • Riddle Me This: One optional mission in Privateer 2 involves a math-based riddle to identify the nav point you need to go to, to complete the mission.
  • The Syndicate: The Kindred in The Darkening are a combination of this and N.G.O. Superpower.
  • World of Ham: The Tri-Systems are a...strange place.
  • Wretched Hive: Just look at the cutscene in The Darkening that introduces the very first bar.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: The protagonist ascends to become the new Kronos after killing the new one. Justified as he's both legally the heir and also has all of the bank accounts, codes, and other materials needed to take over. The Kindred's lieutenants are also sick of their current boss.


Alternative Title(s): Privateer 2 The Darkening

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