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Video Game / Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga

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Space Tigers, Starfighters, and Mark Hamill, Oh My

We're headed to Kilrah with that thing, aren't we?
Well, what would you aim for if you had the biggest gun in the universe?
— Colonel Christopher "Maverick" Blair and Admiral Tolwyn, discussing the TCS Behemoth

Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga is a collection of space combat simulation games by Origin Systems. It comprises the first three games in the Wing Commander series: Wing Commander (1990), Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (1992), and Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (1994). The full story of the epic interstellar war between the catlike Kilrathi and the human Confederation which spanned more than ten years comes together in one handy source.

The first two games use 2D hand-drawn graphics for cut-scenes and scaled 2D sprite graphics for space combat. The third game features full motion video for cut-scenes, with 3D polygonal space combat graphics. All three feature mission-based space combat flight simulation gameplay which allows you to fly a variety of Confederation fighters and bombers against the equally varied Kilrathi arsenal of ships.

Although the graphics of the games in the compilation, the last of which came out in 1994, may not fare well compared to modern games, the games in the series are very enjoyable nonetheless, with fast and furious space dogfights controlled by a very easy and intuitive interface. Retro-gamers who want to experience some of the best space combat simulation action ever offered on the PC who don't mind outdated graphics will be thrilled with Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga.

The story takes young Christopher Blair through the initial Kilrathi invasion, his reemergence as a hero after a ten-year exile due to perceived negligence that led to the destruction of his ship Tiger's Claw, and the final confrontation that takes the war to the heart of the Kilrathi empire.

The games contain the following tropes:

  • Aerial Canyon Chase: In the original Wing Commander, one of your fellow pilots suggests that asteroid fields are great equalizers when you're outnumbered. Asteroids are great shields, and you only have to concentrate on not hitting them, while your pursuers have to divide their attention between shooting you and not crashing. Sooner or later, they're more likely to screw up than you are. While it actually didn't work out that way in that game, it sometimes does in the later games.
  • Airstrike Impossible: The final mission of Wing Commander III was supposed to be this, with staying in the canyons on the way to the fault target to avoid attracting the attention of infinitely respawning Ekapshi, but a glitch in the transition from the space leg of the mission to the atmosphere leg allowed the "one time" cloak to be used again, making it trivially easy to get there, by cloaking and flying above the mountains in a straight line. (And, heck, even if you don't use the cloak, so long as you're in good condition at the start and have plenty of afterburner fuel left, the engine can only throw two Ekapshi at you at a time, so it's easier to just burn straight for the target rather than try to navigate the canyon.)
  • All or Nothing: Twice! In Wing Commander III, you seem to be fighting regular missions that will determine the fate of how the war is progressing against the Kilrathi, but then Admiral Tolwyn pops back into the story midway to tell you that Confed is losing and your new mission is no longer defending Confed controlled systems nor attacking Kilrathi systems, but instead defending a planet killer known as the TCS Behemoth that is poised to end the war in one shot. Downplayed in that a traitor exposes the existence and weaknesses of the Behemoth to the Kilrathi, where it spectacularly gets destroyed before completing its mission of destroying Kilrah, and doesn't result in a Game Over. Later Paladin comes back into the story to tell you how Confed Intelligence also had a last ditch plan to destroy Kilrah, though the scientist they planned to create the T-Bomb got captured by Kilrathi and needs to be rescued first, before going on the final missions to destroy Kilrah. Makes the first couple of missions you flew almost seem pointless, since the Kilrathi are building a large fleet around their home planet that will overwhelm the Terran Confederation once launched, no matter how well you did previously. The size of the Kilrathi fleet under construction at Kilrah is shown if you screw up enough to be placed on the losing path missions.
  • Apocalypse How:
  • Arson Murder And Life Saving: You get this from Admiral Tolwyn after completing Wing Commander II:
    Tolwyn: Blair! You have a lot to answer for, pilot! Disobeying orders, dereliction of duty, theft of Navy property, endangerment of personnel… Nice work… Colonel Blair. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m proud to serve with you on this ship, Maverick.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: In Wing Commander III, while the Kilrathi dreadnaught isn't totally invulnerable, it's much more prone to damage from shooting at it inside the hangar, where there the fast-recharging shields don't protect. The Kilrathi homeworld itself is attacked on a major fault line with a special bomb designed to "literally shake the planet apart," as Paladin described it.
    • As a matter of fact, every ship with a hangar bay suffers from this weakness, with the hangars being unarmored compared to the rest of the ship.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The Behemoth is a Planet Killer, and that's always awesome. But, 500,000,000 gigawatts? An easily targeted vulnerable spot? Slow as molasses? Its existence is a reflection of the fact that the Confederation has been slowly losing the war with the Kilrathi.
    • The Temblor Bomb had elements of this. It took up half the missile loadout on the Excalibur fighter, was only viable due to Kilrah's unstable tectonics, was extremely difficult to develop, and had to be fired with incredible precision. Despite this, it was successfully used.
    • Both weapons are justified in-universe, however, as desperation moves by Confed: they're losing the war and need a knock-out blow before they go down. Despite the impracticality of both weapons, Confed develops them out of extreme necessity.
  • The Battle Didn't Count: In the final Loki series mission of Wing Commander III, you're given the option to engage Prince Thrakhath at the end of the mission, but your carrier is about to jump out of the system, so if you stop to engage Thrakhath you won't make it home, and wind up stranded in the system (game over). However, if you conserve your missiles in the earlier parts, you can salvo-fire all of them and run for the carrier while the missiles track him down. If they make the kill before you land you get the death message, but at the end of the final mission in the game he shows up again as if nothing had happened to him in the Loki system.note 
  • Bird People: The Firekkans from the add-on The Secret Missions 2: Crusade are only seen in cutscenes, but are pictured as winged humans with avian traits, like beaks and talon-like hands.
  • Break Him By Talking: Blair's Shut Up, Hannibal! (below) takes the wind out of an incipient Hannibal Lecture.
  • Break the Haughty: Blair deals this hand to "Flash" in Wing Commander III, who's smugness at being entrusted with the Excalibur led to him becoming an insufferable liability to the rest of the crew. After defeating him in a simulator duel, "Flash" honors his agreement to transfer to the Victory and apologizes to the Colonel.
  • Breaking Speech: Prince Thrakhath's rant in Wing Commander III during the mission in which the Behemoth is destroyed, in which Angel's fate, ominously cut away from earlier in the game, is shown.
  • Call a Human a "Meatbag": The felinoid Kilrathi refer to the humans as "hairless apes" and similar terms.
  • Canon Name: Blairnote  became the Player Character's official name when the series went to Full Motion Video, prior to which you could select a last name as well as callsign. His callsign, "Maverick," was made canon in the novelization of Wing Commander III.
  • Cats Are Mean: The Kilrathi, obviously. Dropping bioweapons on helpless planets (among other things) generally doesn't count as "playing nice".
  • Cat Folk: The Kilrathi. Big furry Proud Warrior Race with cat ears.
  • Character Select Forcing: In Wing Commander III, if you continue to choose to fly with Hobbes over the other pilots, past the first mission, you get called on the carpet for it by Captain Eisen, and morale suffers from the show of favoritism.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out:
    • In Wing Commander II, after you successfully destroy the K'tithrak Mang starbase and destroy Prince Thrakhath's fighter, Admiral Tolwyn gives you a angry chewing out for stealing a fighter amongst other charges, then he promotes you on the spot to full bird Colonel and says how glad he is serving with you.
    • In Wing Commander III, Eisen pulls Blair aside just before he's to have a simulator duel against visiting test pilot "Flash" as part of a challenge, after Flash ignores a scramble call and stays in bed while everyone else is out defending their carrier. It looks like Eisen is about to chew Blair out for acting rashly in issuing the challenge, but instead he offers some advice: "Kick the little twerp's ass."
  • Chroma Key: Wing Commander III had absolutely no sets whatsoever: it was filmed completely on greenscreen, and the sets computer-generated. This beats films like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and The Phantom Menace, by at least half a decade.note 
  • Cliffhanger: Wing Commander II ended with Prince Thrakhath bragging to the Kilrathi Emperor about the utter destruction of the Confederation's 6th fleet in Deneb Sector, with the last words on the screen being "To be continued in Wing Commander III".
  • Compilation Rerelease: Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga. The first three games, re-released for Windows 95 and adjusted to run at the correct speeds on a modern computer. Also included remastered audio and music, as well as an expanded manual and a calendar listing many important dates in the Wing Commander universe. After it went out of print, it was known to reliably sell for over $100 on eBay. At least one copy sold for over three hundred dollars. The release of DOSBox allowing the original games (which usually sell for $20 or less on eBay) to run on modern computers has since lessened the need for The Kilrathi Saga, but it still often sells for above its original retail price on eBay.
  • Copy Protection: The original game and its add-ons asked a question of you when you loaded the game, with answers available from the manual or the blueprints that came with the original releases. The protection was removed when Wing Commander was modified for the Kilrathi Saga collection.
  • Dead All Along: Angel turns out to be this after seeing her captured during the opening cutscene of III.
  • Dead Man's Hand: In II, Spirit gets dealt the hand and later kamikazes a Kilrathi-controlled space station.
  • Defiant to the End: Three from Wing Commander III:
    • In the introduction, Prince Thrakhath says this of Jeanette "Angel" Devereaux after she spits in his face when he's gloating about the capture of her and her special forces operatives. The player doesn't see it until later in the game, but after spitting in his face he disembowels her with his claws in what the Kilrathi consider an honorable death, unlike the disintegration of the other humans.
    • In the losing path, once the Victory's shields have been disabled, Captain Eisen orders the ship to ram into the Kilrathi dreadnought, which successfully takes it out, for what little good it does.
    • In the losing path if captured after failing to save the Earth, the player is given the option for Blair to either give up and meekly accept defeat or to basically tell Thrakhath "screw you". The former gets Blair disintegrated by guards behind him as not worthy of a "proper" Kilrathi death, while the latter earns him Angel's fate.
  • The Determinator: In the Wing Commander series, the Kilrathi embody this trope. In fact, it's established in Wing Commander III that they literally don't know the meaning of the word "surrender" (even those few who are truly well-studied in Terran languages and culture seem to have trouble grasping the concept of it). The novelization of the third game has the surviving Kilrathi struggling with the human word after they're defeated.
  • Diverting Power: Wing Commander III permits distributing power among Engines, Weapons, Shields and Damage Repair - all initially 25% each.
  • Disintegration Chamber: In the intro of Wing Commander III, the captured Terran prisoners are led to a platform, and are disintegrated by converting lights.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom:
    • The Wing Commander III Temblor Bomb, which ends the Kilrathi war by blowing up their seismically-unstable homeworld. Weirdly, Luke Skywalker is the one who drops the bomb - after being "required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point"...
    • See also the Behemoth
  • Easy Logistics: In Wing Commander II, one of the escort missions is for a transport hauling missiles to resupply the Concordia, and if you fail the mission you're supposed to not have any more missiles. However, failure doesn't seem to actually affect whether or not your fighter goes out with missiles in later missions.
  • Elite Mooks: The Drakhai, in Wing Commander II. Slightly better defensive stats for their ships, and an AI set one level above the regular opponents were the primary distinguishing characteristics, aside from their specific taunt "You cannot defeat the Drakhai" (ignoring that you regularly did just that).
  • The Empire: The Kilrathi Empire is a Proud Warrior Race empire bent on conquest of the rest of the galaxy.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: In the games, the Locanda missions from Wing Commander III.
    • We see this if you fail Wing Commander III. Not die, but fail enough missions and you'll see the Kilrathi invade Earth, reducing it to something similar to post Judgment Day from Terminator, complete with a Shout-Out to the human skull being crushed beneath a metal foot.
    • If you are on the losing path of Wing Commander III and get picked up in your ejection pod in the final mission, Blair gets to meet Thrakhath face to face. Blair states states that you'll never "truly" conquer Earth, but Thrakhath shrugs this off, stating that Earth's water rich environment is of little interest to his people anyway, strongly implying that genocide is the fate that humanity now faces.
  • Enemy Mine: Thrakhath escapes and steals a fighter to avenge himself against his traitorous kin Khasra, in Wing Commander II. Blair pursues. The two temporarily join forces.
  • Establishing Character Moment: All the pilots from the first game will quickly establish their personality when you meet them. In Wing Commander III when first visiting the bar we get a scene where Hobbes walks in, Cobra storms out since she hates Kilrathi, and Vagabond tries to cheer Hobbes up who is upset that she is so angry with him.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A recurring theme in the series, often in combination with Defiant to the End. Heroes are expected to fight like hell to live and win, but if death is inevitable, they face it with a stoic's resolve, from Spirit in Wing Commander II all the way through Blair himself in the losing endgames of III and IV, and in his final bow from the series in Prophecy. This is a feature of the books as well. Hunter in Wing Commander: Fleet Action doesn't waste time on anything as useless as sympathy for himself in facing his impending demise. By contrast, the few villains who meet deaths outside of the cockpit try any means necessary to escape their fates, potentially including taking matters into their own hands.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: If the player performs poorly in any of the games, they will eventually find themselves on the 'Losing Track' missions; Spend too much time on these, and you're greeted by the lovely image of the Kilrathi laying waste to human space, and you with it. A notable instance is the mission to save the Behemoth in Wing Commander III. No matter what the player does, the ultimate Glass Cannon is doomed.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention: The Kilrathi use [Given Name] nar [Clan Name]. The nar is always lower case, and usually italicised. The Clan Name is usually the name of the place or planet where the Kilrathi was born. The novels add hrai to the name of one Kilrathi, meaning 'of the family of'. The character in question starts as Kirha hrai Ralgha nar Hhallas (Kirha, of the family of Ralgha, who is from Hhallas), and after being ordered to serve the human pilot Ian 'Hunter' St John, renames himself Kirha hrai Hunter nar Aussie (Kirtha, of the family of Hunter, who is from Australia). This part doesn't come up anywhere else though.
  • Fantastic Slurs:
    • "Hairless ape" is used by Kilrathi on Terrans, along with other simian-related insults. Terrans call the Kilrathi "furballs" usually, with occasional feline-related comments (including, for example, a reference to the taunt target being made into kitty litter, from Armada).
    • There's also a lighthearted scene in one of the novels where the Cats reveal they've intercepted old TV transmissions from Earth: "Bugs Bunny screws his mother!" ("Wait, that's not an insult? You genuinely think it's funny? Man, now what am I gonna yell?")
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The series was conceived as a sci-fi version of World War II aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific Theatre (with some Top Gun mixed in).
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The first three Wing Commander games are the Pacific theater of World War II IN SPACE! Confed are The United States, while the Kilrathi are Imperial Japan, complete with godlike emperor, warrior codes, scheming henchmen, inability to understand surrender, the whole nine yards.
    • The Kilrathi also bear more than a passing resemblance to the Aztecs (ironically for many of the same reasons): divine imperial authority, warrior codes and edicts, semi-formal but very much in place caste system, and VERY heavy emphasis on ritual violence (a great deal of the reason they started the war in the first place was so they could have POWs to sacrifice back on the home planet as they are religiously obligated to have, which is not unlike the Aztecs save for the fact that the latter just wanted sacrifices and just had to attack to get them in anywhere near adequate numbers).
    • The ending of Wing Commander III in particular - the Kilrathi's final surrender aboard the TCS Victory is based on that of the Japanese aboard the USS Missouri at the end of World War 2.
  • Fission Mailed: The first game starts with you in a ship which almost immediately blows up, followed by a Game Over screen. Turns out you were playing the Unwinnable Training Simulation.
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: In Wing Commander II, the Confederation class dreadnoughts (including the player home ship, the TCS Concordia) had the Phase Transit Cannon as an integral part of the design's keel. The Kilrathi design from which the PTC was copied, the main gun of the Sivar dreadnought from The Secret Missions (which destroyed the Confederation's Goddard colony), was also a fixed mount. As the latter wasn't of any use against anything smaller than planetoids, maneuverability of the platform wasn't an issue.
  • Foregone Victory: Once you reach the Venice Campaign in the first game, all you have to do is survive every mission in order to win. You will beat the game as long as you live to the end, even if you don't shoot down any enemy fighters and fail every mission objective.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: The Kilrathi are shown (usually) as having 4 digits, and use Base 8 numbering.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: In Wing Commander III if you screw up bad on a plot relevant mission, your ship goes to the losing path mission to the Proxima system and then to Sol system to attempt to fend off the victorious Kilrathi armada. However this failure path can occur even as early as the second system based on if you lost the third mission of the first system (Orsini 3). If you go far enough in the game however, in a cutscene you will find the overwhelming Kilrathi fleet that would be used for the attack upon Earth is still under construction in orbit around Kilrah and won't be ready to launch until another 48 hours passes, while at the same time you're on your way to blow up Kilrah with the T-Bomb in your Excalibur fighter (meaning, storywise, weeks have probably passed since the second system mission and the Kilrah mission). Apparently not successfully protecting one Confed transport in the third mission of the game caused those Kilrathi ships to be built and readied for launch much faster than expected!
  • Glass Cannon: The Behemoth for all its size and firepower is horribly ill-equipped for self-defense, lacking defense turrets and fully functional shields. Justified however as the situation had become so grave that it was essentially rushed into service in a desperate bid to end the war. Suffice to say, the Kilrathi are quick to exploit this weakness.
  • Got Volunteered: Spirit does this to Maverick in Secret Missions. Yeah, you heard that right.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: The official strategy guide for Wing Commander III included a CD with, among other things, a collection of filming outtakes, including a Star Wars reference, found after the end of the closing credits.
    Tom Wilson: (after being pat on the shoulder by Mark Hamill) Isn't that the guy from Star Wars?
  • Holding Back the Phlebotinum: The Concordia's Phase-Transit Cannon in Wing Commander II broke down every time a Kilrathi corvette was in the area, for no reason other than to let the corvette pretend to be a threat to the Concordia... never mind the antimatter guns that the Concordia had and the corvette didn't.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: In Wing Commander III, the plot called for was for you to lose your wingmen in battle with an enemy ace and make the final attack alone: however, this was achieved by having the ace magically respawn for so long as any wingmen not lost prior to that point were present. This lead to a surreal battle in which you might shoot him down a dozen times in a row, using up all of your missiles and countermeasures, and have no way of knowing what obscure action would cause things to proceed. This was fixed in later versions, where wingmen vanish when autopiloting through the previous waypoints, regardless of whether they were still alive. Arguably even weirder.
    • Similarly, forgetting to use a certain technology could also lead to a constant stream of respawning wingmen.
    • Finally, if you fail a critical mission and end up in the losing path, the final mission involves a confrontation with a unique Kilrathi capital ship which is almost impossible to kill. The expectation appeared to be for the player character to die trying so that the Bad Ending could roll. While that ship can actually be destroyed with sufficient effort, as you were not meant to destroy it, the game has no idea what to do when you beat it so just leaves you hanging in space.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Concordia's phase-transit cannon in Wing Commander II is based on the main gun from the wreck of the Kilrathi dreadnaught Sivar destroyed in The Secret Missions.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: One of these (complete with flashing red digital countdown) takes out the Concordia flight deck towards the beginning of Wing Commander II.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: The Kilrathi are explicitly described as having evolved from felinoid predators, with much of that past shaping their behavior in the present: They often use pack tactics with one pilot serving as bait to lure potential prey into a trap, and see no problems with pouncing from concealment for a surprise attack.
  • Interface Screw:
    • In Wing Commander II, when you take too much damage your instruments explode leaving you without the benefit of whatever it was for the rest of the mission. If you're on a torpedo run and your targeting computer bites it, Save Scumming is your only hope to avoid losing the mission.
    • If you choose to let Blair drown his sorrows prior to one mission in Wing Commander III, your controls will randomly reverse during the mission. Fortunately, your only real goal for that mission is to survive until your carrier is about to bug out. There's no saving the Behemoth.
  • Instant-Win Condition: In Wing Commander III the Human-Kilrathi war seems to work this way. Doesn't matter if one side is on the verge of defeat, destroy the opponents home world and they win!
  • Invisibility Cloak:
    • Kilrathi "Strakha" stealth fighters have them; they figure strongly into the plot of the second game, in that they blew up the Claw and cost Blair his career in doing so because no one else has ever seen them before. (Pretend you're a jury at a military trial, listening to a pilot claim he was standing a proper watch but impossibly sneaky ships blew up his carrier anyway. You do the math.) Then, in a Running Gag, every time you fight them in the second game, your flight recorder is blown out, so you still can't prove they exist.
    • One particular level early in Wing Commander III features a "Skipper" stealth torpedo, named for the way it fades in and out of cloak (to refresh its target lock) like a stone skipping across a pond. If it hits the carrier you're trying to escort, the mission fails. Later, said torpedoes are used again, loaded with enough bioweapons to kill umpteen-million humans and then launched against a human colony.
    • The "Strakha" fighters are still in use in Wing Commander III, but then you get to fight back with the Excalibur later on (only thing is that the Excalibur's cloaking device is experimental and only works twice in a mission).
  • I Shall Taunt You: Wing Commander has this as a basic tactic: taunting Kilrathi fighters has a chance of making them drop whatever they're doing to attack you (instead of whatever you're escorting).
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: The losing ending of Wing Commander III shows the Kilrathi landing on a ruined Earth.
  • I Warned You: In Wing Commander II, nearly ten years after taking the fall for the loss of the Tiger's Claw, Blair continues to encounter Kilrathi stealth fighters but is coldly refuted every time due to lack of flight recorder evidence; Come the battle for K'tithrak Mang and the revelation of Jazz's betrayal, his claims are finally proven true.
  • Iwo Jima Pose: The Good Ending of the original game features an Iwo Jima-style flag raising cutscene.
  • Last Stand: The Unwinnable by Design Sol mission series in the losing ending of Wing Commander III consists of endless waves of enemy fighters along with a Kilrathi Dreadnought fighting a desperate (and failing) battle to hold off the triumphant Kilrathi armada.
  • Leitmotif: Wing Commander II has a number of prominent leitmotifs, most notably the grim, minor-key brass fanfare accompanying Prince Thrakhath, the syncopated piano motif for Jazz, and the theme that plays during the love scenes between Blair and Angel.
  • Loading Screen: Wing Commander III on a bare-minimum 486 PC is truly an exercise in patience, requiring at least several minutes as the game loads data from the CD, leaving you looking at the start-up checklist shown on a display screen for a long time. Not for nothing was the game nicknamed "Wait Commander".
  • MacGuffin: a communications officer is murdered in Wing Commander II when he comes across the traitor Jazz transmitting information to the Kilrathi; even better, the traitor leaves someone else's pilot's-wings insignia in the dead man's hand. Lampshade Hanging: the officer is named "Specialist MacGuffin."
  • Mad Artist: Jazz is usually found playing piano in the Rec Room of the Concordia. Even when he's under armed guard and awaiting execution for treason!
  • Manchurian Agent: Blair's old friend Hobbes is shown to be one in Wing Commander III. His Trigger Phrase is "Heart of the Tiger".
  • A Million Is a Statistic: In Wing Commander III, with one bomb Blair (the Player Character) destroys a planet, killing billions of Kilrathi, it's not focused on nearly as much as the deaths of pilots like Jeanette "Angel" Devereaux, Mitchell "Vaquero" Lopez, Laurel "Cobra" Buckley, or the fate of Locanda IV, homeworld of Robin "Flint" Peters.
  • Morton's Fork: If the player is captured by the Kilrathi in Wing Commander III, there will be a cutscene in which Thrakhath gives Blair the opportunity to plead for mercy. The player is then given a dialog option to beg for his life or tell Thrakhath off, but the choice is meaningless, as Blair will be executed no matter which option you pick. The only difference the choice makes is determining the method in which the execution is carried out.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Subverted in the two addons for Wing Commander II. A mole is working for an organization called the Society of Mandarins, which believes humanity should surrender to the Kilrathi, and change them from within, loosely similar to their historical counterpart from ancient China. They apparently didn't read the history of the Yuan Dynasty or World War 2 note .
  • My Fist Forgives You: In Wing Commander III, when Blair finally finds out that his good friend and comrade Paladin has known about Angel's death for a while, and been lying to him, the player has the option to punch him in the face. If you do, he accepts it as deserved and the ship's morale is raised; if not, he dares you to, and the ship's morale is lowered.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Hobbes makes an off-hand mention that his callsign comes from a human philosopher, obviously intended to be Thomas Hobbes.
    • Due to his design in Wing Commander II being that of an anthropomorphic tiger, the name was the game's designers Shout-Out to another anthropomorphic tiger.
  • National Stereotypes: The first games plays up your Japanese, Chinese, Australian, Belgian, African and American pilots quite a bit. From the second game we still have your 26th century samurai and Everything Sounds Sexier in French Colonel Badass, but the trope gets toned down in later games. Spirit's "Japanese-ness" is also a bit played down in Wing 2 compared to Wing 1, where it could occasionally be a bit overbearing.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Wing Commander seems to be a little confused about this. In the Secret Missions 1 add-on to the original Wing Commander, the Kilrathi priestess is shown with a multi-part bra covering three sets of human-style breasts. The intro to Prophecy, however, has a wall drawing of a nude Kilrathi female with one pair of human-style breasts.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: In Wing Commander II, every now and then you're assigned a solo mission. Invariably, you run up against the Kilrathi's stealth fighters on these missions, and when you return to base you discover that your flight recorder has malfunctioned. Add in the fact that your character claimed to see stealth fighters ten years prior when your carrier from the first game was destroyed - a claim that was never verified and is still in fact ridiculed - and it's not terribly hard to see why nobody believes you.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Each game has at least one bad ending, in addition to the "standard" whoops-you-died-in-combat Game Over; sometimes the two are lumped together (thus implying that the Player Character's death has led to disaster).
    • If the Tiger's Claw gets destroyed in the original Wing Commander, you see a message saying "With your carrier destroyed, you drift endlessly through the void..." and are sent back to the title screen.
    • "Lose" two consecutive systems in Wing Commander II, and you're sent back to your backwater station. The Concordia is destroyed six weeks later off-screen.
    • "Lose" certain missions in ''Wing Commander III", and your carrier jumps to the Proxima system, where your job is to hold off the Kilrathi from reaching a jump point to the Sol System. But no matter how many ships you shoot down, the TCS Victory calls and says that the Kilrathi are too powerful and they will try to hold off the Kilrathi at Earth's orbit, which after waves of fighters and corvettes, you face off against the huge Kilrathi dreadnought which is able to be destroyed but you will keep facing endless fighters and corvettes (even on Godmode) until you eject and see the bad ending cutscenes. Which means when you see your carrier jumping to the Proxima system, you should go back and replay the mission you failed that got to the bad ending mission tree. Interestingly if you fail an early mission, Orsini 3, you continue on to what you think is the winning path mission to the Tamayo System. Yet after completing those missions you go onto the failure path to Proxima, no matter how well you performed in the Tamayo missions. So hopefully you didn't overwrite your save for that Orsini 3 mission or you have to start the game from the beginning to avoid the Proxima mission.
  • Outrun the Fireball: In Wing Commander III, after Blair drops the Temblor Bomb on Kilrah, the game switches to a cutscene of his fighter trying to outrun the Planar Shockwave of the exploding planet, but fails to avoid crippling damage, leaving him stranded in space until his fighter is tractored aboard a Kilrathi Dreadnought.
  • Plot Armor: In Wing Commander II, your wingmen will never die in missions (except in a few scripted unavoidable story events). If they get shot down, they will always successfully eject and always get subsequently picked by the Confederation.
  • Plotline Death: Spirit in Wing Commander II; in Wing Commander III, chasing Hobbes results in Vaquero's death; Flint's fate in the novelization, dying in the final mission (which mirrors the fact that, while she isn't mandated to be killed, she becomes incredibly difficult to keep alive if romanced).
  • Proud Warrior Race: As a predatory species evolved from an unusually dangerous homeworld, the Kilrathi are disproportionately geared toward war and conquest. In a slight twist, they actually approve of at least some measure of deception and stealth as opposed to "honorable" combat (probably stemming from their feline evolutionary path: as any cat owner will tell you, deception and stealth are part of what cats do), though they do still favor direct, "honorable" combat for settling personal disputes and appreciate people who can fight them head on and win or can reverse and survive an ambush - this contributes to Blair's fame among them, as he does both. (Fortunately, the Kilrathi speak non-mangled English.)
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In the winning cutscene of Wing Commander III, Melek nar Kiranka mentions, "A new millennium lies ahead." The game was released in 1994 when the approaching millennium of 2000 was on everyone's minds.
  • Reassignment Backfire: At the beginning of Wing Commander II the main character has spent ten years on a space station in the backwater Gwynedd system, where he was assigned by an admiral who thinks he's a traitor, and hasn't flown a combat mission in all that time. Then, suddenly, the war comes to Gwynedd.
  • Recycled In Space: The Kilrathi war overall is very much the Pacific theater of World War 2 IN SPACE! There's focus on carriers and flight groups. The enemy culture revolves around warrior virtues, respect for strict hierarchy and is led by an emperor. The Behemoth and Temblor bomb can be viewed analogous to dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. The signing of the peace treaty between humans and Kilrathi is deliberately staged the same way as it was between Japan and USA.
  • Red Alert: In the original game, the Fighter-Launching Sequence included a shot of pilots running down a passageway to their ships while red lights were flashing for a red alert, even with missions that weren't thrown out in an emergency but were previously planned.
  • Red Baron:
    • The Kilrathi Aces in the games have a few of these. Bhurak Starkiller, Khajja the Fang/The Machine, Dahkhath (translates to 'Deathstroke'), and Bahktosh Redclaw.
    • The Kilrathi consider Blair to be such a skilled pilot that they have named him "The Heart Of The Tiger".
  • Schematized Prop: The original Wing Commander came with blueprints of the space fighters you flew in the game, and as mentioned above served as a form of Copy Protection in the original games.
  • Sink The Life Boats: One of the Kilrathi aces in the original Wing Commander has a reputation for shooting ejection pods. This doesn't seem to come up if you eject when flying against him, though.
  • Space Clouds: Wing Commander III featured one mission inside a nebula that obscured vision, but otherwise didn't really have any effect on the mission.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: In Wing Commander II, a saboteur manages to disable flight operations twice on the Concordia by planting an Incredibly Obvious Bomb on the flight deck on two separate occasions. Amazingly, the bombs are shown placed in the same position on the flight deck both times. That spot might as well have a sign above it stating "plant bomb here".
  • Take a Third Option: In Wing Commander III, at one point you're given a choice between kissing Rachel or Flint, which would make the one not chosen mad at you (and thus unavailable, leaving you to either fly short a wingman or configure your own ship loadout if you don't want to launch without missiles, respectively). However, you can choose to not kiss either of them by either rejecting both of them (resulting in an amusing scene where both women leave Blair alone at the bar) or bypassing the decision scene entirely, and have both still available. Both will be unhappy with you, but only for Flint does that really matter, as lowered morale makes her flying less effective.
  • Tuckerization: Because the third game has live actors, this meant that the main character, a previously Featureless Protagonist (other than his blue hair), who could be given any callsign the player wants, had to have both a canon name, and a canon callsign. He was eventually given the name "Christopher Blair", after Chris Roberts (the original creator) with "Blair" as a shortened version of his previous internal nickname "Bluehair".note 
  • Wave-Motion Gun: Used several times in The Kilrathi Saga.
    • The Sivar dreadnaught from the Wing Commander add-on The Secret Missions mounts a gun that creates a gravity anomaly that increases gravitational pull 137 times, which is used to destroy the Goddard colony. The focus of the add-on is hunting down and destroying the Sivar. However, the weapon is extremely slow to fire and thus impractical for much of anything beyond devastating planetary surfaces.
    • The Concordia in Wing Commander II has the Phase Transit Cannon, a modified version of the Sivar cannon that is less powerful than the Kilrathi weapon from which it was derived but can be used to target warships, and is still powerful enough to destroy just about any ship with one shot. It has a tendency to not be available when most useful, however, and was removed from service shortly after the events of Wing Commander II.
    • The Behemoth from Wing Commander III is, like the Sivar cannon, a planet-killer, though using a Frickin' Laser Beam instead of gravity manipulation to do the job. The functionality of the gun beyond its initial test firing in the Loki IV system is unknown, however, as it's destroyed before it can be put to use against Kilrah.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • If Blair pursues Hobbes in Wing Commander III, Vaquero gets killed in a carrier defense mission and Captain Eisen calls him out on it.
    • In the first game, you are allowed one ejection, and actually get a special award ceremony for doing so since the commanders are trying to discourage new recruits from getting blown up trying to prove themselves. Any further ejection, no matter if you've completed the mission objectives, gets you reamed out.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: The Behemoth in Wing Commander III is deployed ahead of schedule due to Confed being on the verge of losing the war against the Kilrathi, with much of its shielding, armor, and defensive armament left uninstalled. A mole passes along this information to the Kilrathi, who use it to destroy the Behemoth.
  • Unwinnable by Design:
    • In the first game, failing too many campaigns will result in going to the Hell's Kitchen campaign, in which the final result will be the Confederation losing the war even if you successfully complete all the missions.
    • In Wing Commander III, if you fail a plot-required mission, the next assignment will be a suicide mission in which you have to single handedly defend Earth from a Kilrathi invasion. The mission is impossible to win, as it involves almost endless waves of Kirathi ships coming in until you die. If you destroy all the fighters, the final opponent is a Kilrathi mothership that is almost entirely immune to your fire. You can't return to to the Victory, and ejecting will just result in Blair being captured and executed by prince Thrakhath.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: The first game starts by dropping the player into a simulator mission that destroys the player's fighter before they can do anything, as an excuse to enter in the player's callsign for the sim's "high scores" screen. Subsequent simulator plays behave more like an Endless Game to defeat as many enemy fighters before time runs out.

Alternative Title(s): Wing Commander III Heart Of The Tiger, Wing Commander I, Wing Commander II Vengeance Of The Kilrathi, Wing Commander II, Wing Commander III