Wing Commander: Privateer

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Wing Commander: Privateer
Wing Commander - Privateer Coverart.png
Developer(s) Origin Systems
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Designer(s) Erin Roberts
Platform(s) DOS
Release date(s)
  • NA Fall, 1993
Genre(s) Action-adventure, Space simulator, Space western
Mode(s) Single player

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 software features a pseudo-3D world in plain raster graphics at 320x200 with 256 colors.[1]

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.

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.


Basic gameplay consists of flying and fighting with the ship in a star system, jumping from system to system via jump points, landing on bases or planets, interacting with people (mainly talking) and buying or selling equipment or commodities. The Gemini sector is divided into quadrants, each contains several star systems, most of them with planets or bases that may be visited.[1] Unlike other games in the series, the gameplay is primarily in the sandbox style of play.

Centurion cockpit view during combat with Talon fighter.

When flying, the main view is a first-person-look from inside the cockpit onto the cockpit screens (HUDs) and the space before the ship. Space combat simulation is similar to the style of other Wing Commander games of its time. On planets and bases a static overview / first-person-view is used to show the rooms and interact with people. When buying or selling and taking missions from the mission computer, in-game menus are used.

The Gemini sector is frequented by seven factions: merchants, bounty hunters, retros, pirates, militia, the Terran Confederation and the Kilrathi. Some of them attack the player on sight, some are allies of the player. How the members of the factions react is not only pre-set but depends also on the player's actions.

Merchants are traders who ferry legal commodities from one base to another, and their initial disposition towards the player is neutral. They primarily fly in large, slow transports, and are generally easy targets for pirates when they travel alone.
Bounty Hunters
Bounty hunters are mercenaries who collect bounties on pirates and other lawbreakers, and their initial disposition towards the player is neutral. While the majority of bounty hunters are legit, some, unlike merchants, do not always abide by the law, sometimes engaging in piracy, illegal blockades, and assassinations for hire. The player can occasionally accept missions against rogue mercenaries.
The Retros belong to a quasi-religious terrorist organization called the Church of Man who believe that technology is evil and vow to vanquish all forms of it, even if by doing so they themselves must use technology (the ends justify the means). They always have a hostile disposition towards the player and all other factions, though in Righteous Fire they become allied with the Kilrathi in an attempt to overthrow all mankind.
Pirates are criminals who mainly attack merchant vessels to plunder their cargo but are also hostile towards all other factions. However, the player can generally appease pirates through repeated pleas for mercy and can, in time, change their general disposition to neutral or friendly by attacking merchants, hunters, and militia craft. Pirates often transport contraband, such as tobacco, drugs, and slaves, and operate out of several pirate bases, all of which the player can land on regardless of their disposition with the pirate faction.
The Militia are the local police of Gemini Sector and initially have a neutral disposition towards the player. They conduct random cargo scans of spacecraft and will attack any vessels found carrying contraband. They are also hostile towards pirates, Retros, and any craft that open fire on merchant, militia, or Confed ships.
Terran Confederation
Confeds are the military force who act in conjunction with the militia to protect civilians from pirates, Retros, and Kilrathi ships. They, like militia, perform contraband searches on nearby vessels and will attack all violators on sight, although they generally do not intervene when the player attacks merchants or mercenary ships. The Confederation maintains a high concentration of ships in the Clarke quadrant, which borders Kilrathi territory, and have set up three blockade points to quell Kilrathi incursions into Gemini space.
The Kilrathi are a cat-like alien race and are the primary enemy of humanity in the Wing Commander series. They have a minor presence in Gemini Sector and are found almost exclusively in the Clarke quadrant. Kilrathi are arguably the most powerful faction in terms of ship strength and weaponry, but their small numbers allow the Confed to keep them at bay for the most part. Their initial disposition towards the player is hostile, although like pirates they can be temporarily appeased through flattery. However, the only way to permanently change their general disposition from hostile to neutral or friendly is to repeatedly attack Confed ships; thus, the player will always be considered hostile by either one faction or the other.

The player may conduct his own business as a merchant or fight in combat for non-plot missions provided by the above factions. If playing as a merchant, the player must make a profit from price differences of commodities on different planets or stations. Alternatively, the player may choose from randomly generated non-plot missions from a mission computer. Successful completion of missions results in monetary award, which allows better ship weapons and equipment to be purchased.

During the plot, the player meets fixers, often representing one of the factions above, who assign the player missions in their interest in exchange for money or helpful information. The missions usually consist of plain combat, escorting other ships while combating enemies or commodity delivery including smuggling while combating / escaping enemies. The plot itself can only be played straight, one mission after another in a preset line. But between plot missions or even while being on a mission the player can follow his own interests.


The game begins with a mysterious drone attacking shipping in the system. When Burrows lands on the planet New Detroit, a man hires him and gives him a mysterious artifact. On his return, Burrows finds the man is dead. Burrows seeks information about the artifact, eventually meeting Dr. Monkhouse, a Xenoarchaeologist on Palan.

Monkhouse tells Burrows the artifact was made by an ancient technologically advanced race, the Steltek. The artifact is half of a map; Monkhouse has the rest. Burrows agrees to explore the area in the map.

Burrows locates a powerful weapon on an ancient ship and mounts it on his own. When he leaves, a mysterious drone follows him, destroying everything it encounters. Burrows is asked by the Confederation to lure the drone into an ambush, so it can be destroyed.

Burrows then encounters a Steltek scout, looking for the last traces of his technology. He energizes the ancient weapon in exchange for the location of the ship where Burrows found it. It then remains for Burrows to destroy the dangerous drone.

Righteous Fire Expansion[edit]

While Burrows is docked, the Steltek weapon is stolen from his ship. He travels to Oxford, where he meets someone who help him in return for flying missions against the Retros, a homicidal band of religious extremists led by a man named Mordecai Jones. The informant adds that Governor Menesch, who sells weapons and ships to the Retros and pirates, was probably behind the theft of Burrows’ weapon.

A Retro defector tells Burrows the location of the Retros’ headquarters and warns they have made copies of the Steltek gun. Burrows realises he must defeat the Retro leader Jones and destroy all copies of the powerful weapon.


Two expansion packs were released for Privateer: the Wing Commander Privateer Speech Pack (1993), which added digitized speech voice-overs to the entire game; and the aforementioned Righteous Fire (1994) expansion pack, which continues the story. Righteous Fire differs from the original Privateer in that there is no way to "lose" by failing a mission. If the player does not successfully complete a mission, he is offered the chance to try again.

Wing Commander: Privateer was also released in a CD-ROM Classics edition that included the Righteous Fire expansion and full speech throughout the game, more than what the Speech Pack alone provides. The actor voicing the main character also changes between the Speech Pack and CD-ROM edition of the game.


Another Privateer game known as Privateer 2: The Darkening was released in late 1996, helmed by Erin Roberts, the brother of Chris Roberts. However, The Darkening is not a storyline sequel, but a spin-off. The naming of the game as "Privateer 2" was not decided until rather late in its development. The Darkening is set a century after the original Privateer and in a different region of space. This setting and the storyline of The Darkening is not mentioned in any other Wing Commander game, but since it was released as a Wing Commander game and does not necessarily contradict the established story, its story is considered by many to be part of the Wing Commander universe. Privateer 2 was most notable for its live action sequences featuring such talents as Clive Owen, Mathilda May, Jürgen Prochnow, John Hurt, and Christopher Walken amongst many others. After Electronic Arts shut down Origin, Chris Roberts created the game Freelancer which featured similar art and story to Privateer, but was set in a new universe.


  1. ^ a b "Origin Classics: Privateer". 1997-03-30. Archived from the original on 1997-03-30. 

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