Wing Commander was a revelation in 1990 for PC space-sim buffs looking for a little less Star Trek and a little more Star Wars from the genre. The brainchild of Origin designer Chris Roberts, it married seat-of-your-pants space-based dogfighting with a movie-like story pitting a “Terran Confederation” of humans against a feline warrior-race called the Kilrathi.
Wielding a sophisticated 3D engine, Wing Commander placed players aboard a military battleship, the TCS Tiger Claw, then allowed them to rank up a blue-haired pilot by doing well during high octane fighter-based scenarios against tactically uncanny A.I. opponents. The game was notable at the time for its use of scalable bitmaps, a technique that offered unprecedented detail, especially when tailing an enemy close-up.
Roberts topped this off with a dynamic campaign that rewarded strong performance: Do well, and you’d eventually take the battle to the heart of Kilrathi High Command, but do poorly, and you’d find yourself increasingly on the defensive, up to the point that your battleship would retreat.