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Star Wars: X-Wing Space Combat Simulator is the first LucasArts MS-DOS computer game set in the Star Wars universe, as well as the lead title in the Star Wars: X-Wing computer game series. It simulates the experience of combat in the A-Wing, X-Wing, and Y-Wing star fighters of the Rebel Alliance. Star Wars: X-Wing Space Combat Simulator was built on an evolution of the same game engine that underlay the Air Combat Classics series of World War II flight combat games, (Battlehawks 1942, Their Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain, and Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe), that were developed by Lawrence Holland for Lucasfilm Games. Star Wars: X-Wing Space Combat Simulator's main advance is that it features a fully 3-D engine for the flight combat simulation instead of the bitmaps and sprites of the earlier titles.
Star Wars: X-Wing Space Combat Simulator also features an original narrative that parallels the events of 'Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. At crucial points in the storyline hand-drawn cutscenes complement the narrative that is told mostly through the mission briefings and in-flight radio messages. The scenes were entirely original (though inspired by the movies).
Star Wars: X-Wing Space Combat Simulator also features MIDI music from the original movie trilogy as well as pieces of original scoring. In perhaps the first example of the use of adaptive music in a combat simulation game Lucasarts' iMUSE dynamic music system enabled the intensity of the music to change in response to the changing situation experienced during gameplay. The score included themes for specific events such as the completion of mission objectives or the arrival of new enemies that were blended seamlessly with the main score.
Some packages of the game, labelled as "Limited Edition", offer a novella titled The Farlander Papers (q.v.) written by Rusel DeMaria. This was later expanded upon in the game's strategy guide which was sold separately and featured extensive mission tactics in the form of "after action reports" written by the game's chief mission designers, David Wessman and David Maxwell.
In 1994, Star Wars: X-Wing Space Combat Simulator won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1993.
The story that drives the missions is linear, and consists of three campaigns of varying length. Interaction with other pilots occurs within the missions as players are able to issue wingman commands to the AI pilots. Progress through the game depends on fulfilling each mission's primary objectives. Failure on a mission results in one of three outcomes: death, capture or retry.
Players assume the role of a Rebel pilot (implied to be Keyan Farlander) during the spaceflight actions of the Rebellion before and during the Battle of Yavin.
The player must complete missions ranging from simple dogfights with Imperial star fighters, to the escort or capture of freighters or capital ships, to attacks on enemy convoys and capital ships. Dogfighting is designed to resemble the free-wheeling duels of World War I and World War II, but the game also offers the challenge of managing power resources (lasers, deflector shields, and engines), commanding wingmen, and effectively using a variety of weapons (laser cannons, ion cannons, proton torpedoes, and concussion missiles).
The storyline evolves through three tours of duty of 12 missions each (except the third tour, which has 14 missions):
- "A New Ally" - The search for new Rebellion allies and the Imperial campaign against the Rebels. The tour ends when the Rebels smuggle a nuclear weapon aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer (ironically named Invincible) and detonate it.
- "The Great Search" - Rebels discover the plans to the first Death Star and deliver them to Princess Leia Organa's corvette, the Tantive IV. The campaign ends with the protection of the princess from an Imperial attack, allowing Leia to ferry on the Death Star plans.
- "The Gathering Storm" - Portrays the Rebels' route to the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the Death Star. The last three missions cover the attack on the Death Star. In these missions the player recreates the role of Luke Skywalker. The inconsistency with the player's previous role as Keyan Farlander is simply ignored.