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Independence War: The Starship Simulator

Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1997). Particle Systems (PS). Designed by Glyn Williams, Michael Powell. Platforms: Win.

Independence War is a combat-oriented Space Sim, with views displayed in real time using three-dimensional graphics. It is remarkable both for its use of accurate Newtonian Physics and for the fact that the player's ship is a corvette with a crew of four, rather than the more conventional single pilot starfighter. The game's multilinear plot (see Interactive Narrative) occurs during a war between the Earth Commonwealth and rebellious colonists; the player is the captain of an Earth Starship. A detailed story is effectively told through a combination of events within the player's assigned missions and precreated scenes outside them. Several different endings are available, including one in which a peace is negotiated after the player discovers that the war is perpetuated by shadowy forces within the Commonwealth. Similarly to such Military SF novels as Elizabeth Moon's Once a Hero (1997), Independence War's storyline takes an equivocal view of the glories of war.

Gameplay is focused on the solution of physically-based puzzles and ship-to-ship combat. The simulation of real-world Physics gives the game a very different feel to such predecessors as Star Wars: X-Wing (1993), which reproduce World War Two's aerial dogfights in space. Instead, the player must move and accelerate in three dimensions while subject to the effects of inertia, a task which is made considerably easier by a simulated flight computer and sophisticated head up displays. Any of the four crew stations can be occupied by the player, including navigation and weaponry; unoccupied stations will be handled automatically by the game. The combination of realistic Physics and informationally dense graphical overlays allows Independence War to present a remarkably convincing simulation of the kind of near-future space warfare frequently described in Military SF novels.

Related works: Additional missions telling the same story from the rebel perspective were added to the basic game for Independence War Special Edition (1999 PS, Win, vt Independence War Deluxe Edition in the US). Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos (2001 PS, Win) is a sequel. This game is set a hundred years after the first one, in the "Badlands Cluster", a distant region of space dominated by oppressive corporations; the player takes the role of a rebel. Gameplay resembles that of the original, with the addition of free-roaming piracy and simple trading options similar to those available in Wing Commander: Privateer (1993) (see Wing Commander). Most of the various ships available to the player in Independence War 2 carry only a single pilot, but the realistic Physics of the first game is retained. [NT]


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