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WoD Review

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Alright, I have been meaning to do this for awhile...

   When I first saw the anticipation thread for the mod Wings of Dawn, I was intrigued by the hand drawn art and the brief plot teaser, but when I found out that one person was making the entire mod by himself, I quickly grew skeptic. I was relatively new to the HLP scene at the time, but I had an understanding even then how grandiose plot ideas initially receive hearty praise but slowly fade away over subsequent months. Time passed, and little by little the anticipation thread for Wings of Dawn was updated by proposed mod features and screenshots. I would not consider myself an anime guru, or even a fan of anime by any means, but the WOD seemed like a good all around mod worth its time. I was grabbed enough to say to myself, 'when this comes out, download it and give it a try'.

   A few weeks after release I did just that, knowing only that the setting involved some girls who kill aliens in space. I expected the standard Freespace2 intro, but to my surprise some anime pop rock music came on and the screen dazzled with crafty angles of never before seen flashy ships. Completely new weapons, graphics and sound. My attention was had before I even hit the menu. Nearly all the visual artwork the player sees was created specifically for WOD barring some background effects, but even those were customized to some degree. The game has its own unique feel, hitting that fun adventure theme consistently from its beginning to its end.

Low rez or not these ships look cool.

Something important to note, especially for those who have yet to play WOD, is that this is both a lengthy and a meaty campaign. It's rare to complete it in one day and it might just creep into your dreams that first night if you let it. It's an elaborate story set in a completely new and well crafted universe. I make a point of this because I didn't know at the time what I was getting into. I expected maybe a few levels of senseless pow pow bang bang then I'd be on my way to do something else. The first few levels start slow... very slow considering this is a genre that prides itself by fast action, high powered lasers, and endless missiles. Admittedly in the first play through, I did not give the heavy dialogue and the long winded briefings the attention they deserved. Interestingly enough it was the second play through, when I understood the context of what was going on, where I felt a better appreciation for the story and its characters. Rest assured soon to be WOD players, it all comes together, so sit tight and enjoy the ride.

Go for the reactor for maximum dammage!

   Several missions into it, the campaign really starts to pick up and the real gem of WOD comes into view front and center... Its gameplay. WOD involves completely reworked mechanics such that retail strategy applies only sparingly. You are taken outside your comfort zone by enemies that strafe, turreted enemy fighters, shielded capitol ships, weapons that are only effective in specific situations and more. It amounts to some of the most unique features and ideas I have seen out of any Freespace mod bar none. One of my favorite aspects of WOD is that the game 'engine' is built around a system of tradeoffs... speed for armor, energy weapons for ammunition based weapons, firepower for shielding. What weapon works against what enemy at what range. All these calculations can be pondered to hone your fighter's effectives to complete the mission objectives. At one point in the campaign you will literally be able to pick a specialized fighter. Which one you go for depends entirely on how you prefer to play. Be advised however, that the gameplay system may seem overwhelming because of the way it is introduced in the campaign. Certain missions will throw a bunch of new weapons and ships your way without explaining what they do. Be sure to read up on their specs or visit the tech room to better digest how the game plays, and don't be afraid to experiment.

When in doubt, try it out!

   Wings of Dawn features multiple races, each with their own combat strategy and tactics. So much so that their very personalities are formulated by the way they fight. One race for example is composed of thick headed attack dogs that do not understand the word 'retreat'. Another race retreats at the drop of a dime and carries itself very mysteriously.

   The individual characters themselves are well crafted. You as the player are in a squad filled with these characters who interact with you both through briefing dialogue, in mission messages and customized personas. Even the computers in WOD have personalities, and quite intricate ones at that. The developer went one step further by giving some of these characters unique .ani 'talking heads' which are all hand drawn frame by frame (if I'm not mistaken) featuring both warm and comedic animated gestures, yet another 'window' into the character's personalities. The artwork overall is very well done, wallpapering practically every inch of the monitor throughout the game. Many of the loading screens were hand drawn as well.

Custom .anis give the game its own feel

   The story exceeded my expectations and involves more twists and turns than you can fold into a water slide. Heh.. well, certain elements will get your attention at least. The plot is event driven much like the Freespace series, but is also character driven. In addition to explaining the causes and effects, the briefing dialogue gets into many of the finer points of character dynamics, world building or in mission tactics. Things certain players might just want to skim, while others will lap up like a puppy on a mother's teat. Some briefings contain upwards of 11 stages to them which really get into the greatest detail of the mission, or introduce some comedic interlude with the characters. Much of it is good and thoughtful, but you might want to just dust over the rest because it does get long winded.

Low on ammo? Head for the docking bay! 

   The campaign features unique mission scenarios that have been rarely attempted elsewhere. Players can expect to: engage in interracial negotiations, fly inside enemy ships to destroy their reactors, and escape from heart pumping death trap scenarios. Everything the player does is pivotal to the advancement of the plot and engages the player to feel a sense of personal investment. Make no mistake, some of these missions are quite difficult. I reluctantly had to kick things down to 'Very Easy' for some of them. Sometimes I was glued to my seat, absolutely determined to complete a mission, but feeling accomplished after overcoming the obstacles (even on Very Easy!). Watch your back out there!

Prepare for descent...

   Many missions involve intricate and difficult to overcome challenges you can expect to attempt again and again, which is good. Just hope that the mission you are on does not have a cut scene in the beginning of it, because you will be forced to sit through it a second time as your punishment for failing the mission. There were some instances where I would fail a mission several times, hitting shift+/ to blaze through the pre-game show yet again. Don't get me wrong, the cut scenes are great and some of them made me chuckle (perhaps you can guess which ones), but not being able to skip them gets ruthless when all you want to do is try and beat a certain obstacle.

Wings of Dawn is a unique mod largely from the imagination of a single individual. It has great depth in whichever avenue you enjoy out of gaming: story, gameplay, adventure experience etc. It has a little of everything, and don't let the fact that it's an anime fool you, it's not without charm and is very accessible to people who think Cowboy Bebop is some kind of western dance club. Save this mod for a day where you have lots of free time, then prepare to get sucked into another universe.

Battles can get pretty intense

...why the text size?

The pictures dwarfed the text, so I adjusted it to make things more comfortable to read.

Pred the Penguin:
You seem to have posted your review twice?

But anyway I agree with pretty much all your points. I especially like the character development. Can't seem to get enough of Misuzu. o_o

But Misuzu is - as Crystal stated - not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

I really liked all characters and cared for them. That doesn't happen often (my heart's still beating for Mackie from Derelict though - in a non-sexual way ;) )


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