Wings of Dawn is HLP's first all-original IP! And it's about to hit YOUR FACE with a standalone, free, no-fiddling-required release!
What's Wings of Dawn? Wings of Dawn is the hybrid space baby of anime and Star Control, set in a universe where fractious humanity is just beginning to confront titanic alien powers, built on systems-driven gameplay designed to give players a lot of toys and a lot of power.
I don't really like anime but it doesn't really matter because Wings of Dawn is a technical tour de force and a real kick to the ass of FreeSpace modding in general. Axem and Spoon have been holed up in their cabal making arcane impossible things out of the guts of FreeSpace. In Wings of Dawn you'll get:
- Striking presentation! No more dots of light filling up the load screen. Wings unfold from a heraldic shield. The custom HUD is full of unique, mission-specific gauges. The mainhall is fully modeled and bits light up when you mouse over them. There are entire menu elements that didn't exist in core FS2, like a full-screen reading view for fiction, a diary, and more. Even the difficulty levels have been renamed.
- Rich gameplay systems. Anyone who played the original Wings of Dawn release already got to see the carefully crafted damage model, with specific weapons excelling against specific targets, and the diverse range of enemy behaviors, with each species full of its own tricks and weaknesses to learn. But it's been five years and there's a lot more happening now - although if anything it's cleaner to pick up. LUA wizardry makes it easy to dogfight in a crevasse between three asteroids while dodging VLS missiles from a nearby ship and timing command-detonated mines. There are a ton of quality-of-life touches, including a beginner-friendly control scheme and an option to revert to FS classic with a single button!
- Bafflingly seamless narrative. This is what really struck me! YOU CAN WANDER AROUND YOUR BASE SHIP AND TALK TO PEOPLE. It's not a 3D space, more like a choose-your-own-adventure, but you can decide to move between places, ask characters prying questions about their personal lives, read the news, eat breakfast, and so on. The Sorcerers Supreme may have gone TOO FAR. I don't want to overhype this like some Star Citizen bull**** but it really is very very cool. So instead of leaping from mission to debrief to CB to brief, you get downtime to see what's up and get to know people.
- Really creative missions! You will do stuff you haven't done before, except in the tutorial, which is dull right now.
Fix that tutorial, Spoon! he fixed it it's cool now. I don't want to talk about this too much because it'll spoil the fun but I will say that it's all cleanly taught, low-stress, and fun to repeat. And it will repeatedly expand your idea of what's possible in FSO. Particularly cool is the fact that 'walk around the ship' segments can cut right to space, so you might hear a character say 'we're jumping!' and get an external shot of the ship warping.
- A killer look! I am a sucker for campaigns, like Diaspora, that manage to make their models look tactile. Wings of Dawn has a lot of sharp, colorful, interesting ships. Generous FXAA helps, sure, but the models also play to the colorful anime aesthetic, occasionally looking almost handdrawn. Your cockpit will actually get cracked and start fuzzing with errors as you take damage!
Of all the projects still active on HLP I think that WoD (and JaD, but hey, it's not like they don't sleep together) is the one most concerned with the player's fun. In a campaign like BP you can ask a question like 'can I go do that?' and the answer is probably 'no you fool and MEDITATE ON THE HORROR OF WAR!!' Wings of Dawn is happy to say 'yeah, sure!'
The upcoming WoD episode is short, sharp, consumable, and fun. It installs fast, runs fast, and plays fast. I really encourage you to check it out.