You are hereby ordered to divert from Vega sector to Goddard colony in Deneb sector. Terran intelligence reports probable Kilrathi attack. All communication with Goddard lost. Upon arrival defend colony and destroy enemy. Good hunting.
The Secret Missions was Wing Commander’s first expansion. It uses the same game engine, placing you again in your cockpit in a fight to the death against the Kilrathi. The Terrans have kicked out these humanoid, cat-like creatures at the end of the first game, but now they’re back with a vengeance.
Wing Commander was an innovative space dogfighting game where, as a wing leader, you had to plan your squadron’s attack. And then you had to act it out by giving instructions to your wingmen as well as joining the fight yourself. Fans of the game naturally demanded more.
As an expansion, The Secret Missions assumes that you have already completed Wing Commander’s Vega campaign. So it doesn’t bother to start easy and ramp up the difficulty as you advance. No, instead the missions start harder than any mission from the base game and keep piling enemy starfighters against you on each and every mission thereafter.
You are offered to convert your save game from Vega sector, but it doesn’t really add up to much. You just keep your kill tally and any medals and that’s it. If there were any dead wingmen, they are revived. However, there is a bug in the game when using the converted save game. Your wingman (wingwoman?) Spirit is automatically marked as killed in action at the most difficult part in the game. You will have to download a tool to fix this issue.
Where the first game provided a branching campaign, shifting towards ultimate victory or defeat depending on your successful completion of the missions, here it is more linear. Fail once and on the next mission will only allow you to determine the magnitude of your defeat.
There are points in The Secret Missions that force you to almost give up. There is a lot that can go wrong on each mission. Although getting blown up into pieces is probably caused by your own carelessness, there are times when you have to defend another craft or your own wingman and hope that they do not do any stupid mistakes themselves. On one occasion I also got blown up by friendly fire from behind while we were both chasing the last enemy on a mission with more than twenty Kilrathi. But then you realise that it is this unpredictability that has always made Wing Commander replayable.
Then all of a sudden, the commander decides to put you on a rapier-class fighter and the last few missions become a breeze. True, there are wave after wave of fighters coming at you in these final missions, but this fighter is so much superior that you just need to keep a cool head to see them off successfully.
The bottom line is that Wing Commander: The Secret Missions is for players who have already played the base game. So go and play it. Then come back to see if it will make you a hardcore gamer or break you along the way.