Star Wars: X-Wing was a 1993 flight simulator game by LucasArts set in the Star Wars universe for the PC. Although it came out in 1993, I didn’t get X-Wing until around 1996. We got a new Macintosh computer from my grandpa for Christmas, unlocking the world of computer games to me. The X-Wing designers followed a simple formula: take a popular game genre and make a Star Wars version of it. This formula proved to be revolutionary for Star Wars games.
Over the next decade and beyond, all the best Star Wars games followed this formula. There was the Star Wars first-person shooter, the Star Wars real-time strategy game, the Star Wars role-playing game, and so on. So many developers had tried to come up with their own unique genres for their Star Wars games, but it just didn’t work. It was only when developers used the tried and true gameplay of other games that Star Wars video games experienced their golden age.
X-Wing being a flight simulator had the typical gameplay of that genre, except set in space. The player piloted the X-Wing on various space missions. Each mission had a little introductory story and a set of objectives to complete. During the mission, the story could change with new objectives needing to be completed. There were three tours to complete. Each tour contained several missions with a beginning, middle, and end to the story. I found the game to be quite difficult. I only made it about halfway through each tour. I came back to the game several times later but just couldn’t get past a certain point every time. I had no idea how to change my play to do better.
I probably would do better if I played it now, but it was too difficult for my child self. Back in those days we didn’t have internet access, so I couldn’t just look up winning strategies like I can now. There are countless games I probably wouldn’t have finished without looking up what to do. I don’t remember X-Wing having difficulty settings or I would have lowered them. Also, I think the player had limited lives. If they lost all their lives, they had to start the tour from the beginning. This punishing gameplay was not conducive to learning but popular at the time by designers as a way to pad out the time players would spend with their game.
I don’t consider X-Wing to be the best Star Wars game, but it set things in motion for the later Star Wars games that I loved. I will always appreciate it for this reason. It took a few years for X-Wing’s quality to rub off onto other Star Wars games, but when it did, all of us childhood Star Wars fans were in heaven for many years.