The player takes the role of a nameless pilot (later referred to as Christopher Blair in sequels) aboard the TCS Tiger’s Claw, a Bengal-class Strike Carrier. The player names the pilot and choose his call sign. The pilot, known in-production to Origin personnel as “Bluehair” after his most notable feature, quickly rises through the ranks of the flight wing. The campaign will split to various different planets and scenarios depending on the player’s performance.
If the player performs overall well, they eventually lead a strike on the Kilrathi High Command starbase in the Venice system and force the Kilrathi to retreat. If the player fails too many objectives, missions become increasingly defensive in nature. Human refugees abandon the sector, and eventually the Claw is forced to retreat as well. Of the two endings, the “winning” path is considered canon by the game’s two expansion packs as well as the sequel Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi.
Wing Commander is a space flight simulation game, with the player piloting a ship, completing missions, and engaging enemy ships of various capabilities. As the title suggests, there will generally be an AI-controlled wingman which the player can give orders to. Missions will generally include multiple objectives, but the game can proceed even if objectives are failed as long as the protagonist survives. The game features a branching, open-ended story where overall performance affects the campaign.
Succeeding at objectives results in medals, promotions in rank, and progressing to missions with better ships; failing at objectives leads to more difficult missions and piloting inferior ships. The mission tree is designed so players on the “losing” path could work their way back to the “winning” path, and conversely players on the “winning” path could fail subsequent missions to fall into the “losing” path. In addition, the wingmen can be killed permanently in combat, and thus be gone for the rest of the campaign.