What’s Your Most Memorable Dogfight?

Assault Gunboat cockpit

Freaking Gunboats...

Anyone who’s played space combat games for a long time probably has several tales of brilliant success or failure that have been seared into their brains over the years. A brilliant victory, a crushing defeat, a desperate battle against incredible odds, that sort of thing. If you’re a veteran of as many space battles as I am, you know you have one or two that will be with you for all time.

Mine was in Star Wars: Tie Fighter, in a mission entitled, “Destroy the Lulsla” (which you can read about here, here and here). As the sixth mission in the first “battle” (or short campaign, 13 in all with several missions apiece) of the game, I didn’t think it would be much of a challenge…read on to see how completely wrong I was.

The first several missions of Tie Fighter had been fairly routine up until this point. Shoot some X-Wings, scan some freighters, bomb some corvettes, that sort of thing. In this mission, one of the first with the Assault Gunboat, we were attacking the Calamari cruiser Lulsla that had been laid up for repairs. Those of us flying Gunboats were to help take out the fighter cover — which consisted of A-Wings, X-Wings and Y-Wings — and then help the TIE Bombers take out the Lulsla herself. This was complicated by the fact that the Lulsla was also surrounded by several minefields.

As I hyperspaced into the combat arena, I put full power to weapons and bled the extra power to the shields, which would allow me to keep some modicum of speed. The AG was a decent machine, but speedy she wasn’t. Then I targeted my first fighter, and X-Wing, which was headed right at my group of Gunboats. Soon, the X-Wing was a memory, was were some Y-Wings…and that was when the A-Wings began to arrive.

I don’t know about you, but whenever flying an AG, I thought the A-Wing can the be bane of my damned existence. I hated flying them in X-Wing, and I hated flying against them in TIE Fighter because they were so damned small and agile. As you’ve read elsewhere, I think the A-Wing is one of the worst fighters in any space game, and that’s true no matter whether you’re with one or against one.

The A-Wings were several clicks from me when I saw them launch, so I finished up the dogfight I was in with a couple of Y-Wings before trying to deal with them. Sadly, I didn’t have time to notice that one small group of A-Wings had me in their sights, because just as I mopped up the second Y-Wing, that distinctive sounds of my shields taking fire began in earnest. I looked at my display and saw two A-Wings in my immediate proximity.

Slightly panicked, I began evasive maneuvers while trying to draw the bead on one of them, which wasn’t easy (damned tiny fighters). As I was maneuvering, my shields continue to slowly fall as my target’s wingman got in pot shots at me. Suddenly, before I knew it, my shields went completely down in a heartbeat, followed by the alert that my shield generator was damaged. In looking around, I noticed that the original two A-Wings had picked up four more friends. I was being toyed with by six freaking A-Wings at once.

Now COMPLETELY panicked, I evaded as if my life depended on it. Altering speed and heading quickly and at random, I flew around as erratically as possible while watching the timer for the damaged shield generator reach zero, when it would be repaired. When it was initially damaged, the display read four minutes. This turned into the four longest minutes of my life.

While I was bobbing, weaving, turning and burning, I put all the energy I had into my weapons, knowing that when the shields came back, I’d shunt all of that built-up energy into them. I’d occasionally get a pot shot at one of the A-Wings, but most of the time I was concentrating on moving as much as possible. Several times I thought I’d break my joystick due to how hard I was pulling and yanking (stop giggling, this is serious).

As I turned and burned, the A-Wings would get in shots now and then, and I’d slowly see my hull indicator turn from green to yellow to red, all the while wiping sweat from my eyes any moment I could. I only stopped now and then to check the damage screen, to see how much time I had left before the shields came back online. I also still had a bunch of concussion missiles, but I couldn’t stay with any one target long enough to get a shot. I was completely and utterly in the zone, focused with all of my might on avoiding the A-Wings’ fire.

Eventually, I saw the blessed report that the shield generator was back online. Not wasting time, I shunted all of my weapon energy to the shields, repeating the process until I had two layers of green shields. All this time I was still evading fire so as to build up my shields as much as possible.

Eventually, once I had enough shield and weapon fire, I began to fight back. The first A-Wing I took down with a close missile shot. The next three, I took out with concentrated laser fire (all cannons at once, I didn’t want to waste time). The fifth A-Wing was another missile shot, and the final, sixth A-Wing was under a barrage of laser fire.

After all of the A-Wings were down, I took a breath, which felt like the first one I’d taken in several minutes. I surveyed the rest of the battlefield and saw that the TIE Bombers had done their job and taken out the Lulsla! I quickly went through the target list and saw that I was the only Imperial craft in the area, and some Y-Wings that were left behind were approaching from a few clicks away.

Exhausted, covered in sweat and feeling like I had just done thirty laps in the pool, I got the hell out of there. While I wasn’t able to complete all of the secondary objectives, we did complete the primary objective of taking out the Lulsla. I had just flown the most strenuous, difficult and challenging dogfight up to that point…and few others would ever come close to matching the challenge of that one.

So, that’s my story, what’s yours? I’d love to hear about your most memorable dogfight in the comments. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. :)

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11 Responses to What’s Your Most Memorable Dogfight?

  1. Tony M says:

    Nice story. All my favorite dogfights came from the Lucasarts Star Wars games too. It felt like dogfighting because you had to "shake him off your tail" and then get on his tail and stay there. It felt like Top Gun, which, for my generation, is final word on realistic air combat.

    Star Wars dogfighting felt like a breath of fresh air after the "medieval jousting in space" feel of the early Wing Commander games.

    Tony

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    • Brian Rubin Brian Rubin says:

      This is true, it felt like your maneuvers matters in the LucasArts games, rather than just the twist and shoot and twist and shootness of the Wing Commander games.

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  2. Juan Rayo says:

    Great story mate, made me re-live some of the LAN nights at my place, with my buddies and I in a nervous formation while we waited for an Imperial star destroyer to jump in. Both Xwing vs Tie fighter and Freespace 2 gave us memorable space dog fights, haven't experienced anything quite like that since.

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    • Brian Rubin Brian Rubin says:

      Sigh, totally. I would love for games like this to make a comeback.

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  3. Norwyn Schultze says:

    I wish I could actually remember specifics, but alas, I cannot. All I know for certain is that it would have been in one of the X-Wing games, most likely Tie Fighter. Flying in space never felt quite as 'real' as in the X-Wing games, and the dogfighting was superior to all others.

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    • Brian Rubin Brian Rubin says:

      The X-Wing/TIE Fighter definitely felt more "seat of the pants" than nearly any other space sims.

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  4. Pingback: An Ode to iMUSE (or Missing Contextually-Based Music in Space Games) | Space Game Junkie

  5. Chris says:

    Mine was with the first Wing Commander. It was the the mission where the Kilarthi attack you in stolen Rapiers, the best fighter in the game. I don't remember how many I fought, I want to say at least two waves of 4 back to back, all without my guns which had been shot off. I had a few missiles left but I tried to ration them for certain kills. I wound up diving at the enemy, pulling up at the last second and slamming into them. My shields would drop all the way but I always did serious damage to the Cats. By the time I landed on the carrier all alarms had been blasting for 10 minutes. It was a white knuckle affair all the way.

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    • Brian Rubin Brian Rubin says:

      Oh yeah, wow, I recall that mission vaguely. Awesome stuff. That was a tough one. :)

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  6. Wi111 says:

    just discover this great blog ,

    i use to be Wing Commander 2 fan play the hack out of it , but Xwing/Tie Fighter really spoile me after that i just lost all the love for wing commander even i still play through WC 3 to 5 but they never had the feel of flying as Xwing or so.

    for my memorable dogfight also from Xwing

    at the latest stage of the game when fight above death star, i was flying Xwing/Awing fight group of Tie Advance no matter what i do , those TIE just way too nimble to get behind them, the battle go on for 2+ hours in complete stalemate.

    i was so exhaust end up pause the game n go take a nap with the fear the computer will crash.

    lucky for me nothing go wrong after the nap i able to finish the mission within 30mins or so.

    it may not be exciting as your mission but sure was memorable for me.

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