Wing Commander: Privateer

aka: Trade Commander
(prices updated 9/28 5:01 AM )

Description official descriptions

On the fringe of Human space, near the Kilrathi border, the industrial machine is running full-tilt to feed the war effort, and there is a lot of shipping - but also a lot of pirates, Retros (religious fanatics who want to destroy technology), military, militia, merchants, mercenaries, and privateers. In the darkness, a battle between ships has woken up something ancient, powerful, and deadly.

Wing Commander: Privateer is a space trading and combat simulation. The player assumes the role of a privateer. Start with the lowly scout, and upgrade to one of the three other superior ships: Galaxy (superior cargo space), Orion (superior protection), or Centurion (superior offense). Buy optional equipment such as armor, engines, shields, weapons, launchers for torpedoes/missiles, and more. Take on missions (multiple sources, from the cheapest mission computer, to fixers who has the toughest but most rewarding missions) and earn money for upgrades. Use spare cargo room to trade commodities to further add to the account. Missions can vary from search and destroy to Fedex (i.e. delivery) to bounty hunting, and more.

The game is set in the Wing Commander universe, but is more of a free-form game similar to Elite. While there is a central plot, the player can deviate from it somewhat and can continue playing the game after completing the main story missions.

Groups +




See any errors or missing info for this game?

You can submit a correction, contribute trivia, add to a game group, add a related site or alternate title.

Credits (DOS version)

58 People (44 developers, 14 thanks) · View all



Average score: 80% (based on 16 ratings)


Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 82 ratings with 14 reviews)

Best game I've ever played, period.

The Good
Ability to play any way you wanted (merc, pirate, merchant, unpaid militia, or even friend of the Kilrathi). If you want, you can change, too.

It has elements of all types of games from action, adventure, sim, RPG, sci-fi, and strategy.

Graphics are superb. Sound creates an atmosphere and adds to the game. Clues are even given by changes in the sound.

Gameplay is balanced, and the entire game can go on without the actual story line ever being touched (although the story does offer some really nice perks).

Upgrades, different planets, trading, and merchant and mercenary guilds. The guilds really add something extra to the game, doling out credits for successful completion.

A little bit of a twist in communications. You can use your communicator to send ship to ship messages in an attempt to change a hostile ship to friendly, or vice versa.

With a linear story line you can stop the story, go get a better ship, and pick right back up where you left off.

The Bad
Privateer 2. It made a lot of good improvements in the game, but overall just didn't click.

Getting picky, here are some things that could have been better: more ships, more races to encounter, even larger universe, ability to actually make a large difference in the universe, time-line triggered events (like have new weapons be discovered as you progress throughout the game - as it was in P2).

P2 had a lot of improvements, but it totally lost the balance and flow of the game. It was basically just a movie turned into a CD-ROM game.

The Bottom Line
It is NOT another Wing Commander game. Sure, it has some parallels to the WC series, but it's totally different. It's just a well-designed game that actually works! It has a good deal of replay value as you can pick different ships, and you can always try to do something really strange like be a Kilrathi ally. It's really hard to find a game where you can ally with the enemy.

DOS · by Cyric (50) · 2001

Good, but not Great

The Good
The gameplay is immersive. This is one of the few games where it's more fun to avoid the main plot and just concentrate on exploring, trading, and upgrading your ship. Getting to play blockade runner with a hold full of illegal drugs by dive-bombing a planet on full-afterburner with a half-dozen confed ships on your tail is still possibly the most fun ever offered up in a WC game. Plus the idea of being able to switch "sides" at will between several competing groups is nice - it's theoretically possible to be allied to the pirates, the Kilrathi, and Confed all at once. And the music was some of the best MIDI work they had.

The Bad
The gameplay is blatantly ripped from Elite. I'm still amazed David Brabden didn't sue Origin - every aspect of the game EXCEPT the plotline is straight out of that classic, even down to most of the specific items you can trade in. Also, it got mind-bogglingly difficult towards the end of the plotline, with missions that took more than an hour to complete and far more bad guys than was really necessary. (and the add-on mission pack took that difficulty and upped it further. I know VERY few people who managed to complete it.)

The Bottom Line
Want to play Elite 3.0? Here ya go. Skip the plotline and just explore.

DOS · by WizardX (116) · 2000

One wonders why Privateer 2 was a step backward from this classic.

The Good
The first thing that snatched me is the complete customizability of your ship. The ship that you chose to fly with towards the end of the game really managed to demonstrate to the rest of the galaxy what kind of privateer you were. And, the accessories you purchased determined how much money you were making and how good you were at making it... The second is the availability of missions. Although, the plot-advancing missions were some of the best in the game, the fact that there was always something to do in every starbase (from cargo running to bounty hunting) really enhanced the lasting appeal of this game.

The Bad
The limiting number of ships you could fly. It would have been great to fly a military surplus Broadsword, or even the Militia/Retro/Pirate craft, the talon (even if they seemed to be made of paper). If they had made all of the ships that you encountered playable, that would have given this game even more permanent value.

The Bottom Line
Think of this as a version of Wing Commander 2 - only sleeker and a lot more fun. Also, it's a lot less rigid in terms of gameplay since you do everything on your own terms. My favorite Space Combat games (for instance, Star Control 2) are always games that offer customizability and variety, and Privateer is no exception. From what I've heard of Privateer 2 (I haven't actually played it), I'm rather disappointed that not only does it have nothing to do with the original Privateer, but it also took a step backward in gameplay.

DOS · by Chockydonutman (4) · 2000

[ View all 14 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
disk 5 John Sheehy Dec 17th, 2007



When you finish the game, your character was having a conversation with the admiral... Then all of a sudden they started talking back and forth about the game and its creators!

Hidden game

There is a hidden text adventure. Information on how to access it can be found in the hint section.


Although Privateer's player's guide was quite run-of-the-mill compared to other Origin game manuals it did come with a short story. The Frontiersman: Interview With A Privateer was the account of an interview conducted to our very own Brownhair (with all names changed to protect the innocent, of course) and which told us his story to the point were he sets sail to the Gemini sector. The story also explains his relationship with the Retros and adds a more somber tone to the game, particularly to it's add-on, Righteous Fire.

Player character

According to an early Origin press release the player character (brownhair)'s name is Grayson Burrows.

System requirements

On the box of the German disk version of privateer there was as hardware minimum requirements announced a 386 DX with 25 MHz. But on the first pages of the manual suddenly they wrote that the minimum is a 386 DX with 33 MHz. From nowadays viewpoint, when clock speed is counted at hundreds, nothing important, but in 1993 this was rather annoying when you just owned a 25 MHz machine.


  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #59 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking

Information also contributed by Benjamin Dunham, Kasey Chang, xcorn1602 and Zovni

Related Games

Wing Commander: Privateer - CD-ROM Edition
Released 1994 on DOS, 2011 on Windows, 2012 on Macintosh
Wing Commander: Privateer - Gemini Gold
Released 2005 on Linux, Windows, Macintosh
Wing Commander
Released 1990 on DOS, 1992 on SNES, Amiga...
Wing Commander 1+2
Released 2011 on Windows, 2012 on Macintosh
Wing Commander Academy
Released 1993 on DOS, 2013 on Windows
Wing Commander: Prophecy
Released 1997 on Windows, 2003 on Game Boy Advance

Related Sites +

  • Privateer entry on Old Skool PC - Classics Reunited
    Nifty site with lots of info on Wing Commander: Privateer. Game details, overview of all the ships in the game, stats on everything from weapons to commodities, the NavMap, list of planets and bases, mission walkthrough, desktop themes... even some soundtrack files. Also has some links to patches and editors.

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by IJan.

Additional contributors: Terok Nor, test test, Zeikman, Patrick Bregger.

Game added February 19th, 2020. Last modified August 14th, 2023.