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Dark reign 2

Let it Reign

For award description click hereI loved the original Dark Reign. I found the unit mix fun, balanced and different from everything out there at the time. Sadly, Total Annihilation came out at about the same time and it overshadowed what was, in my opinion, a better game. When Dark Reign 2 was announced, I was very happy. When I found out it was a 3D RTS, I was even happier. Maybe the franchise could find its fan base now. Then Ground Control shipped…errggh. I have played both and, once again, Dark Reign rules the roost.

Pandemic Studios (Battlezone II) have done a great job on the franchise, and have already released 5 game-enhancing add-ons…more on those later.

The story takes place in 2506, and the Earth is a wasteland. Pollution and overpopulation has taken its toll on our planet's ability to provide for us. Life outside of the “domes” is a desperate struggle against gangs and the oppressive JDA (Jovian Detention Authority). The JDA was originally formed to deal with humanity's criminals, and have now adopted the role of planetary police force.

The Sprawlers have had enough, and their hard fought life has turned them into a force equal to their oppressors…the final battles have begun.

Yeah, I know the story is pretty much standard apocalyptic cliché, but it will do for our purposes here.

Green Reign

The install is the same ol' same ol' 550MB full install. The usual suspects are all present: Single player Campaign, Instant Action and Multiplayer (on WON or TCP/IP). Oddly enough, you do not need the CD in the drive if you Host a WON game, Join a WON game or Join a LAN game, but you do if you Play the Campaigns, Play instant action or Host a LAN game. What is even more surprising is that the Manual tells you this on page 11. The game is copy protected with a unique CD key, and it is refreshing to have the developer reduce the CD hunt for some of the gameplay modes.

Dark Reign 2 (DR2) has a very nice front end. It resembles a landscape that is one part Blade Runner and one part TRON. It is just eye candy, but it is a testament of the detail that has gone into this game. The option screen is robust to the point of bursting. Under the Video Tab, you can tweak the 3D setting to the nth degree. I was very happy with all of my choices to let me get to the best balance of gameplay and graphics. The Sound Tab also lets you enable the CD player, so you can pop in any CD you would like to play to. Pandemic have also released an MP3 player add-on for DR2. Once installed in the “Addon” directory, this 77k download will allow you to type in a directory for your MP3 tunage, and will play them in-game. I found this a great little addition that did nothing to the game, but made me feel like the game was being supported and improved. It’s also quite interesting to play DR2 to the soundtracks of 12 Monkeys and Blade Runner.

Gameplay options are also quite numerous. The Campaigns can be played from either the JDA or Sprawlers' point of view, and whereas the story is similar, the motivation is quite different and fun to watch unfold. It is worth it to play both sides to get the full experience. Instant action is pretty much the best way to train yourself in the interface and camera controls. Again, there are many levels of customization in the game set-up. You can even set the enemy AI’s style of gameplay - aggressive or defensive. There is a good selection of maps to play on, and given Pandemics release of the DR2 construction kit, this will increase.

The final mode of play is the ubiquitous Multiplayer. Playing either over WON or TCP/IP, the game allows for some very fine MP mayhem.

Lets get into the game and see what’s up:

Thunder and Reign.

Now, I could go on and on about the gameplay, but to be honest, DR2 plays like every other RTS out there. Talon is the Resource Flavor o’ the Month. You mine talon for building material and you set up Solar Collectors or nuke plants for energy. These two things allow you to build and power your base. New units become available as you build different structures.

I don’t want to put you off with this disclosure but, hell, there is not a lot new in the way the RTS is set up. Let’s look at what sets DR2 apart from the others:

Reigning Down

DR2 uses a full-featured 3D engine. Fully cranked, it can do 32-bit textures, mirror surfaces (water), 1280x1024x32-bit max. resolution, and many other tweaks to help you get the most out of your vid card.

Initially, the camera control will confound you. The sides of the screens will only scroll you, not rotate your view. The rotate camera controls are on the number pad. I do find this annoying, as I have to lift my hand off of the mouse to rotate the camera view. I would have preferred rebinding the rotate keys to the “Q”,”E”, “Z” and “C” keys, but I cannot find a way to do that, yet (hint, hint, Pandemic).

Final Thoughts and rating scale

 

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AUTHOR
T. Robert (Carpe M’Karzi) Szekely
August 14, 2000
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SYSTEM USED
Windows 98
Celeron 400 @ 500
160 MB RAM
Matrox G200 + Voodoo2
Diamond MX300
14.4 GB HD
32x CD-ROM
4x/4x/24x CD-RW Cable Modem

REQUIREMENTS
Windows® 95, 98
3-D Hardware Accelerator 4MB Minimum
Pentium II 233
550MB HD
64 MB RAM
4x CD-ROM drive
DirectX 7a

STATS
Concept
79
Gameplay
84
Graphics
90
Sound
95
Technical
85
Overall
87

SOFTWARE

Genre:
RTS

Release Date: Available

Publisher:
Activision

Developer:
Pandemic Studios


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