the money we spend on games you would think that some of us would learn
not to spend it so foolishly. Well, 'whoops'. Once again, a game that
i believed would have some promise has found its way into my shopping
cart and like some mutant newborn in a baby-carriage, Dark Reign 2 unfortunately
bursts with cries of generic gameplay and RTS yawns-why did i not listen?
appear elementary to many that after the releases of games like Earth
2150 the summer had seen its best RTSs-anything else that was to come
in the next little while was obviously not going to be as pleasing.
After all, how much hype did Dark Reign 2 get anyway? Not a huge amount.
But the trooper i was, felt that it had some up-side. The screenshots
looked decent enough for the game...just like Shogun...hmmm. No
wonder i ended up being the only one on staff who was willing to review
it. Well, upon installation and playing the game (often against my will)
it would turn out that this game generally provides nothing new and
those looking for some of that Starcraft/alienesque RTS essence won't
find it here either. Here is the low down...
plot is basic-the world is in ruins, blah blah blah '2 races fight for
supremacy' sort of stuff. I won't even insult you by going further into
it. But the game starts you off with 2 races to choose from: the JDA
and the Sprawlers. Now, besides the fact that both races play extremely
similarly, and that they both have units that feel either like a waste
of time to use or look and move unnaturally, you would have thought
that after Tiberian Sun, someone would have learned that only having
2 sides to choose from isn't exactly cutting it anymore. Perhaps if
the two sides were different enough, it wouldn't be an issue, but the
fact is, the JDA and the Sprawlers have WAY too much in common and the
technology trees for both aren't mind-blowing either. Once again, you
have a game where the pictures of the units in action can look great,
but the actual in-game sequences are utterly disappointing.
of the graphics, for some reason, the environmental graphics are somewhat
nicer for the single player mode...a little more attention to detail
than for the multiplayer maps. Then again, ALL the maps are somewhat
repetitive in terms of motif. Then again, i am probably wrong and just
losing my mind.
the multiplayer maps look like they came right out of Evolva. But other
than that, the graphics in general don't blow a game like Force Commander
out of the water entirely. So, the graphics are ok, but not great
by today's standards. Dark Reign 2 does sport some neat water-mirroring
effects and even low-end systems will be able to run the game while
being able to see the game's graphics in reasonably high resolutions.
Problem is, even when playing the game at high resolutions with textures
etc. maxed out, the game doesn't look that much greater than
when run at, 640 x 480 with medium texture levels applied. Furthermore,
the unit and building designs appear uninspired at their best and pathetic
at their worst. No real detailed texturing on any of the buildings-just
pastel color combinations and the occasional small patterns.
again, this game is a 3D RTS, so we are left to look at how Dark Reign
2 handles the 3rd dimension in terms of camera and control. It frustrates
me to say it, but this game (like others) makes such poor use of the
camera. I mean please-if you are going to sport a 3D engine game with
a 3D camera then let the camera move in FULL 3D. But the makers of DR2
haven't caught onto this. There are only 4 different 3D compass perspectives
available via hot keys on the num pad. You can navigate the camera to
appear completely overhead or from a ground view by using the mouse
wheel, but if you don't have one, combine that issue along with the
'hot key 3D camera navigation' issue and you have unintuitive camera
usage in a genre that begs for the opposite. Luckily, moving the camera,
front and back and side to side is as simple as it was in Ground Control,
but that doesn't make up for the lack of perspective positioning for
the game camera.
come, there must be good things about DR2-right? anyone? OK OK, there
for this game (although small) is nothing short of perfect. The music
totally rocks from install to in-game. The cinematics are also decent
enough and please the eye as much as they need to. The game sounds such
as weapons etc. range from bad to average, but with the music turned
on, one can kind of tune out from the dumb unit voices like that of
the 'Go-Go' tank. How would you like to be a girl and play a game that
has female driven vehicle-units that say stupid things in flirty, ditzy
voices like 'big guns' for no reason at all. LAME. At least the AI can
provide a hearty challenge at times and the changes in day and night
are somewhat 'intriguing' although there never seems to be much of a
visual difference between the two when playing.
not stray from the positives though...Dark Reign 2 actually provides
game engine add-ons up to twice a week for the rest of the summer. They
also post mods, wallpapers and other downloads pertaining to the game.
Now THIS is a huge positive-especially for improving the game down the
road if possible. But at the same time, one has to wonder if it won't
just become some semi-covert method of handing out patch fixes for the
game without receiving a lot of flak for putting out an unfinished product-and
frankly, this game DOES feel unfinished to a certain extent.
it even further, this game feels like it would have been great a year
ago-but after the likes of Earth 2150, Ground Control, Homeworld, Armada-and
EVEN Force Commander-this game missed the boat and its developers would
have been FAR happier with the results if it were released around the
advent of the 3D Real Time Strategy. I alluded to this before, but Dark
Reign 2 makes better competition for Force Commander than any other
game recently offered in the 3D RTS category this summer and it's strange-even
if the graphics were improved and the camera were fixed, the gameplay
offers so little that is new that this game still wouldn't fare much
better than it does right now.
a surprise from this title? Think i am being too tough? Well i tried
to play it and enjoy it (honestly!) but, this just happens to be one
of those games where once you think you can convince yourself to enjoy
it despite its shortcomings, those same shortcomings throw themselves
in your face and make you realize what a fool you were to try and be
an optimist in the first place. Perhaps had i not been spoiled by the
recent 3D RTSs i might be less harsh on DR2...perhaps. At least keep
that in mind.
me just end it with this: making a quality RTS isn't about throwing
in the average, required elements anymore-it's time developers faced
that. Just because you throw the 3D aspect into a game doesn't make
everything better. Based on that, it would seem that the creators
of Dark Reign 2 still have some learning to do.
to the bone when it comes to gameplay, units, buildings, races-you
3D engine not only feels a tad dated, but the camera is even worse
soundtrack for the game rocks-even if it only consists of a handful