Dark Reign 2
As pointed out in our realtime strategy supertest last time, Activision's Dark Reign was - and still is - an excellent example of the genre. A supremely enjoyable outing, we called it. Nowadays though, it looks a bit dated - the game lacks the character of its main rivals, was our main criticism. This could possibly be because of the generic nature of the graphics. With this in mind, Activision split-off Pandemic Studios set to work on a sequel that would prove to be as visually stimulating and credible as possible, while keeping the all-important gameplay elements intact. Dark Reign II, it seems, is on track to do just that.
Using a proprietary (ie homegrown) accelerator-only 3D engine, Pandemic are attempting to redefine how a game of this sort can be played. Now it will be possible to stand on the front line with your troops, surveying the area from their point of view. Zooming in to an over-the-shoulder view of your favourite unit as it blasts an enemy tank is as simple as pressing a key on the keyboard. In fact, the viewpoint plays a big part in how the game is played. So much so that Pandemic have still to make a few hard and fast decisions about its flexibility. The landscape itself plays more of a part this time, in that hills and valleys are much more prominent and prove more of an obstacle (and a hiding place) than before.
Josh Resnick, head honcho at Pandemic, points this out: Working with true 3D battlefields, we've proven that 3D can add much more to a real-time strategy game than just great graphics. 3D gives gamers the power to control their viewpoint into the world, plugging them into the frenzy of combat while maintaining command of the massive battles that all of us RTS fans crave.
Set on Earth in the 26th century, Dark Reign 11 is actually a prequel to the original title, in that the storyline chronicles the build-up to the Freedom Guard-Imperium War -the basis of Dark Reign. You control one of a number of futuristic tribes, fighting for freedom against an iron-fisted ruling elite.
Base-building, resource management and hard-hitting combat remain key gameplay elements, although this time there are interior shootout sequences held inside multilevelled buildings. Outdoor battles are influenced by weather conditions, with Pandemic's 3D engine providing suitably impressive lighting and fogging, including transitional day/night visibility effects. The graphics engine is also used to create the cut-scenes, so Pandemic certainly have it working overtime.
When released, a highly significant part of the package will be the Dark Reign II editor that Activision plan to include with the full retail version of the game. We recently had the chance to check out this cool piece of software for ourselves and saw great potential. While Dark Reign Il's graphics and gameplay appear complex by design, Pandemic's whizz-kid programming team have made them simple enough to manipulate in an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop editor - a testament to their obviously highly evolved skills.
Download Dark Reign 2
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode