Dark Reign 2
Despite its powerful and extremely attractive 3D graphics engine, Dark Reign 2 ultimately fails to tread much new ground.
Pandemic Studios' Dark Reign 2 is a fully 3D real-time strategy game that looks excellent and plays quite well. The game takes place on a futuristic Earth torn by a war between two powerful factions, the JDA and the Sprawlers. Each is equipped with infantry, naval, aerial, and tank units that attack each other with shimmering laser beams and explosive shells. All in all, Dark Reign 2 is a solid, balanced, and very polished game - which is why it's all the more unfortunate that its gameplay closely follows an otherwise unoriginal and limited formula for real-time strategy games: Gather resources, amass troops, and attack your enemy.
It's true that Dark Reign 2 looks great. Each of the game's units, from the poised Guardian and Castigar infantry units of the JDA to the Sprawlers' double-barreled Scorpion tanks, is extremely detailed. Each military unit fires weapons, like glowing lasers that strike their targets and explode in a burst of colored light, volleys of projectile ammunition that leave arcing trails of white smoke in their wake, bolts of searing lightning, or other equally impressive armaments. If you've seen any static screenshots of Dark Reign 2, you've probably already seen many of the game's slick-looking units and spectacular explosions. You may not know that some of the firing animations, particularly on infantry units, are stiff and awkward-looking, and that the debris that flies up in the air from a destroyed building is usually nothing more than poorly animated black polygonal chunks. But these are relatively minor problems in a game with otherwise excellent graphics - problems that for the most part don't make Dark Reign 2's futuristic buildings and various military units any less attractive.
Despite whatever else might be said about its sound or graphics, Dark Reign 2 plays quite well. The mid to late games are often extremely strategic, and they require you to carefully select the right units for the right job. That's because Dark Reign 2 - like other strategy games before it - has a number of features to discourage early-game "rush" tactics with
low-level units. For instance, most low-level units are fairly slow on their feet, and the game lets you defend your base with powerful and inexpensive stationary turrets from the get-go - turrets that will make short work of a simple squad of base-level troops. What's more, both of the game's factions may build powerful turrets that are specifically designed to wreak havoc on either airborne or grounded troops - though these specialized turrets themselves are usually vulnerable to attacks from enemies they aren't specifically designed to attack. In fact, most of Dark Reign 2's units are designed this way. Each has particular strengths - which can often be used to great effect against a specific type of enemy unit - and particular weaknesses that render them nearly useless in other situations. As such, you must build a balanced and varied army to succeed in Dark Reign 2.
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