Dark Reign: The Future of War
I Swear They're Taking The Piss. Dark Reign? Dark, Rain, They're from bloody Australia and they know they're pitching at a British market yet they name their game after a climate condition that we possess in unwanted abundance and they are blissfully short of. No wonder we hate them.
Truth be told. Dark Reign isn't wholly Australian. The game's engine comes from a company called Auran who are based in the culturally rich land of Mad Max, Neighbours and, er, Yahoo Serious. Activision themselves actually designed the game around it, so perhaps the name their fault. Pity, now I'm on speaking terms with the French I could do with another country to sever relations witl
The hills are alive...
It won't surprise anyone to learn that another Command ft Conquer style ga seems that anything with the word 'Dark' in the title is legally bound to be a CftCclone. What Activision are hoping will surprise people is the impressive list of advanced features.
Producer Josh Resnick boasts: "Like WarCraft II and Command Et Conquer. Dork Reign is played on a scrolling map and allows the player to select the units he wants to build and then deploy them against enemy targets. We are convinced, however, that we have far exceeded the standards set by those games in almost every way. One of the first things you'll notice is that we have included real altitude and line of sight considerations. The height and grade of a particular hill, for instance, will affect the speed at which it can be traversed by a given unit,, as well as how far over the hill that unit can see (if it can see over it at all. Entire armoured columns can be hidden in the shadows of ridges, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting enemy)." Different terrain types also play a big part in each game. Mud, ice, lava, forests and volcanoes all go towards affecting your strategies. Movement rates, visibility, durability -everything has to be considered when you send your forces out. Taking the land for granted is no longer an option.
Here's one I made earlier
Creating land is a different matter though. "We've had so much fun creating our maps and missions that we decided to let game players in on the fun." says Josh. "Dork Reign offers a sophisticated yet easy to use construction kit that will allow you to make up your own maps and missions, making truly unlimited gameplay possibilities a reality" The editor lets you play Capability Brown with every aspect of map designing, giving you a wealth of preset graphics with which to "create rolling hillsides, litter the landscape with rocks, trees and buildings and build UP forests of alien trees or desolate plains of craters and debris. Create mud hogs, rivers, smouldering lava pits, rock-faced canyons - almost anything you can dream up. And it's easy to use. To create a hill, just select the elevation you want from the menu and click and scroll across the map. The same ridge that took ten minutes to render with the maddening, puzzle-piece Red Alert map editor you can create with construction kit in ten seconds! No kidding."
It's not just the terrain that can be sculpted with the editor though. The whole game is fully customisable. Units can have their individual values adjusted to suit either your needs or the needs of the terrain, Full missions can be constructed, with all the artificial intelligence characteristics for the computer opponent moulded to suit your tastes. Which is handy if you happen to know the psychological make-up of your friends as it means you can program an opponent to really prey on his weaknesses.
Speaking of which
"The thing about which we think gamers will be most enthusiastic is Dark Reign's highly developed artificial intelligence," enthuses Josh. "Not only will you find your computer opponents more wily and cunning than they ever were in Red Alert and WarCraft II, but as a game player you will be able to determine the behaviour of each of your units through a simple interface. You'll be able to set your units' damage tolerance levels, giving them instructions to find a medic after they have endured a player-determined amount of damage or to stay and fight to the death." Think of the 'attitude1 bars in Syndicate and you'll get the basic idea.
These do sound somewhat more advanced though. You can also issue flight sim-style waypoints to your troops, assigning different actions to different areas. Units can patrol certain areas, reacting if they're provoked. They can conduct sneaky hit and run attacks on outposts, buildings or enemy units. They can even actively seek out and destroy particular targets depending on your strategic need, At last - artificially intelligent soldiers that don't defy the Trade Descriptions Act. It's about time.
I have in my hand...
So how did Activision stumble across what appears to be the Holy Grail of strategy engines? Don't they just do games with big robots in? Josh takes up the story: "Both the development teams here and in Australia are communities of rabid real-time strategy gamers who have logged hundreds of hours playing games from the WarCraft and C&C universes, as well as others. We all enjoy the fast-paced action paired with the strategic and tactical thinking that are essential to winning. A number of other companies have seen the success of these types of games and embarked on attempts to clone them and get their foot into the strategy game market, but few of these have offered any real innovation in functionality and gameplay.
"Then along came Auran with a magnificent new engine that stirred the imaginations of our designers. Maps were no longer merely backgrounds but actual playing environments that possessed real properties that actively affected gameplay. Computer opponents were no longer simply mindless drones sending their pre-determined assortment of units at you in X spot at X time, but were now challenging adversaries who actually adjusted to your tactics and style of play. A map editor was no longer a tacked-on afterthought but rather a powerful 'construction kit' that could allow a gamer to build his own gameplaying universe in whatever way he saw fit. Suddenly it seemed that a huge percentage of the hopes from every strategy gamer's wish list could be realised."
At this point I swear I can almost hear the faint stirring strains of Land OF Hope And Gllory in the background. "On the platform of these new possibilities we have built a robust, challenging game with a gripping storyline, energised musical score, and a beautifully detailed, fully immersive playing environment."
Josh sounds convinced that Dark Reign is something truly special. It certainly sounds like it.
Download Dark Reign: The Future of War
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP