Send in the clones.
And yet another Command & Conquer clone tries to fool us with new tricks and gimmicks. Come on guys! Enough already! It's all played out! Ever since Command & Conquer was a smash hit, every company under the sun has produced real time strategy games just like it. What is with this obsession? Just like every other game out there in the same genre, this one would have been much better if it came out before C&C. Sure there are extra features here and there, but the basic concept is the same, the missions are similar, and there really is no substantial difference. I think someone needs to get the bright idea and make something a little more original.
Just like other C&C competitors, Dark Reign also tries to beef up everything with better graphics. Some shrubbery here, a few more trees there, and a lake here - basically no difference. The graphics are a little better quality (at least for the terrain), but the units are ugly. I liked the C&C units better than these ones. The mission selection system is really nice, but hey, did we buy this game to play war or select missions?
The most noticeable aspect of the game (sadly enough) was the music. It was surprisingly good; probably the best I've ever heard from this type of game, and it never got boring or annoying. The sounds were decent, but definitely could have been better. They were too many generic laser sounds that got repetitive after a while.
Everything else is almost exactly the same as any other C&C clone. You use your mouse to select units and scroll along the map, etc. The one thing they did really improve on is the plot. In the manual there is a plot running nine pages long; the game, however, does a really bad job developing it in-between missions. The briefings are just text-based explanations of what you have to do. No movies, voices, visual aids, plot development, etc. It's as if they were separated and have nothing to do with one another.
This game boasts of "superior artificial intelligence" that "acts as unpredictably as a human." The only thing they did was make the computer harder!!! I wouldn't take what they say too seriously, I found the computer to be very predictable just like its predecessors. On the other hand, the computer is much better player than previous real-time strategy games, which makes up for that predictability.
Multi-player games are very fun. With that AI out of the way, it's just you versus a friend; the game is very enjoyable. There is modem and network support for you and friends, and also Internet forums provided by Activision so you can play whenever you want. By far the best part about this game is its multi-player aspect.
A new feature to Dark Reign are the waypoint markings. Instead of directing your units and holding their hands while they cross the street, you can direct them through a series of markers that they follow sequentially as they arrive to their final destination. This greatly helped me along strategically when I planned multi-directional attacks - a good addition. They also included behavioral options. You can set a unit to scout around, harass, or search and destroy. Other options include the ability to change the priority of when to get repaired, and when to return fire. For example, you can designate a unit to go to a certain waypoint and do nothing else, not even return fire. Other options include the ability to fire only when fired upon, or destroy anything encountered along the way. In the big scheme of things these functions were a little too nitpicky, and sometimes bothersome. Most of the time I didn't use them at all. I'm sure you agree, there's little time to screw around with everyone's attitude in a real time strategy game.
As I usually conclude with all games of this genre: if you're not bored out of your mind with C&C clones, I'd recommend this game to you. Otherwise, besides a few additions, this game flops on originality. It has a plot with a LOT of potential, unfortunately it wasn't developed as well as it should have been. Multi-player games are fun, and because you have an Internet connection, I'm sure you'll enjoy that. Yes, this game would have gotten a MUCH better grade if it came out before C&C, but it didn't.