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Review by: Brian Pipa
Published: October 9, 1997
With the flurry of real-time strategy games released and on the way, a title has to be more than just a clone to stand out in this crowded realm. Dark Reign has to be the most hyped and subsequently the most anticipated strategy game of recent time. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but when the expectations are so high, it’s often hard to live up to them. One thing is for sure…if you are into strategy games, you had to have heard of Dark Reign.
The insidious Imperium has used its stranglehold on water to control not only Earth, but the other planets and universes humans have populated, in a bid to start life anew. This pilgrimage has been led by the Freedom Guard, battling against the Imperium for independence and liberty. However, the Imperium has developed a new technology which steals the water of an entire planet in seconds. This is just a brief run-down of the story — the manual devotes ten pages to the storyline, so those gamers wanting a strategy game with a plot, there you go.
Under the surface of the story is a familiar premise: control one of two warring factions, gather resources, build and command your troops, become victorious and rule the planet/empire/galaxy/farm. There are twelve missions in Dark Reign, and each can be played as either the Imperium or the Freedom Guard. The missions must be played in order, but once you successfully complete a mission you are free to replay it at any time.
There are some tutorial missions that get you going when you first start playing which teach you the basics of the whole process of building units, maneuvering, waypoints, ordering, etc. They were a great way for me to get accustomed to the game. One thing I should mention, and this often gets overlooked, is the manual. The Dark Reign manual is one of the best I’ve ever seen for a PC game. It’s almost 130 pages long, printed on good quality paper, is full-color, and explains in detail every aspect of the game. It even goes through every unit in the game, has close-up screenshots of each one, and details its functions, firepower, cost, etc. It’s good to see an intricate game like this have a good manual…so many companies skimp in that area.
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