New Dark Reign 2 Shots

We have exclusive new screens and impressions of Activision's upcoming real-time strategy game.

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Last week, GameSpot visited the offices of Pandemic Studios to see Dark Reign 2. Not only were we treated to an exclusive demo of the game, but we also played a multiplayer team game, becoming the first outsiders to test the upcoming real-time strategy game.

Dark Reign 2 is the prequel to Activision's Dark Reign. The two factions in Dark Reign 2 are the Jovian Detention Authority and the Sprawlers, who precede the Imperium and Freedom Guard, respectively. The two sides are quite different, and we were able to experience that firsthand in our game.

We played the JDA, which is a more organized military with more sophisticated weaponry. In addition to having flying infantry, powerful tanks, and far-ranging artillery, the JDA can also muster air strikes and field aircraft. The Sprawlers, in contrast, are a less technologically gifted faction, and they rely on "mojos" for their heaviest-hitting weapons. The mojos are basically special abilities, akin to the spells in a Blizzard 'Craft game. The mojo we encountered was a summoning that created a monstrous giant named Baron Siddith, who pulverized infantry with a single swing of his meaty fist. It took several tanks to finally reduce the Baron to ashes.

The game plays similarly to Dark Reign and uses the same left-click interface. The view defaults to a slightly isometric view, but you can also jump to a closer shoulder view and a ground-level behind-the-back view that shows you the troops in close-up detail. Rotating the camera is handled by using the right mouse button. When beginning the game, you have to build a headquarters and send out harvesters to harvest crystals on the map, which give you the money to then build unit-producing structures and troops. You can also upgrade your buildings, which is necessary if you want access to higher-level units.

While playing, we were able to make use of the teleporter pad, which is a structure that lets you teleport infantry to any place on the map, provided you have a unit to give you line of sight into the area you want to teleport into. Only infantry can enter the teleporter pad, and even then only six at a time can fit in. However, nothing prevents you from building multiple teleporters and beaming in a horde of infantry in multiples of six. In our game, we moved into the enemy base with two tanks to gain line of sight and then beamed in successive ranks of ground infantry and flying infantry.

Among the interface enhancements we used were the group icons at the bottom of the screen. There were ten boxes split into two groups of five. Up to five unit groupings appear on the left and up to five building groupings appear on the right. You can simply click on any of the unit groupings to command that group, without having to move your screen away from whatever it is focused on at the time. In addition, each troop in the grouping appears as a colored bar. A group of five units, therefore, appears as five stacked bars in the button. The color of each bar changes to reflect the status of the units inside. That means that at a glance you can tell how many troops are in the group and which ones are wounded and to what extent. You can also quickly select and move reinforcements to the battlefield without ever taking your eyes off the combat. The five building buttons show how many unit-producing buildings you have. You can thus click on a button, whereupon the right-hand navigation on your screen will change to the building interface so you can queue up units without having to focus the screen on the building in question.

At this stage, Dark Reign 2 is already in a feature-complete alpha state, and it's very stable. Pandemic says it is now balancing and testing the game. We should have a beta of the game in a few weeks and will bring you a full preview at that time.

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