Dark Reign 2 is a 3D real-time strategy PC game released on June 30, 2000 by Activision and Pandemic Studios. Being a prequel to Dark Reign: The Future of War PC game, Dark Reign 2's storyline focuses on what has come before the conflict in the first Dark Reign. The game featured a Campaign Mode, online Multiplayer, and an Instant Action mode, as well as above-average graphics for its day.
Fans of the original Dark Reign game were surprised by Dark Reign 2 and its different core gameplay mechanics (and the addition of a 3D engine). The game had Low sales despite aggressive marketing.[ ]
The two opposing factions introduced in Dark Reign 2 are the Sprawlers (which later evolve to be the Freedom Guard faction of Dark Reign) and the Jovian Detention Authority a.k.a. JDA (which evolve to be the Imperium faction). The two sides are caught up in a conflict spanning Earth's 26th (and final) century. In the Intro, a Sprawler Leader who interacts with the player in the Sprawler campaign quotes:
"How many remember that the great war which has burned across our galaxy, consuming generations of humanity, begun here, in Earth's 26 and final century?"
The struggle between the Sprawlers and JDA is, at its heart, the struggle between authority and freedom, government and proletariat. As the earth reeled into ecological collapse, the JDA established large dome cities to protect the citizenry from the harsh conditions outside. However, they left behind all those who would not succumb to their dictatorial will: the Sprawlers. The disenfranchised Sprawlers are thus left in the outside world, bathed in the harsh conditions of a dying planet and fueled by the explosive rage of rebels fighting for a free life under the thumb of a cold overlord. Thus, the Sprawlers desperately fight to break into the dome cities, while the JDA desperately sally out into the decaying 'Sprawl' to keep them out and in a state of submission.
The player can choose to play either the Sprawlers or the JDA campaigns, both with similarities and differences to the overall story. If the player chooses the Sprawlers, he/she is referred to as "Sirdar", a new member of the council agree to prove him/herself. If the player chooses the JDA, he/she is a member of strike force, guided by the JDA central AI, "CYGNET". Both sides are concerned with the massive increase in seismic activity around the world which is consuming it and each other. As the story progresses, both sides gain access to new units and structures which the player will need to use in order to proceed further and develop more powerful strategies.
The Sprawlers are running low on numbers and have been on the defensive for a long time. The council heavily squabbles on going offensive or staying defensive, noting they can't stay on the defensive forever. Serdar begins by aiding them in a more important offensive than the skirmishes of recent, hacking a communication centre feeding a city zone JDA propaganda so that the Sprawlers can spread their own message. They are the first to notice that seismic activity on Earth is increasing on a global scale and taking advantage by making a strike on a crippled base, bringing their first victory.
During the quake, they discover that the door seal of Togra's shrine, the research lab of the great Togra himself, has opened despite only being openable by Togra. According to legends, the breaking of the seal signals the beginning of a chain of events. The Serdar must then send forces through icey mountains to rescue the Voodun high priest, Booda Shun, from JDA captivity and take him to the shrine so he can examine the site.
After interpreting the site, Booda Shun brings disturbing news. The breaking of the seal indicates that Earth's time is limited and "the planet is rolling toward a catastrophic collapse", which will bring the end of everything. During the previous mission, JDA forces were snooping around the site, which indicates they may have find something or are making plans. Serdar is ordered to hack into the nearby Cygnet relay station to see what the JDA have in mind. After infiltrating the station despite heavy resistance before and after, the station is destroyed and the council reviews the information.
The plans reveal the JDA are relocating massive numbers of citizens to the central dome. Activity in the area is increasing at phenomenal rates. The purpose is clear. The JDA are preparing to evacuate Earth, leaving the Sprawlers behind. The council is outraged. As one member says, "First they ruin the planet and then they leave us to die with it." He declares death to the JDA and asks whose with him. With this, the whole council unites and puts their squabbling behind. But they find that the dome could have been assaulted easily years ago. Because of how much harder the direct way is to penetrate at the current time, they find the only possible way through is along the coast, which passes through two sub-factions, known as the Breks and the Judas.
The Serdar is charged with leading the way. After securing the river and earning the Breks trust, thanks to new aerial and water technologies, they find the JDA have a secret weapons facility not far ahead from intel by their new allies. A prototype mobile bomb sits outside. Serdar, if careful, is able to make off with three copies of the prototype, though only one is required. Then the sprawlers aid the Judas in taking out JDA forces that are thinning their numbers, gaining their trust.
With their forces built, the final missions involve storming the dome and preventing the JDA from being able to evacuate. If successful, the Sprawlers will become the dominant force and the JDA will be either severely crippled or destroyed.
Activity in the city is going wild with sprawlers making regular skirmishes and setting up anti-air batteries that harass air traffic. The situation in Sector 13 is the worse. After being shot down by one of the batteries, Strike Force's first objective is to rescue a base from destruction, push back Sprawler forces and clearing all the anti-air batteries in the area so that an air strike can be performed on the Sprawler base. Along the way, the first earthquake occurs, almost destroying the base Strike Force rescues.
In the next mission, the JDA also discover Togra's shrine has been damaged in the quake. They wish to investigate. Strike Force captures a Voodun priest as a prisoner and force him to take them to the shrine. But along the way, powerful Togran pylons prevent movement up the hill without being destroyed. To deal with this, Strike Force deploys aerial infantry to destroy two Togran power generators in order to disable the pylons and proceed. At the site, they discover a strange mobile artifact, which resembles an ancient slab on a hovering platform. Cygnet indicates the higher up ranks wish to study the artifact and orders Strike Force to evacuate the artficat to a transporter.
Shortly after, radio chatter shows the evacuation plans are in effect and there is a state of panic. In one jungle area, a large JDA force is evacuating without authorization and are primarily concerned with themselves. Their plans make them abandon their post at a large powered gate, which is meant to prevent hordes of Sprawlers from entering the zone. Strike Force is sent in to deal with the cowards before they can escape, which is followed by pushing back the Sprawlers and building power generators on the gate, reactivating it. With the JDA's grip on the sector regained, Strike Force is relocated.
It is at that time found that there are three Togran artifacts. Strike Force is tasked with retrieving the second artifact hidden in a temple but along the way, encounter heavy resistance with suicidal cultists of unknown origin, as well as Baron Samedi's, traditionally a Sprawler power from the Shrine. Despite this, Strike force is able to locate and evacuate the artifact. Afterward, the challenge is on to find the third. This is achieved by a large offensive in artic mountains to capture Booda Shun, the Voodun High Priest, who reveals the location of the third artifact. Hidden in a city sector, Strike Force must find it before the Sprawlers do. The problem is not only pushing back the Sprawlers, but taking punishment from the frequent earthquakes in the zone.
Toward the end, the evacuation plan is in the final stages. However, the JDA does not wish for the artifacts to be taken into the hands of the Sprawlers, along with the Sprawlers leaving with them. They try to destroy all three artifacts, but can't for three reasons. First, a large destructive force is required to destroy them. Second, they have to be destroyed at the same time. Finally, destroying the artifacts will bring about the end of the world. During the final stage, as the last JDA citizens are being evacuated, Cygnet requests that Strike Force sacrifice themselves by remaining behind and destroying the artifacts, achieving this by gathering them around a large number of atomic energy plants before detonating them. It ends with the defeat of the Sprawlers, the salvation of the JDA, the destruction of Earth and the loss of Strike Force.
Up to 32 players can play at once in multiplayer mode
The standard maps that come with the game are almost never used. More commonly, user-made maps created using DR2's excellent map editor are used. Four 'rulesets' or modes of play are allowed: Gluttony, Protect HQ, Blood Bath, and Deathmatch. Blood Bath is a mode in which the first team to kill a certain number of units wins. Protect HQ (by far the most used) is a ruleset in which a player who loses his HQ for a certain period of time (about three minutes) loses. Gluttony is a condition where the first player to collect a certain amount of resources wins. Deathmatch is a ruleset in which a player who loses all of his units is defeated.
Various maps with different rulesets built into them are included with the game and sometimes used such as 'fencepost', 'control freak', and 'king of the hill'. User-made maps with special objectives have also been made.
However, as of November 2008, the servers had been shut down. This means that it is no longer possible to play Dark Reign 2 on multiplayer, but there are still some VPNs (virtual private networks) that hosts them.
Instant Action involves playing against up to 7 AI-controlled opponents with a multiplayer-like setup, minus 32 other players. The strategic AI upon the game's initial release was reportedly rather poor, but various patches since the game's initial release have improved it considerably. However, discrepancy between the skill level required to beat an AI and that required to beat a human on multiplayer is still massive. The stylistic differences in play between instant action and multiplayer are also totally different.
In the end, most players have reported that they have to play at least three AI players set to hardest difficulty at once to get any kind of useful level of skill requirement.