Dark Reign: The Future of War

Moby ID: 1535
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Description official descriptions

Dark Reign narrowly beat Total Annihilation as the first RTS to incorporate 3D movement and positioning. This increases the strategic advantage of hills and mountains.

Each mission puts you in the role of the commander of either the Imperial army or the Freedom fighters in a campaign to undermine and eventually destroy the opposing force.

This game has many unusual features for the RTS genre. AI patterns allow you to simply give a unit the order "Search and Destroy" and it will drive off towards the enemy's last known location, in search for something to kill. There is also an "explore" mode which lets your units do all the map exploration for you. A mission/campaign editor is also provided.

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Credits (Windows version)

503 People (437 developers, 66 thanks) · View all

Lead Design
Lead Programming
Art Director
Associate Game Designers
Creative Consultant
Asset Manager
Production Coordinator
Additional Writing
Shell Programming
Additional Programming
[ full credits ]



Average score: 85% (based on 23 ratings)


Average score: 3.3 out of 5 (based on 32 ratings with 7 reviews)

Don't listen to the naysayers, this is a classic RTS!

The Good
RTS stands for 'Real Time Strategy'. When RTSes evolved from Red Alert and Warcraft 2, they tried to 'improve' the genre by adding more 'strategy', meaning more units, upgrades, buildings, etc. Real time strategy games eventually became lopsided, with all these strategy chunks but the real time element became slow. The fast paced action of Red Alert and Warcraft 2 would get bogged down in ridiculous (and meaningless) strategy layers such as Tiberian Sun and even Warcraft 3. When PCGAMER came to review this game, they gave it 94% due to the sheer addictive multiplayer capacity it has (which, at the time, laughably infuriated Total Annihilation fans with their 86% rating).

-Fast Paced Action-

Dark Reign is a very fast paced game which throws a lot of people off. Those who hated 'tank rushes' or 'grunt rushes' hated this game because IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO TURTLE. And unlike games like Age of Empires or Starcraft, having the upper units didn't mean squat as they could easily die as well. No game could ever be solidly won by just making high level units (which is how most Starcraft and Warcraft 3 multiplayer games act). Every multiplayer game was like an adrenaline rush because combat went very very fast. Little 13 year olds despised this title because they couldn't simply make a bunch of units, move them back and forth around the enemy, without major casualties. To illustrate how fast this game was, imagine Starcraft that is ten times faster on the highest speed.

-Line of Sight Tactics-

Strategy revolved around line-of-sight, which was a stupendous improvement over Warcraft 2's fog-of-war and hasn't been equaled in RTS yet. There are many weapons in this game, such as the Rift Creator (the Imperium's expensive and top leveled weapon that creates seemingly blackholes) or artillery (whose range is practically half the map), which are long range but require line of sight to fire. You would have other units whose only purpose would be to provide line of sight (Imperium had a recon drone that was inexpensive, would fly around. Freedom Guard had a scout infantry which would morph into surrounding terrain, so if the enemy found himself being artilleried, he would often find an enemy tree running around!). Camera towers were inexpensive low-hitpoints structures which would provide Line of Sight (if built on higher elevation, they would provide even more). This is why the game has more tactics than Warcraft 3 or Age of Empires 2 combined.


Dark Reign was the first RTS to effectively combine terrain with strategy. Hovering units could go over water but could not go over steap rocks (so hovertanks often would surprise the enemy-base-on-a-hill by slipping through rivers). Infantry and other 'foot' units could only reach the upper elevation.

-Cashflow, not Income-

The resource of water for Dark Reign was great. Water would be 'shipped' away. Each water spot was inexaustible. However, they could be 'overmined' and would have to fill up again. Unlike all other RTS games where most players 'starve' their opponents, the game focused on gathering cashflow of multiple water resources. This kept the action very fast and furious.

-Unit AI-

The unit ai in Dark Reign remains unsurpassed. For your units, you can assign them properties. My favorite thing to do was my a lot of Freedom Guard Sky bikes which are cheap and very light damaging units. I would assign their ai to be tolerate low amount of damage before they would break off to repair. I gave them a very low aggressive rating (meaning they won't pursue units). Then I gave them the command 'Harass'. OMG. Imagine twenty little flying ships, each taking a seperate path, which find enemy somewhere, attack it, reload or find enemy, if it gets hit once, repair and repeat. What would occur is that the enemy was driven psychologically nuts with all these little ships 'pecking' at him here and there. This tactic bought me much time as it always put my enemies on the defensive and made them invest heavily in anti-air buildings (while I invested in ground based units). Also, I could set up extensive waypoint systems with other units which would consantly guard a region or go in loops hitting the enemy base, return to repair, hit enemy base, repeat. Only in Dark Reign could I pull off fun stunts like that. The unit ai has not been matched yet in RTS and with the sad state of 3d pathfinding in games now, it probably never will.


The music is very good. It has redbook audio so you can put it in your cd player and play.


Featured a very nice, very easy to use editor. I played many many games with a professor from the University of Texas on a HUGE map that was geographically identical to North America. With additonal players, the game was a riot. Tank action was always heavy in Kansas and the midwest. Florida was vulnerable to hovertanks slipping on the water. The mountainous region bases had heaviest infantry and turret action. Nothing like being able to say to your ally, "You attack his Texas base while I draw attention with his armies in the Dakotas."

The Bad

Sid Meir was asked why he didn't put in 'future technology' in his civilization game. He said, "Because the player cannot associate with it." Games such as Command and Conquer had people associating with tanks and missile launchers. Warcraft had celtic fantasyland. Starcraft was full of sci-fi cliches (Zerg from Aliens or from the aliens in Starship Troopers, Protoss being like the 'Jedi' in Star Wars). Age of Empires associates with history. But poor Dark Reign never succeeded as a game universe because no one can associate with a tank that looks like a beetle that shoots purple plasma.

-Single Player-

The single player in this game really isn't too much fun. What is interesting is how the single player campaign was designed, chiefly you being tested with 'historical battles' and you choose either the Freedom Guard side or the Imperium side, so if you are stuck you could choose the other side. But this 'vagueness' meant little story.

-Annoying Scouts-

If you combined morphed scouts (which would be looking like trees) with the phase transport, you could have LOS anywhere and not have the enemy stop you. Once the artillery shells started to fall, the player would search manically for enemy trees which was very frustrating. An option to be have a unit 'snif out' scouts or to be able destroy trees would have solved this.

The Bottom Line
This is the most under-rated RTS classic. If you play this, be sure you aren't expecting 'big graphics' because they aren't here. Also, play multiplayer with a friend. Multiplayer is what makes this game shin and what gave it such high gaming press reviews.This game still is fun and I still play it to this day. It has achieved a type of cult status for RTS players who love fast paced gameplay.

Windows · by Jonathan Hollas (24) · 2005

A terrible, terrible game

The Good
I liked nothing about this game.

No really, I mean that.

The Bad
Just about everything.

To start with the whole game is simply a me-too rip-off of all the other RTS games flooding the market back then. With a the exception of a few basic changes, this game was utterly devoid of any sort of novelty or originality. Sure, it had a few more "modes" for its various units to let them explore (or what have you), but that's it, that's all they could add to the RTS scene. Their vaunted "re-darkening" map (whatever they called it, "the shroud" or something) was already a feature of everything other than Red Alert.

The graphics stank, there's no other way to put it. The scale was off so you had all of these tiny little vehicles running around and they were so small they tended to be difficult to grab. The color palette was something a kid might enjoy, all primaries and bright contrasts, it was enough to make you ill. Even the pictures themselves were childish, little orange dune-buggies were the main weapon of the "good guys", while the bad guys had bug-like blobs for tanks that shot purple circles - nothing at all like Red Alert or the others of the era where they might have hired a (gasp) graphic artist.

The UI was even worse. Getting the game set up and selecting missions was a series of selections from bizarre "menus" that were largely indecipherable. I don't know what they were thinking - I suppose it was supposed to be like some alien control panel, but why would I want to use that?

And once you're into the game? Well, one look at the way that your craft can't navigate from point a to b was enough for me. Once I watched one of my stupid dune buggies drive around and around a single tree while attempting to figure out how to shoot at a soldier. Eventually after circling it maybe 10 times, the soldier actually managed to plink it to death. Uggg.

Combat consisted of vehicles sitting there shinning lights on each other while making "phew phew" sounds that I could do better with my mouth. Battles were just plain boring.

Oh, but they were fast. They sold this as a feature, but what it really meant is that you had no chance of actually managing your resources in any reasonable fashion. The buggies would go FLYING across the map, then smack into a tank and be killed with flying pink-circles before you could grab the tiny bright orange icon. Urrrg.

The resource collection consisted of shipping WATER off-planet for money. That's right, WATER. Let me tell you, if water is so expensive that you can sell a tank of it for a tank (heh), there's no way anyone in the universe can afford a war. It's just stupid. Water?! Duh!

They couldn't even take the time to write a story. I watched the intro twice, and still had no real idea what the heck it was saying. The grammar was terrible, and I couldn't find a thread of a plot in there. Something about a scientist, rebels, scientist again, then you start shooting. Thanks!

The Bottom Line
Uggg. Companies have gone bankrupt for less.

Windows · by Maury Markowitz (266) · 2002

The best, most difficult game I own.

The Good
Everything, including the game play, the missions, the instant action feature, the units, the buildings, the realism and the graphics. The storyline is good as well. I love stories about conflicts between different forces.

The Bad
I hate the construction kit because I can't write my own mission briefings or set the end conditions, and not being able to access the communications menu in a single player mission really pee's me off.

The Bottom Line
A definite must have. It's the best game you can get!

Windows · by Nick Johnston (3) · 2002

[ View all 7 player reviews ]


German version

In the German versions the death animation was removed.


  • PC Player (Germany)
    • Issue 01/1998 - Best Real-Time Strategy Game in 1997


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Zhentarim7.

Additional contributors: Jony Shahar, Zeikman, Patrick Bregger.

Game added May 31, 2000. Last modified March 31, 2024.