Privateer 2: The Darkening

aka: The Darkening
Moby ID: 363

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 81% (based on 15 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 49 ratings with 10 reviews)

Not really that bad. It just requires a VERY open mind to enjoy.

The Good
The first good things to point out about Priv2 are really quite obvious: Production values. Hot off the trail from Wing Commander 4's mega-blockbuster like development, Origin threw all it's wanna-be film making expertise to this product and the results are nothing short of awesome, the filmed cutscenes boast incredible sets, impressive camera work, fantastic music and sfx, and a great amount of both visual and digital effects that for the most part manage to stay on film-quality levels (there's a particular sequence were Lev blows a door open with a laser blast in slow-mo which is absolutely amazing). Furthermore you get REAL acting power, with the likes of Clive Owen, John Hurt, Jurgen Prochnow, Christopher Walken, Amanda Pays, Mathilda May, etc,etc. It's the kind of lineup that isn't composed of flat-out stars, yet is filled with competent and recognized people that manage to deliver believable performances.

The storyline itself is substantially better than the original's and instead of taking place in the familiar WC universe, takes place in a brand-new "Tri-System" which is much less Star-Trekkie and much more Blade-Runnerish, courtesy of a screenplay by famed Diana Duane (for those that don't know, Diane is one of the better "stock" writers, which usually tackle licensed work, or novelisations). The story takes you in a quest for your identity around dark and moody industrialized citiscapes, wastelands, military bases, anemic hospitals, etc. etc. All brought to life with real sets and wonderful cinematography. Really, sometimes it is just a sheer beauty to behold the imagery of the fmv sequences, and coupled with that camera-work... ayayayayay... This is it boys and girls, and heck, as long as I'm on the subject let me point out that this game has one, if not the, best introduction for a video game EVER. It's something of a pain to have to stick by the credits that are placed mid-way through it, but other than that IT ROCKS! Seriously, if you think FF8 was cool just look at this fanboy, you have No idea whatsoever :))

Now, speaking about the game itself I should point out that the production values are certainly visible in here as well, you get one of the coolest interfaces ever made, and a space-shooter that delivers some truly interesting missions in a really big universe that include massive shoot-outs as well as more intrincate ones (my favorite being a "Simon-says" kidnapping one). All that using a bitching graphics engine, and lots of weapons, ships and loadout configurations.

The Bad
Well, if you read the above lines you might have wondered if I was talking about a movie or a game, right? And that is probably the game's biggest problem. Mind you, it's not that it has NO gameplay and all fmvs, it's just that the gameplay in here is seriously flawed. This is an action game, yet Priv2 feels at times like a space-simulator, and I mean a real one. Gamers used to the lightning-fast dogfights of other space shooters will be seriously let down by this game, since the ships move at very slow speeds, and give no real sense of speed or momentum. Furthermore this game has one of the most maddening design decisions for a game of this kind: near-zero damage feedback. What am I talking about? Most shooters sport screen jitter and flashes when hit, heck pretty much every action game has such features. Priv2 just has a small shield/armor indicator that goes down as you get hit. That's it. You have no idea the amount of times I was blown to pieces simply because I couldn't tell I was being shot! Seriously, if you have a boggie in your tail, there's no telling what's going on unless you take your eyes of the main view and focus on the shield displays and trust me, that's BAD.

All of this is stuff that could really fall under the "just needs time to get used to" category, but the fact is that it really is bad. At the very least worse than any other space-sim out there. There's simply no real action to speak of. That doesn't make the game a piece of crap mind you, but it IS a really big flaw.

Other than that, there's the fact that all ships look the same from the inside (which really sucks since it's you who is paying for your ships, Priv1 veterans will know what I'm talking about here) and the decision to shift cargo-transport specifically to cargo ships (which you must hire). That is a really a love & hate issue, some like it. Me? I hate it with all my heart. It turns every cargo run into an escort mission, and I HATE escort missions.

The Bottom Line
There's no denying this game has problems, there's no denying that this game isn't really a match for the original Privateer, but there's also no denying that this game really has a lot of good things in it. When it comes down to it, there's a lot more to love in it than there is to hate. Priv 2 only lacks the gameplay perfection of the original, on this days were every crappy "me-too!" game just aims to be simply average and cut enough profits to make a sequel, a game that is "less than perfect" (ok, ok, "Really" far from perfect) tis still damn good. Plus the British really know how to make great science fiction.

DOS · by Zovni (10504) · 2001


The Good
This was actually quite good - a campy space opera crossed with 'Elite', although for more of that see the next section. Starring the deadpan Clive Owen, the FMV sequences seemed to understand that they were rubbish, and were therefore amusing in a cheesy way - and anything that has Mathilda May in it can't be all bad. The game itself is a simplified space trading game, with attractive, non-3D accelerated graphics produced by Argonaut's 'bRender' system. It's fun for a while, the presentation works with the game instead of against it, and although you'll skip through the FMV the second time you see it, it's not bad at all.

The Bad
That said, it's a bit too restrictive to be a proper space trader. There are only a few planets to visit, not much to do, and skipping back and forth becomes quite tedious after a while. Some of the space battles are almost-unfairly hard to start with, although once you realise that you can hire giant, armoured transporters it becomes a lot easier. Apart from that, it's not particularly offensive.

The Bottom Line
A decent modern arcadey space-trader, not particularly special but not awful either.

DOS · by Ashley Pomeroy (225) · 2000

William Hurt, Amanda Pays and Clive Owen IN A FREAKIN' GAME!!!

The Good
The opening sequence in this game is 20 minutes of what could have been a fantastic film. The effects, acting and overall 'feel' of the game were so well integrated into the actual gameplay that I really got lost in this one. The reviews for it were so-so, (I think because it was such a departure from the original Privateer), and the criticisms were handed out, I think, by players who didn't persevere and play out the entire game. The gameplay was incredibly open and the graphics were fantastically beautiful for it's time.

Did I mention the acting? Origin must have had a few bucks to throw around and made some great decisions in the casting. When other game developers were getting Uncle Fred or their girlfriends to do the acting in their products, this group knew that they needed to create a believable universe for this game to succeed...and to do that they used some of the best in the business. (Not just the game business...but in ACTING PERIOD).

Anyway, this game and Wing Commander IV heralded the end of the FMV "craze" in computer games and that was probably a good thing.

Still, it shines as a very sound game with some breathtaking moments.

The Bad
Bugs. Yep, it had more bugs than your average underside of a rock. And it was HUGE!

The Bottom Line
I would just show them the first 20 minute intro film and they would be hooked.

DOS · by Michael McKinlay (4) · 2002

A step back regarding game design

The Good
The story is quite fascinating. It is also developed in an interesting way. The acting is not bad for a computer game, although it cannot be compared to real movies. Most of the motivation is caused by wanting to get money for new ships and equipment.

The Bad
The game design is not as good as in Privateer 1. There you were first in a solar system where nothing really bad could happen to you. In Privateer 2 you are in the same area all the time. That means that at the beginning you have to deal with the same amount of pirates as later and at the beginnig they are unbeatable. So you have to save your game everytime you leave a planet and hope you do not encounter any enemies. Another option would be invulnerability but it should be possible to play the game without it. In this game it is not. Always coming to the same planets all through the game also gets a bit boring. The space combat is also quite tiring sometimes. As you can only jump to the next NAV-point when there are no enemies around, you have to kill them all first. But if it takes you too long, more and more of them will arrive and attack you. I sometimes came in a situation I could not escape, because there was an unlimited number of pirates and it was not a mission but just an ordinary flight. I had one of the best ships and killed about 100 of them without being severely wounded, but after fighting this battle more than an hour I was just frustrated and I had to restore the game. And this happened to me several times!

The Bottom Line
The concept has been stolen from Elite and a story was added. It is a game from Origin's Interactive Movie period.

DOS · by Mr Creosote (366) · 2000

Decent space trade/combat sim with decent FMV

The Good
For once, a full motion video game with decent actors. You've got John Hurt from Alien, Jürgen Prochnow from das Boot and even Christopher Walken. It's got a nice range of ships and weaponry (except perhaps for the Nuke'Em device which is a bit of an overkill) and an interesting plot-line.

The Bad
The game is not completely free of bugs, sometimes escort missions are virtually impossible to carry out and you run the risk of gnawing your own leg off in frustration before you manage to actually get it right. Also, the sound engineering/leveling is off the scale, it's often hard to hear what people in the game are saying because there's just too much background noise/music.

The Bottom Line
If you're into either space sims or full motion video, this game is something you should try to get hold of.

DOS · by mobster_lobster (24) · 2003

This one was just "different" from Privateer; better in some areas, worse in others.

The Good
I thought the graphics were awesome, the plot was fun to watch, and the battles were great. The missions were a little tougher, but a little creativity could give you success.

The Bad
I hate the fact you have to clear a system of enemies before you could jump. It would just be annoying when you'd clear it, then another bad guy would jump in just as you would get ready to leave. In a couple of cases when this happened repeatedly, I'd find myself in a damaged ship and losing my fighting capability and it would turn into a lost cause. This was frustrating. While it's not always noble, it would be nice to have the OPTION to run away when you needed to.

The Bottom Line
Go read the Privateer script, then improve the graphics and add movie clips to describe the story-line. It's a fun game which has a few quirks.

DOS · by Spectre (126) · 2000

Space shooter with a story

The Good
This game has a very good and involving story. Once started you just have to finish the game to know what'll happen. If you don't like the story or have finished the main-plot, you can just fly on and on, it never stops, that was the original strength of Privateer 1 and is the main reason why you'll never get bored with this game.

The Bad
The original version had a lot of terrible bugs. To make it even worse, even the savegame system was buggy, so once it went wrong, there was a big chance that even your savegames couldn't help you. There's a bug fix available, so that shouldn't be a problem any more, however, the game is completely unplayable on a Pentium II or higher, the spacefight is just way to fast.

The Bottom Line
If you like space shooters, this is a must have. If you don't like them, this might be the game that changes your opinion.

DOS · by Peter (37) · 1999

A strange departure from the series, both superior and inferior

The Good
The story was really fascinating to me. At first I thought the amnesia spin and everything was going to take me back to countless plots that had been spun before, but that wasn't true. The only reason I picked this title up in the first place was the ensemble cast of great actors, and for anyone who wants to see Christopher Walken play a role where he actually manages to ditch his native New Yorker accent, here's proof he can! As far as gameplay, the Privateer magic is still intact. The ability to configure your own ship and make your own lifestyle is still as addictive as ever, and being able to play the game at your own pace is also a major boon. Just save up the cash for better guns and a cooling system, take the ship up, and punish the first pirate that used to pick on you so. Now TELL me the last time a moment in a game was so rewarding!

The Bad
Ah, well, yes. Ahem. The reason the above moment was so rewarding is that the hours and hours leading up to it are so RIDICULOUSLY BUTT-HARD! Here, here, here, do this; Go into the nav screen, enable the search option, type "no talent" and hit enter. This will enable the cheat option and you can THANK ME LATER FOR SPARING YOU FROM HAVING TO BEAT YOUR JOYSTICK CONTINUOUSLY AGAINST THE WALL! I took a two-year hiatus from playing this game because it just annoyed me that much. During that bile-filled interim I got my hands on WC: Prophecy and learned how they twisted Robert's characters around in his absense. This prompted a telephone call wherein I asked Origin to stop making games. Really. I called their CEO "that smug-looking, fat b*d," much to the receptionist's delight, and thanked her for her time. Ah, but I digress. So either make note of the cheat functions here or get Ritalin before playing this game.

The Bottom Line**
A thoroughly entertaining game that will only age you about a decade or so if you're easily frustrated.

DOS · by Vance (94) · 2000

For you to like this game you have to forget that this is a sequel and treat it as a totaly different product.

The Good
Great plot, large universe to play in and easy controls. I didnt like the idea of cargo ships at first but after a while it grows on you. Now i doubt that I would want to go back to the old way.

The Bad
The bad parts of this game are all well covered by the other reviews. And mostly I agree with the many problems that Privateer II has. However I do not think it is fair to totaly hate this game. Yes the designers went way off track with this title and yes they made parts of the game that were so great in the other game, terrible in this one. But for me when I started to play this game I fell in love with the story line. So what I did was treat this as a brand new title and didnt compare it to Privateer. At first I was angry that this had little to do with the orginal. But after you spend your allotment of cash (for single guys when you are married you go back to the allowence system again) you try to make do with what you got. (note: I could not return it) When the game was over I didnt think it was a great great game, but I though it had a place in my top 50 of all time. However I can totaly understand why Privateer fans hate this game with a passion. I can because I am a avid Privateer fan and when I started this game, like I said before I was ticked off.

The Bottom Line
To non privateer players give it a try just remember that the orginal is TOTALY different. To privateer fans if you cant seperate the two games dont bother.

DOS · by William Shawn McDonie (1131) · 2001

A $40 frisbee

The Good
The CD had many uses:

-- Throw it like a frisbee (It could also be turned into one of those Chinese throwing stars with a little modification).

-- A coaster to set your coffee cup on while playing a good game.

-- If you're strapped for cash this holiday season, the CD makes a nice, shiny tree ornament.

-- If you're lost in the wilderness, you can use it as a signal mirror... it might save your life.

The Bad
CDs thrown like frisbees or throwing stars tend to shatter on impact, but there are two of them, so you'll have a replacement.

Seriously, though, this game is really, REALLY bad. The cut-scenes, although of decent cinematic quality, are cheesier than Monterey Jack. The game has absolutely nothing to do with the Wing Commander universe (the setting for the original Privateer). Instead, it's like a leech sucking up Privateer's good reputation in order to survive.

It didn't work.

The Bottom Line
In a word: crap.

DOS · by James Hicks (8) · 2000

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Wizo, Apogee IV, Tim Janssen, Skitchy, Patrick Bregger, Longwalker, Xoleras, Venator, Parf.